Monday, April 17, 2006

The button jar

I had a great Easter weekend with my family ~ many great moments will be recorded in the blog, but as it is late and I need to go to bed, I think I’ll start with something simple. The button jars.
I remember the button jars from my childhood, which was quite some time ago. The jars are still in the same drawer in my Mother's craft room. They are even the same jars I remember from my childhood.
When I was a youngster the craft room was called the utility room. It held the washing machine and dryer, a place to hang clothes as they waited for the ironing board, her sewing machine, and a wall of cabinets and drawers filled with sewing patterns, zippers, spools of thread, lengths of fabric, needles, zippers, and of course one drawer devoted to the buttons.
It was also my father’s bathroom. Poor man, had a wife and four daughters, he had little chance of using the big bathroom, so he was relegated to a tiny little half bath with a toilet and a shower. He shaved in the laundry sink above which hung a mirrored medicine cabinet and a drawer where he kept whatever grooming supplies he needed.
The utility room was also a gardening center and a walk through from the garage to the kitchen and the back yard. It had a door that could shut and lock it away from the rest of the house, so when the holidays approached, Mom holed up in the room, emerging long enough to cook dinner and clean up before hiding herself away with the sewing machine fabric and plans for our Christmas gifts.
Mom was a daughter of the great depression and an art and home ec. teacher. She saved and recycled almost everything, which explains the button jars.
Whenever family members had worn clothing to the point where it could not be mended any longer. After a dress or coat or skirt had been passed down from one daughter to the next until it no longer retained it’s original color or shape. The clothing was still useful. Clothing could be made into quilts, torn up and woven into rugs ~ if all else failed, she could use it for painting rags.
Buttons were carefully removed and saved in the button jar.
I suppose over the years a great many ordinary shirt buttons, ordinary buttons and matching buttons made their way onto other clothing. But the very odd and unusual stayed in the jar as a form of entertainment for all of us.
This entertainment proved true when I was visiting my family this weekend. Mom saw the button I used on one of my scrapbook pages and reminded me of the button jar. Quite frankly, I though it had been retired long ago. But she brought it out and I opened the lids, releasing the scent of plastic, wood and leather.
Before long the little boys, Mom’s grandchildren and great-grandsons who had been playing together in the back yard, suddenly appeared to “help” me with my sorting.
Ohhing, and awing, they expressed their own unique personalities as they found buttons shaped like “shields” and “hats” among the jars.
Together we sifted through the colors, ran the small plastic disks through our fingers, and noticed the shapes, the bumps, the ridges.
They didn’t stay sorting for long; they were little boys, after all.
But for a few moments we worked and played together admiring little works of art, and I passed down the tradition of the button jar to my children. Yes, I did bring some of the buttons home. I’ll be putting them on pages and cards for years to come.


Monica said...

Priceless....your story, your pictures, of course.. and your Mom!! How precious it all is.. i loved the button tin my nana it!!

Wyo sis said...

Yes yes the button jars. Plural. There was one for each color and one for dull boreing shirt buttons. I used to wonder what kind of clothes those fancy buttons came off of. We certainly never wore clothes with gold, or jewels. I remember the large blue ones with anchors on them. I didn't learn until I was much older that they came from a certain kind of coat called a pea coat. My daughters have the same facination with buttons. They also spent hours with the button jars. Ashlee found a big tub of buttons at the variety store in Thayne and we bought many little bagsful. Thanks for the memory. I feel sad I was too busy to be there with you.

horseygal said...

I am also fascinated with button jars! My French grandmother was a seamstress, thus my love for fashion, and of course, buttons!

Susan said...

I think everyone's grandma had button jars! LOL

Adrienne said...


WendyReedPea said...

OMGosh... that is soooo awesome!!!! Love those buttons.

Tawnya said...

WOW! This is an very great story! Thanks for sharing! The buttons are delightful! :)