Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Buttons Tell a Lot About A Woman

I've been working on several small projects lately and one of them needs a few buttons.  It so happens that I have inherited the button collections of two great women:  my mother and my mother-in-law.  I also have a small button collection of my own.  I was looking through the collections for a compatible button and noticed that in a small way each collection tells a story and brings to mind a different set of memories.

For instance, this is my mother's button collection in the original container.  The collection has been around for my entire life.  I remember looking through it when I was growing up.  I remember that she kept it in the dining room hutch behind the bottom left side door.  Occasionally I would try to"organize" the buttons for her, but with this group the task was nearly impossible.
I remember a lot of these buttons, too.  Some of them were from clothing she wore, some just were always there.  And the collection speaks to my mothers practical nature.  She saved every button.  If a garment wore out and became a rag, she harvested the buttons first. There were a few fancy ones, but most of them were very practical buttons.  The drawers also contains some stray items - medals, coins, upholstery and hat pins.  I've kept them there just because it seems like that's where they should be.  About 8 years ago I made a set of tab valances for my kitchen and used these buttons as decoration at each tab - a practical use for the buttons of a practical sewer.

Next I have my mother-in-laws buttons.  These were stored in two plastic containers inside her sewing box.  I put them into this jar.  She did a lot of embroidery, but I don't believe she ever did garment sewing or quilting.  She was a very elegant woman whose dress was impecible.  She was tall and thin and looked good in most fashions.  She favored Pendelton, Neiman Marcus and Lord and Taylor for her clothing.  And most of these buttons came from the extras that are attached to each dress or suit.  What strikes me most about her collection is that when I open the jar, I smell her perfume!  And I'm immediately transported back to the little bit of time that I was privileged to spend with her before she died.

And lastly there are my buttons.  My collection is a mixture of leftovers from projects, extras from clothing and those buttons that fall off but you never get to sew them on and then one day you realize that you no longer own the garment anyway.  They tend to be practical but not as plentiful as my mother's and there are very few "extras" mixed in with the buttons.  Some represent garments made for me in the past or favorite items and several are from the husbands shirts or coats.
On occasion the practical me thinks that I should just combine all the buttons in a more practical container, but then the sentimental me wins out and I decide to keep it all as is.  I like to open the squeeky draws of my mother's collection and think of her searching for the correct number of identical buttons to complete her project.  I like to open my mother-in-laws jar of buttons and smell the faint wiffs of her perfume and I like to see my button collection grow through the different seasons of my life adding to it now and again with different projects.

I think I may be the last "keeper of the buttons".  I have no daughters.  My sons would think the whole thing silly.  Perhaps a daughter-in-law will pick up the baton and carry on the button collection or perhaps I will be blessed with a grand daughter and live long enough to share the button stories with her.  But for now I will remain the "keeper of the buttons" using a few here and there as I need them.  It's not a collection for the sake of a collection.  It's a practical, working collection - because that's the way a button collection is most appreciated by all - when you find that one special button that gives just the right look for your project, or just the right closure for your pants!

No comments:

Post a Comment