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button box

jjk466 | Posted in General Discussion on

A friend and I were having a “chat” when the topic of “button boxes” came up….our question is does anyone still have button boxes? What with yard sales and donations to second hand stores, are people still cutting buttons off old clothes and putting them in a box to use for repairs etc? It seems like now boxes of used buttons are associated with a different generation or am I just in the wrong neighborhood these days:-)?

Edited 10/17/2003 10:02:28 PM ET by jenny


  1. sewhat | | #1

    Hi Jenny,

    You are not alone--I have a huge box of buttons.  In fact, the other day I was searching through them looking for some buttons for a shirt I am making, and was flooded with memories of dresses and other items I had made years ago for myself and my daughters.  I even came across buttons from a robe I wore as a child--and I am 55 years old.  I guess maybe the age says it all.  I remember visiting with my grandmother when I was a little girl and sorting through her button box (actually it was a tin container like you get cookies in). 

    Yes, I still remove buttons from clothing, especially if they are somewhat unique or in great condition.  You would think in this day and age of recycling, button boxes would be more popular than ever.  Maybe your mention of them in this forum will be the beginning of a new trend among the younger sewers. 

  2. SewTruTerry | | #2

    Jenny and Carla

    Yes I still have button boxes and I use the plural as I have so many that I can not contain them in one box.  Even better my mother has my grandmothers box as well.  Some of those buttons were on clothes that she wore as a little girl. She would have been 110 years old this year.  But I think if you surveyed sewers in general they will all say that they have boxes but it used to be more common as was sewing that there was always a button box in the family but this was at a time when everyone was  recycling their clothes within their own family.  There doesn't seem to be as many people that even know how to sew on a button themselves. I get a lot of people that ask me to sew them on for them.

    1. jjk466 | | #3

      Carla and Terry~

      Thanks for your button box logic....at least now I know there indeed are still button boxes and tins still out there. I was taken down memory lane recently when my grandson came to visit and he happened across my buttons. The box contains several generations worth of odds and ends. We sorted by size, we sorted by color and we made a button spinner which was a "diversion" my mother had shown me as a child. (Threading a large button on a strong string, tying it off into a loose circle then spinning it around until you had enough twists so that when you pulled back and forth on the ends of the loop your button would whirl around and around....now I know that description isn't good enough to let someone who never did that know what I mean, but if you did, maybe you will want to make one again yourself!)...

      1. rjf | | #4

        You bring back old memories.  I had my grandmother's button tin which I think she might have started in the '40's.  Somehow a bus token got in there and every time I came across it when searching for a button, it made me think of shopping trips and going to the movies.  If I don't still have it, one of my daughters has adopted it.  I think you need to know the person who starts the box...otherwise, it's just an old box of buttons. 

        And you're right about the button spinner!  I know exactly what you're talking about.         rjf

        1. CTI | | #5

          Oh, button spinners!! Much fun.

          My button “boxes” are glass latchtop Mason type jars, whatever they are called, and baskets for those still attached to cards. I also inherited from both my Grandmother and Mother, but I don’t use them so often these days.

          I’ve taken buttons off clothing before giving away, but haven’t reused many, and have bought items (used) for the buttons alone. I fear it’s a collecting gene, but many are tiny delicate doll clothes buttons, and some are such works of art, so I need to one day make use of some. I even bought some to make earrings from. Too many ideas!

  3. becksnyc | | #6

    Ah, the nostalgic topic of buttons.  I have both my mother and mother-in-law's buttons (both deceased).  I cherish the memories they bring back.

    My favorite button?  A horse button from my mom's riding jacket.  She was a horse nut, her entire lift.  The button dates back to the early 1950's.

    Sweet, sweet memories!


  4. 07ranch | | #7

    I too have a button "jar" a pacific oyster jar to be exact, I snip off interesting and unique buttons, or pretty colors.....pretty much anything, LOL.  I read in an earlier post about a grandmother spending precious time "sorting" with her grandson and had to chuckle,as a homeschooling family, our buttons serve as math manipulatives, spatial reasoning exercises, color recognition, classifying, sorting, fine motorskills, to only name a few, some are used by my older children in crafting, jewelry and such, most usually are not re used as buttons.

    We live in a day and age that buttons are not really rare, or expensive, but may serve other important uses, just not on a garment.

    1. jjk466 | | #8

      I can see from the continuing flow of messages that button boxes are indeed alive and well. How wonderful. I posted the first note and have enjoyed reading everyone's tales since. My favorite button is not all that "spectacular" by button standards I am sure yet whenever I see it I remember the wool coat my mother made me when I was about eight years old. She told me she was going to sew on some extra special buttons. To this day I see the button and think, extra special just for me and I feel good.

      1. rjf | | #9

        Our local library had a button exhibit about 8 or 9 months ago.  Many glass button from the the thirties and still attached to the card.  Some pearl buttons......it's hard to get real pearl buttons today.  Ball-shaped buttons and rhinestone beauties.  I recognized most of the styles and remembered garments I made using those kinds of buttons.  Remember covered buttons?  It was so classy to have buttons that were the same fabric as your dress.  I spent hours learning to do Chinese-knot button to match the binding on a jacket.   They probably wouldn't show up in a button box.  I think buttons aren't as important style-wise as they used to be but maybe that's turning around.        rjf

        1. SewTruTerry | | #10

          I didn't mention it earlier as I was in a bit of a hurry to get out the door to the Sewing Expo but not only do I have the button boxes but I have a mayonaise jar full of buttons as well.  One day I was out at my local craft store and saw on close out the parts needed to make a lamp out of mason jars and then it hit me use the button jar as a lamp in my sewing room and still be able to access the buttons and have an interesting conversation piece.  As I then started really putting the finishing touches on my sewing room and had collected a number of kitchen vanities to act as bases for the cutting and sewing tables I attached some old metal bobbins to the doors for handles not only funtional but part of the theme. 

          Yes we also used the buttons to count and sort and also used them for missing pieces in Monopoly as well.  My own kids keep themselves busy with the button bin at my local quilting specialty store.  At least they don't whine and complain about going shopping with me.

          1. Judygoeson | | #11

            Hi, Everyone!

            My Family seemed to be jar keepers.  One of my aunts went as far as keeping jarsof different sizes and shapes to sort buttons by size , color etc.  I have inherited most of the jars by default.  Some I have used, but the most unusual and exotic buttons?  I hold onto them!  Why not?  My own habits fall into a different category...I see buttons I like, and whether or not I use them, I buy them and I keep them!  Occasionally, they inspire an outfit,  eg...some white buttons, handpainted with violets, led to a white, summer button-down-the-front dress...old but still worn occasionally.  Those types of buttons are kept in a handiperson's box with those little plastic drawers meant for nails and screws.  I also add those extra buttons that come with "boughten" (I'm from South-central PA) clothes in case you lose a button they put on, usually not very securely (that's one reason why I sew...I know the buttons will stay on!)

            On occasion, I have given them to my granddaughters to play with.  They draw pictures and augment them with buttons...for eyes, wheels, pompoms or other round things. 

            Another thing I have inherited are sewing boxes, which are never empty!  My Mother had an oval sort covered in quilted ice blue satin.  And an elderly friend gave me hers..a hunter green and cream metal box the size of a bread box with a snap-on lid and two carrying handles.  I was advised that this could be used for picnics, in a pinch. Wow!

            Sometimes I wonder whether my descendents will look through my sewing accoutrements and also exclaim "Wow!  Gee!  Look at all that neat old stuff!"

            Happy Sewing to All...from JudyG

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