Saturday, June 24, 2006

This Works For Me: Buttons in the Jewelry Box

Among my myraid collections of fascinating stuff, I have some vintage buttons. I've given lots of them away to people who use them for crafts. My daughter's s-i-l got a bunch for her gorgeous boiled wool bags. Last year our writers group got some for a crafty fundraising project. But I still have a bunch, and I found a use of my own. They help me keep my earrings straight! They have to have holes, of course, and they work for hooks and stud-type--especially nice in a jewelry box with an undivided drawer like this, but the beauty is that no matter how they get jounced around, the pair says together.

Most of the buttons shown here are made of Bakelite, which was an early plastic used in the first half of the 20th century. That's a Bakelite bangle bracelet in the photo, too. Bakelite jewelry has become really collectable. But I do buttons. I'm not so big on jewelry, but as you can see, I do like rocks and funky stuff.

Why collect buttons? Why not? Glass, celluloid, Bakelite, wood--some of the old ones are gorgeous. I'm told that when I was a toddler, I was fascinated by the jar of buttons my father brought home when he worked (briefly--it drove him to re-enlist) in his brother's drycreaning business. I know, choking hazard. It's a wonder I survived to tell the tale in a future non-fiction project--The Making Of a Packrat. Sort of a save-the-children thing, seeing as how the care and feeding of a packrat is costly and space-consuming. So I'm told.

What do you use your buttons for? Or anything else, for that matter. I also collect ideas for uses for the useless.


Michele said...

Ah, buttons. When we were kids, my mom had a big glass button jar. If it was raining, or we were just bored, she'd suggest we get out the button jar. Oh, the memory of an entire afternoon spent sorting through those fabulous buttons. What did we do with them? Nothing. Except pour them out and look at them. Maybe sort them into matching sets. All the black one's here. All the sparkly ones here. The rhinestones, the bakelite, the plastic, the metal, even the ugly ones.
Many times I wonder whatever happened to that jar of buttons. Probably got sold at a rummage sale or auctioned off when my parents moved from their country house. I sure hope whoever got it, appreciates the joy it can provide!

Kelly Parra said...

Hi Kathleen, I'm fascinated with buttons too, but the kind you pin on? I have a somewhat small collection of pins from years ago and from vacation spots. The older they are, the more I like them. =D

Helen Brenna said...

We had a button jar too when I was growing up. I can still remember the sound they made clinking around against the glass. Fun memories!

Mia said...

I can relate. I've always loved buttons. My grandmother had a button jar as well. She was a teacher who loved art so she'd use any opportunity to encourage us to do something artistic. We used to make mosiacs with the buttons. On rainy days she'd give us big sheets of butcher paper and let us glue buttons and even pieces of jewelry to our hearts content. My father still has one of those grade school mosiaces I made in his den.
When my daughters were in kindergarden and first grade I'd dress up those plain little tank shirts by sewing on different types of buttons. They looked really cute.
A friend of mine is really into beading and she loves incorporating buttons. I'd love to do something like that but I just don't have the time or the patience!
btw, Kathleen, please check your email!

anne frasier said...

ah, yeah. my grandmother had a button tin. i used to love to sort the colors. recently i went on an antique button quest. i thought it would be cool to swap the new buttons on a coat for some antique buttons. never found the ones i was looking for, but haven't completely given up on the idea.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Anne--Did you try e-bay for button?
Mia--Thanks for your e-mail and the news about your project at Canton, SD. It sounds exciting! I'd love to meet the guy you mentioned who got access to the Hummer papers. I hope people will pay more attention to the story. What's the saying? If we ignore our history, we're doomed to repeat it? Right now I'm so horrified by what they're trying to do to Bear Butte that I wonder if the public has decided to sleep through the 21st century and let diggers, drainers and so-called developers continue to do whatever they want to this poor planet. But we'll save that discussion for my website bulletin board. Good to hear from you. Oh, and my e-mail is a mess, and I don't know what to do about it. That server--Network Solutions--gets so much spam!

Back to button. E-bay. It's fun to just window shop. Monitor shop? But it's hard to do while you're sitting on your hands, which is the way I have to e-bay unless I really have designs on one--ONE--particular thing.

Mia said...

Thanks Kathleen, as soon as the professor is in town, I'll let you know! (And I'd love to discuss this on your message board but it won't let me post, even after I register...I was about to take it personally but it wouldn't let my director post either and he's clear across the country.)I know what you mean about Network Solutions, I switched from them to Go-Daddy and the spam intake is pretty much the same. I wish I'd have stayed with Geocities, they might have been "lame" by my webmaster's specifications but the spam was very much at a minimum.

Back to buttons - I've found some of my best buttons at yardsales and year end clear out at nursing homes. Activity Directors usually 'rotate' their supplies in the spring and either have a yard sale or put them on local bulletin boards. I've managed to pick up some great buttons for craft or sewing projects this way. I'd love to eBay for them but last year I spent WAY too much money on their for strawberry stuff for my new kitchen. I'd probably go bankrupt if I went after buttons on their!

I saw another really great use for buttons just yesterday. My friend's teenage daughter likes those 'bead' curtains from the sixties. She couldn't find any she liked so she made her own using certain types of buttons. Mostly glass or 'gem' encrusted. She did a really great job. I just may try it for my daughter if I can find the time!

anne frasier said...


*slapping myself on the forehead*

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I can't believe we weren't the only kids whose grandmother gave them a button jar to play with. The most prized was faux jet with a small rhinestone in the center.

She was a poor Italian immigrant who hated to take anything from anyone, even as her children became successful. So when we stayed overnight, our toy choices were: wiffle ball, box of tools, and the button jar.

It was ok, because the food she served made up for the the slim toy pickins.