Buttons and Books

My mother was a domestic goddess. She cooked, she cleaned, she repaired. She painted, gardened, sewed, and more.

Me? Not so much, except for the cooking part.

Because she sewed, she always had boxes filled with rolls of leftover fabric. And jars of buttons.

My grandmother had a button can, but her buttons were different. They were old-fashioned country buttons.

Mom's buttons were all different shapes and sizes and colors. Slick city buttons.

Image Credit
When I was a little girl, Mom's buttons fascinated me. I played with them for hours. They became roads, houses, buildings, cars, trees, people. I made up stories, moved the people from place to place, played all the parts.

After I finished playing, or when Mom said I had to, I had to put the buttons back in the jar. This was fun, too. Sometimes I scooped them up all at once and dumped them back in. Sometimes I picked them up by color. Sometimes by size. Usually she had to tell me to hurry up.

My roundabout way of getting to the point here is that I've always made up stories about people that I made up.

So maybe I should scout around for some old buttons. Next time I have a plot or character problem or wonder what's next, the buttons might close the gap and keep me on track.

Did you play with buttons when you were a kid?

What was your favorite pretend toy?

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By the way, today is Book Drive Day over at Margo Kelly's blog. Zip over to see what she's doing for Columbia High School and how you can help.

Happy Monday!


Anna Smith said…
I did the same thing with coins. I couldn't wait for my parents to fill the jar with coppers and let me help count! :)
My mother also collected buttons, I don't think many people do these days as most people buy clothes instead of repairing when needed.

Linda G. said…
I have a whole collection of antique buttons that came with an antique sewing chest my in-laws got me many years ago. I love to imagine what life was like for the original owners of those buttons.
Kyra Lennon said…
And here's me thinking I was the only crazy kid who played with buttons lol! My nan used to have a huge tin full of buttons, and I spent hours playing around with them. It's the little things!
Loved this post. Yes, I loved and still love buttons. I played with them when I was a kid and when my grandchildren were younger they played with a jar of buttons I've collected over the years.
I have very old buttons and newer buttons. We've bought several old sewing machines and found buttons in the drawers. Most machines have passed on to other people now but my love for buttons and all things sewing remains. My sewing is limited to an occasional mending project or button replacement.

My first mainstream novel VADA FAITH is on Kindle at Amazon. Happy writing.
Jan Morrison said…
Yes! I loved my mother's button jar - endless fun. why I have no idea...and what happened to it?
As a child? What? I play with buttons now. I love buttons.

My gran had tobacco tins full of buttons...she used to buy clothing at rummage sales to rip into strips for rag rugs. The buttons would get snipped off and saved.
Shirley Wells said…
My gran had tins, jars and boxes filled with the most wonderful buttons. I loved messing with them and my favourite treat of all was being allowed to sew a button on a shirt. I have to say that particular passion didn't last... ;)
Slamdunk said…
What a nice "go-to" item Carol.

Hmm, I used to play imaginary sports games by hitting different kinds of nuts that had fallen from the trees. Great for hand-eye coordination as well.
Clarissa Draper said…
Now I want to go and make myself a jar of buttons. I don't sew (though I can replace a button or two) so I don't keep buttons around much. However, the various colors and sizes are so beautiful to look at.
Danielle B. said…
I loved my mothers buttons too! We'd use 'em as play money.
Cortney Pearson said…
How fun! My aunt had a button box that's fun to sieve through. :)
Buttons and old costume jewelry...I used to love playing with that stuff.

And I'm afraid that I do use real people for inspiration...but I don't tell *them* that! Ha!
L.G.Smith said…
I don't think I played with them, but I did like to collect them. Some are very unique.
Jennifer Shirk said…
Oh my gosh, me too!! My mom had a jar of buttons and, honestly, you'd think I thought they were jewels. LOL I LOVED looking thru them.
Linda Kage said…
Holy crap, we must have the same mom! I remember playing in the button jar. Wow, I need to get a button jar for my kid to play in. Good memories.
I don't do much repair work - but I do do everything else on that 'domestic goddess' list. AND I have a button jar. Button jars are cool. My mom's had better buttons.

Where's my crown?
Rula Sinara said…
Buttons are so cool and, yes, I did play with them as a kid! I used to like sewing cloth dolls (you know, yarn hair etc...) and I loved choosing a pair of buttons for eyes. Same with sock puppets.

Now, I have an old, rotating spice holder with jars that pop in and out of it, and I use it to organize buttons by color. It makes finding what I need nice and quick :)
I don't think people keep buttons like that anymore. They lose a button, they just buy a new outfit.
Julie said…
I used to love playing with buttons too. I love this picture you have used. I am the world's worst at sewing, but I love buttons!
Tracy Jo said…
That is a great idea! I love jars filled with buttons. I have jars of my own even though I don't sew. I know, terrible. I have tried to sew on buttons and they fall off in a day. Lol!
Emily R. King said…
Buttons fascinate me. Yes, I'm easily entertained. I think it's the variety of them. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. How could you get bored?
Carol Kilgore said…
Anna - I wonder what it is about them that makes them so intriguing?

Yvonne - I can repair minor things, but I don't make my own clothes. Sometimes I choose not to make a repair, either. And I send used items to charity rather than keep them until they wear out.

Linda G - How cool! I'm jealous :)

Kyra - Such fun!

B.Whittington - There's just something special about those buttons. Congrats on your novel!
Laura Barnes said…
I have a button jar. I use it for crafts.

I remember I used to sit in front of my grandma's mirror and play with her jewelry for hours. Great memories.
Joanne said…
I'm surprised you don't have a button jar, what nice inspiration those buttons gave you. And a sweet connection to your family too :)
Carol Kilgore said…
Jan - I don't know what happened to Mom's.

Teresa - If I had a button jar, I'm sure I'd play with buttons, too.

Delores - Wow. I love those rugs, but I wouldn't have a clue how to make one. Not. Domestic. Goddess. :)

Shirley - I think no one trusted me with a needle.

Slamdunk - My eye-hand coordination could use improvement. Maybe I'll go fight squirrels for nuts :)
J.L. Campbell said…
Usually, I never can find any buttons when I need them. I was on my own for most of my childhood, so I'd play with just about anything handy, including money and ludo discs.
Carol Kilgore said…
Clarissa - I know! I tempted myself.

Danielle - Who knew how multi-functional buttons could be!

Cortney - Maybe it used to be a rule, LOL!

Elizabeth - Smart woman!

Luanne - I've heard that buttons can be quite collectible.
Laura Eno said…
I remember the big round tin of buttons. I don't think they ever got sewn onto anything though. I think that was where the buttons were stashed when they fell off the clothes, then the clothes sorta disappeared...
Carol Kilgore said…
Jennifer - Jewels...YES!

Linda K - Lydia would have fun :)

Elspeth - You're a domestic goddess? WITH a button jar? Too cool! I think the sheep have your crown :)

Rula - OMG! You made dolls and sock puppets! Amazing :)

Alex - Some people commenting here do. But overall, I think you're probably right.
Carol Kilgore said…
Julie - I still love buttons, too.

Tracy Jo - Another button lover :)

Emily - Exactly!

Laura - I wasn't much into jewelry, but give me buttons and I was happy.

Joanne - Probably I don't have one because we were transferred so often that I got out of the habit of keeping anything extra.
Carol Kilgore said…
J.L. - Wow. I was rarely ever by myself until I was about nine or ten. We all bring so many different things to the writing table.

Laura - I think you may be correct :)
Nas Dean said…
Hi Carol, you brought up some memories for me. My mum also used to keep buttons in a jar and yes, I loved to play with it. My dad had a jar full of old British pennies with teh holes in it? From the colonial era. And I would make garlands with the pennies....sigh..
LR said…
That's so cute. I used to make up stories with my stuffed animals. I had quite a few so it was a huge cast of characters. :)
irishoma said…
My mom also sewed- and made a lot of our dresses. I remember playing with buttons and making a neclace by threading buttons on a piece of string.
Carol Kilgore said…
Nas - Those pennies must have been really cool.

LR - My sister hoarded all the stuffed animals :)

Donna - Cool. I don't recall ever making anything real with them.
Erwin "ERS" said…
oh childhood memories.

when I was a kid i never really touch any of my mom's stuff so i have always enjoyed playing with my action figures.
Glynis Jolly said…
It sounds like such fun, Carol. My mom was a domestic demon. When she was sewing, cooking, or cleaning, get out of her way. I was one of those kids with a troll doll in my pocket.
Carol Kilgore said…
Erwin - Whatever works :)

Glynis - I never had a troll.
I remember visiting a tiny store with an old fashioned elevator in the city that sold nothing but buttons. It was a fascinating place that I visited with my mother. It's great that you found so many creative ways to use them! Julie
Loved playing with buttons in teh jar!

Ann Best said…
I remember MY mother's buttons, also! Thanks for resurrecting the memory, Carol. I also played with marbles and jacks. And I watched my mother darn socks and tried to darn also. Never have since. Don't remember a favorite pretend toy. Guess that's TOO long ago LOL.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs
Ciara said…
My mother is a sweet lady, but domestication was not her talent.
Manzanita said…
We used to play a game that went, "button, button, who has the button." That is all I can remember. You showed your creativity with the buttons when you were young.
Lynda R Young said…
Oh my gosh! I used to have a jar of buttons to play with as well! Buttons can be so much fun!
Buttons sound like tons of fun, but there were no button jars in my childhood. I do not come from a line of sewing people, sadly. But my grandmother had an awesome collection of beads.
Carol Kilgore said…
Julie - Wow. I once went into a store in NYC that sold thread, buttons, and ribbon. OMG! The ribbon was as enticing as the buttons :)

Laura - New test for kids. Here's a jar of buttons. If you like playing with them, go stand in the I'm Going to be a Writer line :)

Ann - I don't remember my mother ever darning socks. She was pretty particular about what went on our feet.

Ciara - I got your mother's genes LOL!

Manzanita - I don't think I ever played that game.

Lynda - I think most of us were members of the Button Club.

Cynthia - You had no buttons. I had no beads. Sigh.