One of my favorite things around the house when I was a child was mom’s button box. A lifetime of buttons was saved in that box. Mom’s collection likely started before she met and married my dad, although I can’t say that for sure because we never discussed it.
What I do know is that when our clothes were worn out, we would cut off all the buttons before the garment was thrown in the rag-bag. My parents were children of the Great Depression and nothing was wasted. Since there were eight kids in the family, clothes were handed down from one of us to another. Nothing was ever disposed of until it was threadbare and there was no chance of patching it yet again. And at that point the buttons were cut off. Some of the old clothes would be used for cleaning rags or shop rags but many of them went into the rag-bag.
A rag man used to come by the farm to buy rags. I expect he paid by the pound for rags he received. My sister and I have only the vaguest memories of the rag man. We expect he came not more than twice a year because we can’t imagine that we would have a quantity of rags to make it worth his while to come more often. This is perhaps an early example of recycling.
But back to the button box. To be true, I recall the box being an old tin with a lid, although there were probably several tins. We loved playing with the buttons and sorting them and studying their interesting shapes and textures. Every now and again we would do a massive sorting project where we would group like ones together. Mom would string together the matched sets. When we lost a button on a shirt or a jacket we invariably would go through the button box to find a close of a match as possible.
One of my sisters and I and my mother sewed. I seem to recall when mom would buy large amounts of buttons, presumably at some big sale for a low price so among the collection are some old buttons still on cards. Very often we would look through the button collection to find what we needed for a sewing project.
When my mom passed away my sisters and I and some of my sisters-in-law sorted through the button collection and picked out our favorites. And then, some months later, I received a package in the mail. One of my sisters who had received the remainder of the button collection sent it to me. I was the only one of us who had a young daughter and remembering how much fun we used to have with the button box, my sister felt that my daughter should have that experience.
Today I have thousands of buttons. I have mother’s button collection plus all the buttons that I have clipped off of my own family’s worn out clothes. In addition as most of us know when new clothes are purchased they usually come with extra buttons. So all those extras from the clothes and no longer have are added to the collection. Parts of my collection are sorted by color but many of them are mixed.
Lately I have been trying to figure out ways to use the buttons in my cross stitch projects or in other fabric projects. I would love to hear any ideas that anyone might have. And I am also curious about the rag man. Does anyone have any memory or recollection about rag men?
Buttons, buttons, buttons, just another thread of my life.