I went to Goodwill today for the first time in awhile and found this wonderful jar of vintage buttons. For $3.49. Needless to say, I snapped it up.
I’m always surprised that such a thing would end up at a Goodwill store, garage sale or other such place. Button jars were once a common thing. Every housewife would have had a jar or box where she cut the buttons off any garment that was past being patched to be used for a lost button or to sew on a new dress she had made. Someone who was loved cut these off, handling each one, putting aside for their family’s future in this small but significant way. Waste not, want not.
In our modern, throw-away culture, we don’t bother with this sort of thing. We wear our clothes until we’re tired of them and then pass them on while they still have some good use in them. That, of course, is a good thing, too. And, most of us don’t make too many of our own clothes anymore, so we don’t have a lot of use for a button jar.
But, for me, it’s a wonderful bit of history. It’s not my history, but someone’s history. Those buttons represent favorite coats and dresses, a husband’s shirt, a grandma’s sweater, or a little girl’s sundress. They’ve withstood multiple fastenings, maybe through multiple garments, and are still ready to be pressed into service with a quick stitch or two.
The jar will largely be decoration, but I add a vintage button here and there to aprons I make, or art pieces, or a bag, or who knows what next. So, some of them may well find their way into yet another life beyond the jar. But, I’m already certain there are some I will never be able to part with. I will only be able to use them on things for myself so when they’re worn out I can cut the button off yet again.
I love button collections almost as much as I love finding someone’s recipe box filled with their family favorites. I haven’t run across one of those in awhile. Of course, I haven’t run across a button jar in awhile either. I think the last time was when we were at Susan’s farm. I looked back to find that blog and apparently March is my time to find button jars. But, unfortunately, I seem to be on a once-every-two-years schedule. It would be wonderful to increase that average.
This was one of the first things I spotted today. It was sitting in a cart, ready to be put out on the shelf, and I snapped it up before it ever got onto the shelf. I love the colors, shapes and textures represented. When I opened the jar tonight to dip my fingers in and feel the buttons, I realized there was this string right on top – just an unexpected prize.
I’m afraid these sorts of things will eventually completely disappear. I think I’m only able to find them now because I live where there are still ladies who quilt and do other sorts of handwork. It’s something I truly treasure about living in the midwest.
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