Button, button, who’s got the button

It’s not quite dry, and it needs the buttons sewn on, but the Must Have Cardigan is done.


Aren’t those fabulous buttons? I have great button mojo lately. The ones that so many people (including me) loved yesterday on the Kauni Cardigan were from Fabricland (a big chain Canadian fabric store) where I seldom find anything I love but totally scored this time. These swirly ones are from a beautiful button and ribbon store in downtown Portland – I can’t recall the name now, but someone will help me remember, I’m sure. It’s a totally fantastic shop. Edited to add: Ahh, the wonders of the internet. The store was the Button Emporium & Ribbonry, and in fact, these very buttons (and the ladybird ones in the picture at the bottom of this post) can be had on this page.


Buttons drive me nuts. I love them, I think they can make or break a sweater, but they have to be procured somehow, and I’ve never been much of a shopper. I never think of buttons until I don’t have the ones that I want, and then nobody does. I’m forever cruising from shop to shop in the village, my sweater jammed in my purse, engaged in a hopeless search for a button that only exists in my imagination. (I buy dresses the same way. Decide what I want, then go looking. It never works.) I have better luck shopping the button bin I inherited from my grandmother than I do shopping the stores.


The trouble here is that you can’t have as many as you would like. I find grand old buttons in here, but there will only be three when I need five, seven when I have eight buttonholes, or worse, there will be twelve beautiful old vintage buttons and I’ll be saving them for a chance when I need all twelve. (I harbour a suspicion that the reason that there are only two or three of some of these great buttons is because somebody already broke a set and what’s in there are leftovers.) Every once in a while I find something perfect in the old button bin, and every once in a while I find some in there that delight me so much that I’m inspired to make something to go with the buttons.


I love that when I sort through those buttons they’ve got a history to them. They’ve all been worn before, or at the very least, bought before, and I have great images of my grandmother and great-grandmother snipping buttons off of old clothes, or shopping for them in a store. I imagine my Gramy holding up her project to the rack of buttons just like I do, or maybe just buying them at random when they struck her fancy, and I feel like this bin is sort of a time capsule of her taste. She either liked these enough to buy them, or well enough to save them. (Although really, the thriftiness of this clan can’t be underestimated. It’s possible she just couldn’t stand to throw away something that was still useful, but even that says something about who she was.)

That bin, and that idea has inspired me to start my own button bin. I’ve started looking for buttons when I don’t need them, when the pressure is less, no sweater breathing down my neck, no set of specifics I’m looking for. The Kauni buttons and the buttons for the Must Have are buttons that I bought when I wasn’t on the hunt. They came from my newly begun button stash, which is turning out to be as much of a good idea as the yarn one was. It’s like a personal button store where the whole shop is to my taste.

My button bin is young yet, and It doesn’t take up much room. (I also just mostly wiped it out by removing the two sets of buttons for these sweaters. I don’t mix mine in with my Gramy’s, and I love the idea that someday my grandchild might own several generations of button bins.


I sure hope he or she knits or sews or something, or this whole fantasy could be a little stupid.

Do all families have button bins?