Kate Livingstone: Memories sewn up with my buttons

Kate Livingston
Kate Livingston

It’s funny how something as small and insignificant as a button can hold so many memories.

As well as holding your trousers up of course or safeguarding your modesty by not bursting open at inopportune moments!

Do you have a button box?

We always had one in our house where my mum and her mum before her would deposit buttons before any piece of clothing was thrown out. And believe you me it had to be in very poor condition before it was deemed fit for the bin but occasionally some items did make it.

Then whenever you needed a spare button or even a set of buttons for a new item of clothing which mum or gran had sewn or knitted, they would bring out the box and rummage around for something suitable.

Very rarely did we ever actually have to go to the haberdashers to buy a card of buttons – but it did mean that we sometimes went out with odd buttons on our clothes! However, granny used to say that we were starting a new craze.

Even now, when I buy something new, I always cut the label with the extra button off and store it in my button box – or actually it’s a tin. Once it held lots of brightly wrapped sweeties but now it’s filled with colourful buttons.

I’ve been helping Emma out with a bit of childcare since the start of the school holidays to give her a break and I had little Sophie to stay the other Friday night.

After tea, she was straight in the cupboard and out came the tin with its content of ‘jewels’ as she likes to refer to them.

I’ve been teaching her how to sew so after we had threaded the very big needle and got one of the largest buttons, she patiently began sewing on to an old tea towel!

Must admit that I was delighted at how well she did. I was horrified to read recently how many young adults couldn’t do anything as simple as sew on a button so I’m determined that my grandchildren are not going to fall into that category.

But as I watched her concentrating, I began to flick through the buttons – and a host of memories came flooding back.

Tiny little white buttons which had been on matinee jackets I had knitted for my two when they were young; a bright orange one from a jacket that I used to own and just thought I was the bee’s knees when I wore it; and a spare button from a dress which, after my wedding dress, must have been the most expensive thing I ever bought!

With so many I no longer had the clothes but this collection of buttons had me daydreaming for hours.