A Look at Thrift.

About this Activity

Do You Remember Playing with Your Mother’s or Grandmother’s Button Jar as a Child?

As small children in our house, we used to sort my mother’s button collection (some of which had come from her mother) into colors, sizes, and patterns and made pictures with them. Most of the buttons were small white or black ones, but we delighted in picking out and admiring the pearly buttons, the shiny gold ones, the odd shapes, and others with intricate designs. In those days, we didn’t think much further than this, but as we grew older, we realized that the buttons actually came from real clothes, and we would imagine these clothes, the age of the wearers, and the occasions they were used for.

While button collecting has been a recognized hobby for nearly 100 years, and there are even ‘button societies,’ the contents of these button jars or boxes would have been collected for their potential use in replacing lost buttons, as clothes were handed down from one child to another.

The button jar is still here, and the buttons bring back memories as I recognize elongated black buttons from a duffel-coat I wore when I was about 10 years old, fancy blue buttons from a cardigan my mother knitted for me, and lots more.

I have made a lot of artworks as an adult, several of them involving buttons. One of these was a pillowcase that I completely covered with sewn-on buttons of every kind imaginable. A couple of years ago, I brought this pillow into the nursing home and left it on display for a few weeks. It was amazing to see the reaction of the residents to this. The interaction was great; residents and visitors touched the buttons, discussed memories that they invoked with each other and with me, and shared some great stories.

As a result of the interest, I put up a notice for visitors to say that if they had any buttons collected and weren’t going to use them, we would like them to make art in the nursing home. The response was great, and people were pleased to put the buttons to use. The sentimental value of the buttons had been so great to them that they couldn’t throw them out, and they were delighted to see them going to good use.

Long ago, necessity required that more people learned to sew and mend at an early age. Today’s world is often a bit different, we live in a more ‘throw-away' society, and the thrift of the old days is not so prevalent.

So, this week, maybe you will do a little reminiscing? Share some memories with a friend, and you might find that they have a really good story for you too!

Have a great week!

Maria Brady

Activity Coordinator & CQO at Maria’s Place