The Simple Beauty of the Button Box

My Button BoxI inherited my Mother’s button box – filled with buttons of all kinds collected over decades from discarded dresses, cardigans and blouses which were often turned into cleaning rags or rugs after salvaging the zips, hooks and buckles as well as the ubiquitous buttons. Left-overs from sewing and knitting projects also went into the box. Not only spare buttons but scraps of darning wool, lengths of embroidery thread and all sorts of miscellaneous haberdashery were always kept “just in case”. My mother’s generation knew the meaning of frugal.

Her button box, which was an old, faded and worn chocolate box, contained buttons and buckles she had also inherited from her mother, aunt and grandmother – more than I would ever need in a life time but too sentimental and useful to discard. I’ve kept up the tradition and added to it in a small way and was lucky to find a crafty lady who made me several necklaces with them so they weren’t just hidden away.

I love to wear my button necklaces. They are unusual, pretty and much admired – and it’s nice to be able to share the joy of them with others. I remember some of the clothes that they came from and I always feel close to the women who saved them and handed them on when I’m wearing the contents of the button box.

Button Necklace

My “box” is actually an old tin which I occasionally enjoy rummaging through just to feel the smooth textures of the buttons as I did when I was a kid. I’m thinking about how else I can give these old buttons new life. One idea I pinched from is to create a “button tree” on canvas.

I met a woman recently who was devastated to discover that her sisters had thrown away her Mum’s old button tin when clearing her house after her death. It was the only thing that she had wanted to keep as a memento of her mother. The button tin held memories not only of buttons past but of happy times sewing with Mum or rummaging through the tin to find a suitable button to replace a missing one.

So, I decided to continue the tradition – a symbol of thrift and frugality – by gifting “starter” tins of buttons to my nieces. As people become more interested in recycling and up-cycling, mending and making-do, the button box or tin could well make a come-back in every home.