Sunday, July 26, 2009


There is something about buttons.

This is one of my most treasured possessions - it is one of those litle "dolly jars" that you used to be able to buy from Darrell Lea, filled with tiny boiled sweets. Now it is filled with tiny glass buttons. I bought them from an antique store a few years back, although they are not necessarily really old. Every now and then, I spill them out and run my fingers through them, and admire their delicacy, their smoothness and their glowing transparency.

But that is just the start of my love affair with buttons.

Over the years I seem to have acquired a few - well, a few thousand. In fact they are everywhere, in jars, pretty glass containers, plastic bags, tins, and several under mats, furniture and in hard-to-reach corners, from times I have spilled them and couldn't find them to retrieve them.I do not remember many occasions when I have actually bought any new buttons. Over the years, I seem to have been given a lot, and have 'rescued' a number from OP Shops. Sometimes I have even been given treasured handed down button jars from people who had no one to pass them on to. I have really valued those.

Most of us remember playing with buttons as children. My mother's button box was a real treasure trove for me as a child. As well as buttons, it contained things like the rubber button things from suspenders, buckles, and best of all, some old Cigarette silks.

This is a basket of very big buttons I give William to play with. I am told that in the old days, these big buttons were greatly valued. My aunt told me that when you had a new winter coat made, you took the buttons off the old coat and used them on the new one. Actually William will probably grow up to associate his granny with buttons. He is always handing me buttons he has found on the floor, where I have let them slip and roll.These are some of my favourites - Mother of Pearl buttons, both old and new. The old ones are getting harder to find now, but the abalone ones that have been used a lot in the last few years are pretty too.

I make good use of the M.O.P. (Mother of Pearl) ones, but the buttons I probably use the most are metal ones. I have a couple of biscuit tins of those. They are great for adding a bit of glitz to things. Strangely enough, they are also becoming increasingly hard to find. Many of them are just plastic with a metallic coating nowadays.

So what do I use these buttons for? Well, not to button up clothes I have made, that's for sure. I am not into making buttonholes! But they make wonderful decoration on arts and crafts.

But just in case you think I never use them for their intended purpose, I will show you my jar of trouser buttons, which I think I originally inherited from Bernie's Aunty Floris. Every now and then, one of my boys brings me a pair of pants to have a button replaced.

I found myself collecting pretty glass jars to keep buttons in.

Just lately I have started putting wooden buttons into their own basket.

Now these are some more of my most treasured ones - the glass buttons. I will never part with many of these on things I make to sell or give away. I just love the feel of them. And when you hold them up to your lips, they feel so cool and smooth. Only the "mouth test" enables you to distinguish between glass and plastic when it comes to buttons and beads.

What has made me think of buttons lately is my latest RR page for Jan in New Zealand. Jan's adjective was 'Inspirational'. I decided I was most inspired by colour, and aimed to produce a colour wheel, which I painted on silk. There did not seem anything more appropriate than buttons to pick up those colours - after all, I have been having fun with them from the time I first walked and talked! (And I still like to put them in my mouth!)

This is my "Bright as a Button" wallhanging I made a few years back. Most of these buttons were fairly old ones. Our friend Samantha, who had given me her button jars many years ago, said she still recognised many of her buttons on it as late as last year.

Now I am not a button collector in the traditional sense of the word. I don't go looking for special types, or old ones or rare ones - although I would not say "no" if you were to offer me some. But I think you will agree I have managed to collect a few. They have come in handy on a number of people have been looking for something special.

In this day and age when so few people knit and sew, there is not a great range of buttons available in the stores, and what they have are rather expensive. I have often been able to put together a set of buttons for someone for a particular project. It often involves sifting through the buttons in all the jars - but for me, that is a pure tactile pleasure!!


Carol said...

That is a very impressive collection of buttons for a non-collector! Love them.

qwerty said...

Oh, I have a button fetish too!! What a beautiful collection, I love how you store them. Mine are in shoe boxes - but they'll be put into glass jars now that I see how pretty it looks! The quilts are just lovely, they're perfect for showing off those gorgeous buttons :)

Karen said...

Very interesting Mary, you've got a good collection going there. I have some but they are the cheap boring plastic ones you can buy by bulk today.

Anonymous said...

Just brought a magazine with lots of uses for old buttons in it, thought of you and will send it home with Kim for you. Lovely necklaces and bags etc.

Karen M

Cristina Rose said...

I love and envy your beautiful collection, I have the same love of the feel of buttons from Nana's blue metal button tin, and liam will have a similar tactile memory.
I have only 2 glass coffee jars in my young collection, but they feel nice and are fun to pick out ones to craft with. I used a couple on my art in the park clothesline this year, which is about to go in the new vege patch.

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