Monday, July 25, 2011


I needed one button; a simple white 1/2" shirt button with 4 holes.
Friday afternoon seemed the ideal time to catch up with a small stack of ironing and a few garments which needed the hems taken up--items which had accumulated while so many hours have been spent in the garden or putting up produce.
My sewing machine and fabrics are in the large cool family room in the basement--at least 10 degrees cooler than the main level of the house on these sweltering July days.
The vintage-style blouse, one which I  snatched from the rack at Goodwill, had sleeves which flowed past my fingertips. meant to be  gathered--one supposes at the wrist---with a fine fabric tie.
Gina, the fashion expert, agreed that I could shorten the sleeves to my favorite elbow length.
It was only when I spread the shirtwaist on the ironing board that I noticed a button missing.
Several decades ago I made many similar "blouses"--for myself, for G. and for her cousins.
[It was the era of Jessica McClintock's "Gunne Sax" vintage style frocks and blouses--rather pricey off the rack, but something of a pleasure for a skilled seamstress to produce.]
I have buttons from that time still on their tidy cards, but a rummage through two of my button boxes didn't turn up an exact match.
I stitched on a similar button so that I could wear the shirt this weekend--
but the slight mis-match troubles me.

Today I pulled out several button boxes--taking inventory of my stash.
I have many novelty buttons; some beautiful metal buttons were given to me by a friend who worked for many years at the Geiger of Austria plant in Middlebury, Vermont.
At the end of each fashion season cones of thread matched to the woolens, linens and silks of a particular "line"  were discarded, as well as the distinctive buttons.
Knowing that I was doing some tailoring at the time, C. asked if I could use buttons.
To my astonishment she appeared the next day with two zip lock bags bulging with buttons.
My grand daughter--4 or 5 years old at the time--loved to separate the buttons into matching piles.
Eventually we strung them like beads on red string to keep them sorted.

I bought the cat buttons--just because they are catty.
The impractical but intriguing owl buttons were removed from a pricey sweater that came my way.

I have buttons in baskets, buttons in tins.

I brought this tin of old buttons from my parents house after their deaths.
My mother, like all frugal homemakers, clipped and saved the buttons from clothing that was too worn to be refurbished.
J.'s mother also had a box of saved buttons and I have carried on this time-honored thrifty practice.
[I suspect my generation is the last to patch, mend or replace bottons!]

These are some of the more startling examples from my mother's box
Those three domed buttons in the center are actually clear and almost cone-shaped.
The green marbled one is huge. My Mom was quite conservative in her clothing choices--hard to imagine that she flaunted something like that green one--or even the red disks with the lop-sided white centers.

Buttons with Beatrix Potter images--I must have used some of these for a dress for one of the grand daughters.

Middlebury, Vermont [30 minutes from my home for many years]
had many lovely shops--catering to the well-to-do people associated with prestigious Middlebury College.
Danforth Pewter made all sorts of serving pieces, elaborate candlesticks, vases, pitchers.
They also produced specialty buttons, charms for bracelets, hair clasps, key chains.
The buttons were displayed in cunning wooden bins.
I was making vests [waistcoats] at the time--pieced of beautiful woolens, velveteens and such.
If the vest was a gift I sometimes bought buttons which I knew the recipient would enjoy.
I believe I meant these pansy buttons for a vest to keep--I may yet create it!

Cowboy boots and hat--buttons which I used to decorate the collar of a denim jacket which J. wore for years.

A favorite vest which I still wear---can you see the cat face buttons?

Teasel took an interest in my button rummage.
Even one button dropped on the floor would be a choice tidbit for a bored cat to roll about.
Cats and buttons on the loose aren't a good combination: rather like handing over the button box to amuse a child who would put them in mouth, nose or ears!
I did finish the alterations and ironing, in spite of the elusive button.
I seem to be acquiring a collection of simply elegant white shirts.
If you recall Meryl Streep's wardrobe for the role of Karen Blixen in Out of Africa
you'll have an idea of the "shirtwaists" accumulating in my closet.


  1. You're probably right - no one sews much these days. Presumably the blouse was thown out by a previous owner who couldn't sew on buttons.

  2. Hi,I thought i had quite a collection of buttons until I saw yours,they are lovley the large green one is so nice.I can remember playing with the box of buttons my Grandma had when I was a child,wonder what happened to them?Lots of love Jill xx

  3. I am going green here looking at all of those wonderful buttons.
    What a collection. I love the owls, never seen anything like them before.
    I can see lots of those on crazy patchwork, lol

  4. The domestic history that comes with a tin of old buttons always fascinates me. I have collections from both of our mothers. When I see the buttons, I can remember the garments and those who wore them. Sorting through the buttons is a favourite pastime of my little granddaughter, so we tell stories of the people who left them behind.....

    You have a wonderful collection MM. "Odd" buttons are very fashionable, so don`t worry if your new white button is not a perfect match!

  5. When I saw the heading 'buttons'...I thought you had found another kitten!!!!.lol
    That is an amazing button collection makes me feel so guilty for giving away my collection which had been gathered fom Mums and Aunts.Why is there never the one you are looking for though?

  6. I love the cat face and owl buttons!


    Leanne x

  7. Ah, the button box lives on in our house too, though I cannot claim to have a button stash to rival that handed down to you! I inherited my late m-in-law's at her demise, and mum had a few, but the rest have come my way from car boot sale and auction job lots . . . handy all the same and I know Tamzin has already started HER own stash, being her mother's daughter!

  8. I love buttons! And to my delight, my 11 year old granddaughter expressed a desire for a "button collection" during my recent visit. When I returned to Oregon, I searched and found (on eBay) several wonderful button collections and purchased them for her. She was thrilled! She's a gifted gymnast, a wonderful swimmer who swims in competition and an accomplished pianist. Now, at 11, she has a button collection! ;-)

  9. The button tin has a timeless appeal. I was lucky enough to find buttons in the attic of our house, which were once owned by the previous occupant, reident here for 55 years. The old paper bags were fascinating in themselves.