What is it about buttons..?

What is it about buttons..? As a child I used to love to rootle through my mum’s button tin. To empty it out, search through for my favourites, to sort them by size, or colour, or some other long forgotten criteria which was nevertheless absorbing at the time. Buttons are hypnotic things.

Decades later, when I met my boyfriend’s mother and discovered that, not only did she have a button tin, but also that it was the very same Silver Jubilee tin that I’d rootled through years earlier, I knew I’d connected with a family worth hanging onto. I promptly married him.

Nowadays as a longtime sewist I have zillions of buttons even though I hardly ever buy any. Do they breed? I know I get given a lot. Several times I’ve assimilated buttons from other people’s dead relatives, and I guard my grandmother’s buttons as if they were worthy of a museum case. 

Recently, I was searching online for inspiration about how to sort and store my many buttons and I discovered a whole world of people who use button sorting literally as a kind of self hypnosis, its called ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response). I’ve never tried it, but it’s definitely a thing for some people.

The desire to somehow properly store my buttons is a ridiculous dream though. Because my own children are just as affected by button-love as I ever was. If I leave buttons anywhere within reach they will get poured out, sorted, arranged, swished and stroked. And even though I’m a tidy freak even I haven’t the heart to get in the way.

So, I’ve had a love affair with buttons all my life but, I still find it hard to pin down what in particular is so seductive about them. I know it’s about buttons in quantity, it’s the sorting, wondering, pondering about how they’ll look with my given project. Maybe it’s all the possibilities, and with the vintage buttons, all the history.

So much bound up in tiny discs of metal, bone, shell or plastic.

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