How many of us have an old button box or tin stashed away in the sewing cupboard, perhaps inherited from our mother, grandmother (or possibly even our great grandmother?) As children, my sisters and I used to love playing with our Nana's colourful collection of buttons. The only ingredients needed for hours of fun were a flour scoop, a few empty paper bags and an old fashioned weighing scales for a ready-made "sweet shop" to entertain our fertile imaginations!
But what of the stories associated with these buttons, the garments to which they used to belong? The special occasions they have graced, not just a set of fastenings but little treasured jewels in glass, wood, mother of pearl, acrylic, bakelite or jet, each of its own era with a tiny hand-stitched tale to tell. Such is the premise of this intriguing new book, "The Button Box" by Lynn Knight whose research into these little haberdasher's beauties is one that traces the story of women in the 20th Century told through the clothes they wore. Today I was privileged to attend a talk by Lynn at Ray Stitch (a fabulous sewing shop in Essex Road, Islington) where she recounted personal stories from her family's button box, reaching back to the late 19th Century. Lynn recalls her mother's chunky turquoise buttons of the 1960's from a fitted suit she loved to wear (Lynn still has all but one of the buttons). She shared her delight with a sparkly vintage 1930's diamante clasp and a childhood ladybird button that had also taken up hibernation in the aged button box.
With fond memories of faded dresses and evening gowns in our dressing-up box at home, I can completely understand Lynn's fascination with this topic, having a small collection of old buttons of my own and being a bit of a magpie for anything slightly sparkly! I am really looking forward to reading this book, and gaining a greater understanding of the significance of the social history in connection with these tiny fastenings. My photo shows Lynn's book alongside a set of delightful original illustrations drawn by Willa Gebbie, one for each chapter of the book. But I really must be going now, I'm off to find my button box to have my own little conversation with them all again!
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