Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Button Box

While industriously cleaning and sorting the old homestead, a tin smacked me with nostalgia. The Button Box. My mother was a seamstress and had a tin of buttons. A ton of buttons. Metal, plastic, plain, and fancy in a rainbow of colors. I loved the button box. I spent hours counting, sorting and playing with the buttons. I loved the clacking sound as the buttons slipped through my fingers as I sifted them or tiddly winked them into paper cups (or at least tried to).

The biggest draw to the button box was the large white buttons. Ma taught us to thread the button onto heavy thread and securing the ends with a knot. The button would be pushed to the middle of the thread. Fingers grasped the ends and then spun the thread in the air until the thread twisted taut. Then you would pull the ends out and in like playing an accordion. Friction caused the button to make a whirring sound. We didn't have a name for it, just button on a string. I have since heard the term whizzer used because of the sound.

Did you play with the buttons in your ma's button box?


  1. My Mom had a button jar and yeah that brings back memories for me too. And I did the button on a string thing too. Now I have my own button jar and my great aunt's button jar. One of the most fun things I have done with buttons is decorate a ball cap for crazy hat night. Just sewed all kinds, shapes, sizes, colors of buttons all over a bright yellow cap.

  2. I don't remember my mom having a button box/jar. I remember she had cards of buttons from the fabric store. And miles and miles of fabric and patterns and trim and thread.

    I love the notion of you playing with the buttons and making a button spinner. :)

  3. I think in our mothers' day every housewife had a button box. Sometimes you'l find treasures in there. I also used to buy my mother special antique buttons at a famous store in Manhattan called Tender Buttons. Some of those buttons cost a fortune but a visit there was always a treat--if only for the crazy designers and collectors you'd find there. It was on Madison Ave. in the sixties. I wonder if it's still there?

  4. Joan, my mother was a professional seamstress. She worked for Bertard Mfg. in Waltham, Ma later Somerville. They sewed matching coat and dress ensembles.

    Among her things I also found bags of designer buttons from B. Blumentahl 1373 Broadway, NY, Grabiner Sales Creation 239 W. 39th St., NY, Martin Reynolds 333 Seventh Ave. NY. The floor lady in the factory would give the workers fabric and notions that would no longer be used.

  5. OMG! Someone else that likes the ‘sound’ of the buttons! Nobody ever gets that part! And yes, I’ve spent many a happy hour playing with a ‘whizzer’! Thanks for the jog down memory lane!