Get a Hobby: the Meditative Quality of Button Collecting
Need to get a hobby? I keep calm by sorting buttons. Button collecting is something I just kind of fell into a few years ago. I'm really into estate sales, and at most sales there's usually a box, or a baggie, or an old cookie tin full of buttons (and usually a bunch of random sewing stuff too.) The buttons are never really the first thing to go - they kind of linger for a few hours, until I come in. Some folks might rifle through to see what's in there, but I'll just put it under my arm and call it mine. For $5 I'll take the risk that it might be just so-so.
My button sorting process.
The real joy in it is getting home, dumping it all out in a plastic restaurant tray, and methodically sorting the buttons by type into little jell-o tins while I watch Antiques Roadshow. (I lead a RIVETING life!) But really, this is fun for me.
Lately I've been really enjoying the chunky geometric plastics of the 1950s-60s. The shapes just feel so good, and I can think of so many creative ways to use them. I will usually sell them in the Etsy shop.
Shell buttons are just entrancing, aren't they? They have been made for centuries, and their iridescence is so luxurious. They are some of my favorite things. I even like the ones that have had a hard life, and show their age. I call these my 'weathered whites.' They are the ones that have been worn, and washed, and snipped from garments, and tossed in jars, and forgotten for decades until they are rediscovered by me in one of those catch-all tins.
Dyed shell buttons are a lot of fun too. In the old days, before plastic, if you wanted your buttons to match your dress, dying them was an option. Otherwise, you'd have to find ones made of colored glass, or some colored china buttons.
In the 19th century china buttons like these were popular on calico dresses because they complemented the pattern. Look at the ones with the little blue stars! Those are some patriotic rarities for sure. I love the whimsical patterns and the beauty of the colors. I sewed these china buttons onto a little card to display them. Cute, right?!
I also keep my eye out for unused buttons still on their original cards. It's nice to be able to find some in complete sets so they can be used for clothing.
I sell lots of different buttons, but there are also some I like to keep in my collection for awhile to enjoy them. I've been making little framed button displays using scraps of vintage wallpaper.
What relaxing hobbies do you have?