Sunday, May 27, 2018

An Unwitting Button Collector

I wrote about my love for dishes in my last blog post written almost two months ago.  Now I find myself writing about being an unwitting collector of buttons. I wager I’m not the only woman who has become a button collector without realizing it. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with collecting buttons. Button collecting is the third most popular collection, according to a button collector’s blog I read. Button clubs, button conventions, and a national button society all cater to avid collectors.

My mother sewed and made clothing for my two sisters and me during our school years.  She had a stash of buttons still on their cards, as well as a button jar.  When my sisters and I were young, the button jar fascinated us. We were like King Midas with his gold coins. We loved looking at the buttons in the jar.  We loved dumping them out, counting and sorting them. Some of the buttons came from clothes we owned.  The biggest button that I remember came from one of Mother’s coats.  It was a mottled brown button with a convex surface, the kind of button that attached behind the button face, with no holes showing after it was sewn on the coat. I wonder what happened to the button jar, perhaps one of Mother’s grandchildren squirreled it away.

I don’t sew except to reattach the occasional loose button or to hem a pair of slacks, so why do I have a button collection? If you’re a woman, you may already know the answer. Every blouse, sweater, skirt, coat, and jacket purchased comes with a small plastic bag or tiny paper envelope attached to the clothing.  Inside the bag is an extra button or two.  For years, I’ve removed the envelope containing the buttons from the clothing, opened a dresser drawer, put the button packet into a larger zip lock bag, and closed the drawer. Then I would forget about it. I never used any of the buttons. 

Recently I opened that drawer and saw the zip lock bag full of button packets. It was like seeing them for the first time. “Why am I saving these?” I asked.

I decided to open the packages and look at the buttons, knowing I no longer owned the clothing that went with the majority of the buttons. I bet there were a hundred small envelopes.

Empty packages that held buttons
I opened all the packets and dumped the buttons into a single clear plastic zip lock bag so I could see them. I noticed several green buttons that went with a raincoat that I haven’t owned for years. It was a three quarter length coat and I thought I looked pretty cute in it. One of my favorite buttons was a large button with a tribal design on it. I remembered the navy sweater shirt it went with, gone for more than a decade. The short-sleeved shirt buttoned up the front and was designed to hang loosely. It barely covered my midsection. I felt risqué when I wore it to work, so I never raised my arms very far above my head. I immediately recognized a fabric-covered button that went to one of my all-time favorite dresses, a red and navy swinging shirtwaist that looked like it came from the 1940’s.

Zip Lock Bag of Buttons
I sorted through black, red, green, blue and white buttons, thin mother-of-pearl buttons, clear plastic buttons, fabric-covered buttons. If I lose a button now, I can look in the zip lock bag and have a better chance of finding a match.  More than likely, I’ll just use the buttons in arts and crafts projects. However, some nights when I’m alone, you might discover me dumping out my bag of buttons and running my hands through them as if they are golden coins—or perhaps, golden memories.