Local Limelight: Weeklyish Articles Of Interest
Giving Old Buttons A New Lease On Life
By Gina Reed-Rivera
Some might call me a button junkie. I don’t really sew (and I certainly can’t make a button hole), but I can’t resist a vintage button.
There was a time when I had so many of them gathered in jars and boxes around my house that I was sure there was a psychiatric diagnosis somewhere in the Diagnostic Manual for Psychiatric Disorders for this special brand of antique hoarding that I was partial to. But my love of these round, colorful discs ran far deeper than a need to obsessively collect.
In my own little way, I was preserving histories castoffs- protecting them from a life relegated to landfills where they would mingle with other orphaned memories. The sentimental sap within me couldn’t let this happen, so I began collecting them from family and friends and eventually even bought them at garage and estate sales.
Each one of these fantastic buttons has a unique life, connected to garments worn to work, to school, to a special occasion. I’m reminded of the 72 laborers in a Zen monastery that are involved in the creation of every meal when I sort through my buttons and consider the number of hands involved in their travels to my home.
On a large scale, these buttons have witnessed countless presidents entering and leaving office, the explosion of the civil rights movement, the falling of the twin towers and the rise of our environmental awareness. On a smaller scale, they’ve ushered in births and said quiet good-byes to ones that we’ve lost. They’ve surreptitiously observed first kisses, declarations of love and moments of total heartbreak. They’ve been fastened to the breast of those keeping secrets and they’ve been there in the moments when truths see the light of day.
These buttons are the unacknowledged witnesses to our lives, with us during our highest and our lowest moments.
My button treasures are very important to me, but imprisoning their memories in jars seemed no better than sending them to a landfill, so I created a way that I could enjoy their individual beauty and history each and every day.
After gently cleaning my favorites in warm, soapy water I married up buttons with pleasing color and style combinations and then fastened them together using embroidery floss in complementary colors. After sewing the buttons together I hot-glued magnets to the back of each creation and now they reside on every single metal surface within my house. My son loves to play with them and they make excellent gifts for friends.
Nearly half of my original magnets have been taken home by visiting friends while the others are waiting for their next destination.
Every family seems to have a stash of these forgotten buttons in a closet or a sewing box. Honor the history that they’ve seen by giving them a brand new lease on life. Both functional and beautiful, these button magnets are a wonderful way to reuse a forgotten relic.