I began saving my own buttons when I set up house. I never really knew why I was doing this, I had just always seen both my mother and grandmother do it, so I followed suit. When I inadvertently came across this jar again recently, it was then that I remembered reading a story my grandmother had written. A quick search through my books of wisdom and musings and I have to share what she wrote:
We always had a large glass jar that was full of buttons. Mother said she had been collecting and saving the buttons since she was married.
When a piece of clothing wore out, the first thing you did was to cut off the buttons. If there were several buttons alike, we would we would string them together so they would not be separated.
There were buttons of all sizes. Buttons were made of different types of materials, metal, bone, shell, glass, ivory, leather, even wooden ones.
We never grew tired of hearing the stories back of the different buttons. There were metal buttons that had been cut off of mother’s uncle’s army uniform. There were large wooden buttons from a winter coat that had belonged to mother’s younger sister. Flat white buttons with larger holes were from long legged underwear. Tiny pearl buttons were cut from our baby dresses.
This jar was an interesting project for a rainy day. My sister and I would pour all of the buttons out into a jelly roll pan. We would play the game as to who could find them most red buttons first, or whatever color we thought of. Mother would suggest we put buttons in piles of ten or more. Then add up how many buttons were in each row. We didn’t realize that she was teaching us during our play.
When I married I started my own button jar. Is still have one today. The grandchildren no longer look with interest to my collection of buttons. With the new toys on the market, buttons are not as interesting as they once were.
I no longer cut buttons off of used clothing. Instead the clothes are sent to the mission box or to Goodwill. In my mother’s time, clothing was worn until it was thread bare. The buttons were cut off; the material was used for rags or cut into strips for rag rugs. There wasn’t a thing that went to waste in the 1930’s.
UPDATE: My mom stopped by with her stash of buttons, I wanted to share the beautiful baubles and colors galore!