The Button Box – Throwback Thursday

imageOne 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.

imageA 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 wereimage 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.

imageOne 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 imagepackage 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.

imageToday 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.

If buttons were dollars I would be very wealthy indeed.image

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.


22 thoughts on “The Button Box – Throwback Thursday

  1. I remember my mom’s tin of buttons. She died before I was interested in learning to sew, so I don’t know what ever happened to them. I don’t remember a rag man. I like the idea of using them in cross stitch projects. Nice memory, Helen. Thanks..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 9, 2015 / 7:56 pm

      You always seem to relate to and add to many of the topics I write about. Thanks for being a faithful reader and for commenting.


  2. hirundine608 April 9, 2015 / 7:57 am

    Yup, I have a small button box too. It seems a little sad that they seem to be all made of plastic. Finding buttons that are made of a more natural substance seems to be harder, these days? Cheers Jamie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 9, 2015 / 7:58 pm

      It is true that so many of them are plastic these days. I am tempted to take a careful look at mine and separate out those of other materials – I know I have some wooden and metal ones. I am tempted to do some research and find out more.


  3. 60while60 April 9, 2015 / 8:16 am

    Interesting that your Mom’s button collection was a tin can. So was mine. As kids we made up games with buttons, sorted them, threaded them. Same Same. Thanks for the memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 9, 2015 / 8:00 pm

      You are welcome. I find that I am recalling a lot of things from my childhood since I have been trying to find interesting throwback topics to blog about. Glad to bring this to your mind.


  4. Lutheranliar April 9, 2015 / 9:12 am

    As you mentioned in a comment on one of my posts (thanks!), we are indeed a lot alike. My Mom (and Aunts and Grammas too) had a button box. (as do I) I still love playing with the buttons (!) In fact, I have a nice selection that I bought once in a stall on Portobello Road in London. Sometimes I’ll use buttons from my stash to replace the ‘ordinary’ buttons on a ‘store-bought’ blouse or sweater; a little thing like that can really jazz up a piece. But my love of buttons is really all about those memories. Thank you for reminding me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 9, 2015 / 8:01 pm

      That is really a good idea to use your buttons to replace “ordinary buttons”. I think I can use that idea myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Freeda Baker Nichols April 9, 2015 / 9:17 am

    I enjoyed reading this. I, too, have buttons from my mother and mother-in-law’s collection. Some of them are displayed in an old, square-shaped jar as a decoration in my bathroom. Did you ever put a string through a large coat button and pull the string back and forth between both hands so that the button spins? Great to entertain little kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 9, 2015 / 8:03 pm

      I don’t know that I ever did the coat button idea–but I think that is a great idea. Also a great idea to display some in a jar. I have at different times put some buttons in a dish to match seasonal decor that I might have out…like red, white and blue buttons for the 4th of July, or green, red and white buttons at Christmas. Always looking for more button ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. suesconsideredtrifles April 11, 2015 / 11:55 am

    I remember the rag and bone man. He was one of the last people to use a horse and cart. We saved the rags in an old pillow case. Before I started school I was allowed to stroke the horse. If it left anything in the road Mum went out with a shovel for what she called gold dust – for the roses. The man’s call included “Any old iron?” He rang a handbell too, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 11, 2015 / 11:02 pm

      I did a little research to find out what I could about the rag man before I wrote my post. I did see references to the rag and bone man which I believed was in England. Is that where you are? I expect you were in a city setting. I grew up on a farm in the U.S. in the 50’s and by that time the rag man drove a vehicle–no horse and buggy which would not have been efficient with farms spread as far apart as they were. And of course since we lived in the country with many animals on the farm the “gold dust” would not have seemed quite that precious to us. Thanks for your very interesting comment..


        • Good Woman April 12, 2015 / 10:46 pm

          So I am sure the city experience was quite different than the rural Wisconsin, USA experience but it is interesting they both had the term “rag man”. I don’t recall the term “bone man” locally.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Creatopath April 11, 2015 / 6:51 pm

    I love buttons too. Have a jar of them for my scrapbooking. My Grandma used to have a huge tin of them that we played with when we were kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 11, 2015 / 11:04 pm

      My daughter does scrapbooking. I will need to reminder of the wealth of buttons I have available that she could use.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. jesebell April 11, 2015 / 10:23 pm

    My grandma had a round basket like container full of buttons that I played with. I haven’t thought about that in years…all warm and fuzzy inside now – Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good Woman April 11, 2015 / 11:04 pm

    I am glad I could bring a pleasant memory to your mind.


  10. The Snail of Happiness April 13, 2015 / 12:11 pm

    I grew up in an English city and I too remember the Rag and Bone man as late as the 1970s. Ours also had a horse to pull his cart. Despite the name, he took anything – rags, metal, glass… you name it.
    And as for buttons, I have some mother of pearl ones from a sadly departed old friend who acquired them from her own mother and her husband (he was left with them when his first wife died). She passed away a few years ago in her 90s so some of them must be real antiques. My mum (in her 80s) still has a large button collection… I would probably still like to play with them if she would let me!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman April 13, 2015 / 8:55 pm

      Very interesting. I would not have thought that the rag and bone man were still a fixture in the ’70’s. I do not remember it beyond very early childhood years, which would have been the ’50’s. I really look through my oldest buttons with an eye towards determining what they are made of. I think you should ask your mom if you could play with the buttons.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. <3 missus <3 May 5, 2015 / 3:32 am!!! I also took my mum’s button collection, and every time I hand it to children to play with they fall in a total awe… Isn’t it amazing? Mom also once bought an old button collection at the charity shop. There were very very old buttons sewn onto paper, marked where the person got the button from. I remember one button had the description that it was given by a Navy officer 🙂 I loved browsing through that ❤ My buttons are now in an old glass jar with cork lid, displayed on my window sill ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Woman May 6, 2015 / 10:23 pm

      The button collection from the charity shop sounds absolutely fascinating. I would have loved to see that. And that is a very nice idea for displaying buttons.

      Liked by 1 person

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