Turn old-fashioned fasteners into clever ornaments and keepsakes.
By Terri Blazell
When I was growing up, yard sales didn’t exist, and even thrift stores were virtually unheard of, at least in our small town. By the time we were ready to discard a garment, it had already lived many lives. It was handed down from one family member to the next, altered to fit, and patched and mended as often as needed. When it was finally no longer fit to be worn, it was torn apart and put to work even further. Larger pieces were used as rags. Smaller pieces were used to patch other items, or torn into strips to be made into rag rugs. I remember lying on the floor and staring at the rag rug in front of our sofa while my mother pointed out pieces that used to be part of my sister’s coat or my brother’s pants.
Buttons from these clothes were removed and put in a large coffee can, ready to be sewn onto the next handmade garment. I used to love going through that button can. I would sort them by size, color, or favorites. Sometimes we used them in games of tic-tac-toe, tiddlywinks, or checkers. Who needed video games? We had the button can.
Wherever your family stored buttons “” in a Mason jar, cigar box, or coffee can “” it’s likely you did have a button collection. Many families kept buttons going back several generations, as the collections were handed down from mother to daughter. You could trace a family tree by the buttons in the button box.
These days, our clothing isn’t handmade very often, and there isn’t much need for all those old buttons. Yet, we still hold on to them. There is something that connects us to the past that we don’t want to let go of “” and we shouldn’t.
Now, you can bring out all those old buttons you have saved and give them new life in a way that lets you enjoy them all over again, without sewing.
You’ll need the following:
A collection of vintage or vintage-looking buttons. (You may need a hundred or more, depending on what you plan to make.)
Styrofoam pieces in various shapes from the craft store. You’ll likely find them in the shape of eggs, stars, trees, etc. The shape, size, and quantity you buy will depend on what you plan to do with them.
A hot-glue gun
Options . . .
Several dozen pearl-tipped straight pins
1/4-inch-thick fabric ribbon
Items you may want to add alongside the buttons, such as vintage clothing scraps, small beaded necklaces, old earrings, and coins. Small shells or pebbles collected at a favorite RV travel spot also can be worked in.
A 12-inch-long stick that is 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick. In this case, a natural branch from a tree looks more fitting (to me) than a wooden dowel.
Start by choosing a color theme for your project. I personally like the romantic look of all white buttons and ribbons, but you can use any number of themes to match your décor “” even metallic, such as brass and silver. For a holiday theme, pick colors that fit: pastels for Easter; red and green for Christmas; blue and white for Hanukkah; red and white for Valentine’s Day; or red, white, and blue for Independence Day.
For an Independence Day theme, star-shaped Styrofoam works great. Try using buttons from old military uniforms, or working in some old coins with significant dates.
The sticks let you turn your button treasures into objects you can place in a vase. Insert the sticks into the bottom of the Styrofoam form to make a stem. Now, all you have to do is start gluing the buttons on. For an egg shape, start at the smallest end with a single button on the tip, and then continue circling the egg, one row at a time. For other shapes, just go with what suits you.
For best results, make a base of flat buttons and then glue another set of buttons over the top of the first, overlapping them to fill in the spaces where the Styrofoam shows. By the way, hot glue oozes through the open button holes as you are applying the buttons, and I’ve yet to figure out how to avoid coming in contact with it, save for wearing protective gloves.
Once all the buttons are on and the glue has dried, wrap the ribbon around your creation in a garland or crisscross pattern and secure it with the pearl-tipped pins as you go. You can even tuck in small silk or satin flower buds among the buttons and ribbon. Wrap some of the ribbon around the stick, if you like. Another nice touch, if you are using a thicker stick, is to carve a small heart on it with your beloved’s initials in the center. The overall outcome will depend on what pleases you.
If you’re displaying the button “flowers” in a vase, add some coordinating silk flowers. If you are going without the wooden stem, display a group of them in a bowl or basket and add a coordinating candle. Pin a ribbon loop to the top and hang them from a Christmas tree, or pin them to the padded valances around your motorhome windows.
If you plan to hang your button treasure, take the pin that holds your ribbon loop and coat it with glue before inserting it into the Styrofoam. This will keep it from slipping back out.
Now you have a beautiful reminder of a bygone era that you can enjoy every day or bring out for special occasions. The best part is pointing out a button to one of your grandchildren and saying something like, “That was from my Easter outfit when I was your age.”