A Jar of Buttons
A Jar of Buttons
This is a core sample
from the floor of the Sea of Mending,
a cylinder packed with shells
that over many years
sank through fathoms of shirts —
pearl buttons, blue buttons —
and settled together
beneath waves of perseverance,
an ocean upon which
generations of women set forth,
under the sails of gingham curtains,
and, seated side by side
on decks sometimes salted by tears,
made small but important repairs.
— Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows, 2004
I found this beautiful poem in The Poets Laureate Anthology. To me, it captures what I love best about the textile arts, and that is the feeling of being connected to and honoring ordinary women, across the world and through the centuries. It’s the feeling I was trying to capture when I wrote the poem about quilts, Old Sisters Together. (That is not a great poem, form-wise, but it’s the kind of poem my grandmother would have loved, so it makes me happy.)
I love to keep buttons, threads, notions, and fabric scraps in glass jars where I can see them every day. This morning, inspired by this poem, I took a few minutes to play with photographing the buttons.
So many memories and dreams in just a little jar — in childhood, sitting and arranging them in patterns on the kitchen table on a rainy day, or noticing tiny shell buttons on a new doll dress; as a teen-ager, picking through the sale bin at the dimestore; as an adult, inheriting Aunt Millie’s button collection with the purchase date and price noted carefully on the card. They never seem to get used up, just joined by more button friends!
I do remember the button jars, and all the fun I had sorting, arranging, choosing, and saving. The Raggedy Ann doll my mother made for me still is with me. I chose her faceted black eyes from my grandmother’s button jar.
That is wonderful! It’s so special to have something that ties together the generations.
Old Sister Together is a beautiful poem of the soul for those who’s depths it touches. It was as rich as the memories from which might be stitched the fabrics from once we came. Family. So glad you shared it. Thank you. It touched me in such a way.
Thank you, I am so glad it meant something to you!
It did. 😊
Do you have a blog, on Blogger or somewhere? If so, I would like to visit and read your stories. If not, and you have a special textile-related story you would like to share, I would be happy to have it here as a guest post! A few people have done that over the years and their stories have added a lot to the range of this blog. 🙂
I do and thank you so much for asking. It is still under construction, but the name of it is “Orphan in the Breadbox” at orphaninthebreadbox.com. I truly appreciate the invitation to guest post and will gladly take you up on that should I feel one emerge that might compliment your work. Again, thank you.😊
I have buttons from my grandmother, my mom, and my husband’s grandmother. I have so many! And yet, when I see a jar of buttons in a thrift/antique shop, I want to take it home. Nice photos!
Yes, they need to be rescued and wind up in a loving home! 🙂
CONGRATULATIONS! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
Thank you, Chris
I also belong to the Button Lovers Society.. I have quite a few jars of them, handed down from family and friends, saved from my own handcraft and also ‘rescued’ from thrift shops, fairs, markets, etc. Nice to know I’m not alone..
I have my nan’s buttons. She sorted them into tins, by colour – except for one small tin which had her ‘precious’ buttons in it – the ones that she’d taken from a piece of clothing that had belongs to someone ‘precious who were taken before their time’ is the phrase she used when she answered my questions – buttons from her sister and sister in law, the christening and baby buttons from her son who wasn’t expected to make it past 4, but made it til his forties, and the occasional other button from very special moments in her life.
I make fine silver charms from moulds I’ve made of some of them, so when my cousin got married in 2018, I made her and her sisters some bracelets with a silver charm using one of nan’s favourite buttons and incorporated baby buttons from their dad’s baby clothes.
Doing so made me really very happy. I wrote about it so I had a record – here’s a link, in case you are interested.
I love buttons too and I so enjoyed that poem and the images! Sometimes I pour out my jar of buttons and just look through them for fun!
Thank you for the lovely poem. If any of your readers want coat buttons I have lots
I have a couple of button jars too! Do you ever use any of them? I only use them when the button pops off my hubby’s work pants!
I have used some in some little fabric cards and art quilts, but I would like to use more — some day! 🙂
Nice! Yes, of course I have button collections!
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