Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Down Memory Lane with Buttons

Do you check out the Design Wall Monday posts over at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts? Judy H. took over DWM after Judy L. gave it up. Yesterday Judy  H. posted a story about the quilt in her blog header, and her story sent me down memory lane.

Judy's header quilt is a postage stamp table topper with one inch squares, and each of the light squares has an antique button sewn to it. Hundreds of buttons. She mentioned that she was inspired years ago by a button shop in St. Charles, MO.

Wait - I remember that button shop!!! 

In fact, I bought a pattern there that got me started down this quilty road. I have no idea what the name of the pattern was or who designed it; if anyone knows, please leave a comment. I made this little wall hanging in the late 1980's or very early 1990's.

I had been doing a lot of counted cross stitch at that time and this was a new direction in stitchery for me. It's about 15 x 19" and has batting but no actual quilting. The layers are just anchored by the buttons which are sewn through to the back. The background is muslin and the dusty peach was the color in my guest room/sewing room at that time.

I think the bits and snippets of lace must have come from my general sewing stuff at that time, which was before we started referring to such collections as our "stash."

The buttons mostly came from my grandma's button box, which had been her mother's, and some from my mom's button tin.

This hand-made box is about 16" long, 7" wide, and 6" high. My grandma was born in 1897 and it was her mother's, so it probably dates from the late 19th century.

At one time it was so full that it was hard to close the lid. It still has some treasures in there. The tiny white shell buttons are less than 1/4" across and are sewn through copper foil onto the card. 

So what became of all the other buttons that filled that box? This:

This is a big, heavy acrylic vase. It just barely wedges into the bookshelf in my sewing room, where I keep it on display. Most of the buttons are from my grandma's box, especially the old shell ones. Some were from my mom's button tin, especially the giant coat buttons. There are a few newer metallic buttons as well among the older buttons in there.

It's been fun to revisit grandma's buttons and the sweet little wall hanging I used them for. But now it's got me thinking, What do I do with this stuff??? There are no girls in the family who sew, no one who would want this stuff. As I think about downsizing my home, what do I do with this?


  1. Is there a local antique store in your area? My mother-in-law sells antiques in Albuquerque and helps people when they are downsizing or doing estate sales. She knows the local economy and areas where items like buttons can be used, which is really valuable information. I've always kept that in the back of my mind and think that finding a friendly local thrift store or antique person could be invaluable at times.

  2. My mother gave her box of buttons to the ladies' sewing group at her church. I was a bit incensed a few years later when I found the buttons in one of the ladies' estate sale.

  3. This is a beautiful project- a great way to remember your grandmother. Where I live there is a button club who meet monthly. I would take them to the group to ask for suggestions.

  4. Do you know any school teachers? Sometimes elementary schools use buttons for art projects. I think they look really lovely in the vase, like a cross section of a sandy beach! What I know for certain (having downsized many, many times) is that the love and memories don't live in the buttons themselves, so releasing them to a new life is fine :)