What do you do with spare buttons?

August 16, 2007

After spending a lot of time over in the kitchen forum and finishing a remodel, I now realize that I need to spend some time organizing the home. One question that has been puzzling me is what do people do with the spare buttons that you get with clothes? I keep them all together on the off chance I ever need a button. However the things that lose buttons never seem to be the ones that came with extras. Also, I am sure some of the buttons go with clothes I have since donated.

Where do keep spare buttons? How do you keep them organized? How do you know which ones can go when you donate clothes?

Comments (17)

  • scottymam

    I have 2 cans of buttons, some came from my grandmother and another elderly lady that left me her button can when she passed. I have added my own buttons to them, they are all in one spot on the play cupboard in the LR. I can usually find a button that will do when I need one, plus I have great entertainment for the kids when they come over. They can match colors, make crafts (this week we made flower bouquets with buttons) The kids are the reason I keep them in the Livingroom, if not for them, they'd be with my other sewing stuff in the spare/craft room.


  • housekeeping

    I attach the buttons to an index card stapled to the hangtags of the garment and add a description of it. Then I put the card in a small box that I keep just for this purpose. A number times this has saved the day for me.

    When I discard clothing, I cut off all the buttons and put them together on a large safety pin awaiting recycling on another garment. It's always fun to select and reuse a favorite set of buttons when I make something new. Some of mine have been in use off and on since the late 1800's. I get a huge kick out some of the notes about the garments that are attached to some of the inherited button sets I have. I try to make notes to add to the accumulated button lore, but I'm afraid I'm not as faithful as some of my ancestors about this.

    Since I don't live anywhere near a good sewing or notions store my only other source for buttons would be the poor-quality stuff at Jo-Anns or Wal-Mart, so I am very grateful to have my stash!


  • lobsterbird

    I keep my grandmother's buttons in a box (they had filled one of the drawers of her trestle sewing machine). I also have the old buckles and unusual clasps she kept with them. I've only used three buttons, which were small, clear glass teardrops, and that was when I cleaned and mended a garment sewn in 1919. My grandmother made the christening gown that my mother, aunt and uncle wore, and I gave this to a very dear old friend when she had a child. It was missing the buttons, and I decided it needed older buttons that were right for the gown.

    In my sewing box I keep buttons and yarns that come with clothes my husband and I purchase. They aren't in any order, but I do keep them in ziploc baggies. I don't keep track of what garments they belong to, and I've never thrown any of them away.


  • Miss EFF

    Molly -- how lucky to have all those wonderful buttons!!! I love old buttons. And do I agree with you about fabric stores! Don't get me started on my search for wool!!

    I too remove buttons from clothes that I'm disgarding. All my buttons are stored in a old mason jar. I don't "donate" the extra buttons with a garment. I just keep them to replace a missing button on something else.

    I love to replace buttons on shirts with something nicer. Since I enjoy the challenge of "thrift store shopping" -- I try to personalize the purchase by changing buttons, adding trims or doing some hand embroidery.


  • talley_sue_nyc

    I have done several different things.

    When I'm feeling that I can splurge w/ time, I sew the spare button to the inside of the garment somewhere.

    Otherwise, Ii just stick them into a box I have for all of those. I don't go to the extra step of stapling them to the hang tags--that might be a good idea. And I could write on the hang tags a description of the garment: "mustard wool cardigan."

    Martha Stewart had a Good Thing once that had you make a book for the buttons, and you'd tape the plastic bag into the book, and write in the book.

    But I think that "staple it to the hang tag and stick it in a box" is even SMARTER. The less EXTRA work you can add to those things, the better.

    It's sort of an extension of the "staple the receipt to the owner's manual" technique that I find so successful.

  • western_pa_luann

    "I sew the spare button to the inside of the garment"
    That's what I do.

    Whenever I lose a button, I am NOT at home. So it makes sense for ME to have the spare there and ready to be sewn on.

  • adellabedella_usa

    I love spare buttons. So far I'm just collecting. I'd love to make a button tree.

    I think this is pretty if you have buttons in similar colors. http://twopeasinabucket.kaboose.com/cg_main.asp?cmd=display&seed_id=22565

    google Button wreath ornaments. There are several cute ones that you can you make for your Christmas tree.

  • gayle0000

    I do what Clink does. Spare buttons go into a jar. If I need them, I know where they are. On some old clothing, I cut the buttons off and put them in the jar as well...especially if the buttons are basic sizes and colors that could be replacements on other clothing...even if it's a temporary fix until I have time to shop for the exact button(s) I need. I've got my stash if I need it. It's pretty rare that I actually need those buttons.

    When I was into the country decor, I used to display my button jar. Now it's just stored in my bin of sewing/quilting supplies.

  • bonelady

    I am amazed at the dedication and creativity here ! I must admit that after years of looking at a shoe box filled with envelopes of buttons, that I threw them all out and have never looked back. Now they just go right into the trash with the price tags!

  • Plow_In

    The extra ones that come with clothes are kept in a small tin cake box (probably from fruit cake)that I keep in my sewing cabinet. Has other odds and ends in it also. I have NEVER had to use even one.

    The beautiful antique ones I wear as pins. Some are enamel, or steel, or funny plastic. You need a special safety pin to use them, and unfortunately I'm down to two. I'm very careful with them!

  • quiltglo

    I've always kept a small, pretty plate on my dresser for those odd kind of things. I too love buttons and have a couple of jars of them in my sewing area. I'll even buy clothing at the thrift store on the dollar days, just to get the buttons.


  • meldy_nva

    When I made clothing for everyone, I converted a small tool chest; it has 50 tiny drawers [1x2x6] so buttons were divided by size and color. Then MIL gave me a tall can full of buttons she had collected. Then I pretty much stopped sewing. I've always sewn a spare button into the side seam of its garment, so all those other buttons have been sitting around being dust catchers.

    I'm not crafty enough to use them for wreaths or ornaments, so I took 2 shoeboxes full of buttons to the local elementary school for the art teacher. She was thrilled.

  • msmarion

    I've been collecting buttons for years and keep them in mason jars. When I worked in an office I made all of my suits and blouses and sewed an extra button into the seam. My mother kept an old coffee tin full of buttons, after she died Dad kept it for years it had some very interesting buttons. I looked for it when we cleaned out his home after he passed away...sadly it was gone.

  • jannie

    My Grandmother had a cloth bag of buttons. My mother inheirited it. I try to keep extra buttons in a drawer.

  • pinktoes

    Most of my new clothes come with spares in a tiny plastic or paper hang tag. I use those. For the paper ones I write what garment, label--a quick way to ID it--on the tag and it goes in a covered buttons box, which also holds tins of loose buttons. I also write the date of purchase and owner. Oh, and in my case, the SIZE. I remember the day I threw away the spare buttons for my wedding dress, which was a size 4. No use for those in the foreseeable future.

    For the plastic bags I write up that description on scrap paper or an index card and insert it inside. Or use a small ziploc bag (snack size).

    On those EXTREMELY rare occasions that I actually go looking for a spare button, I take 1 extra minute to cull what I come across that rings a bell as no longer in service.

    Quick, efficient.

    One other use for buttons: There was a housekeeping book back in the 70s or 80s by Carol Eisen, titled Nobody Said You Had To Eat Off The Floor. She was talking about methods of stress-relief (before it was a popular topic--housewives apparently had it before it was "discovered"). She said when she felt really overwhelmed she laid across the bed eating a tuna fish sandwich and sorted her old buttons by WEIGHT! So, keep some on hand for that. Maybe you'll go on Oprah with your new method.

  • minac

    I want to thank everyone for their suggestions. As I was reading them I realized that I am not into the arts and crafts so it doesn't make sense for me to keep them for a project. I did really like the Martha Stewart idea of making a book for the buttons. One of my issues is I end up with so much stuff on my dresser and eventually whatever container that keeps the spare buttons ends up overflowing and those bags (along with of course the price tags) end up on my dresser. I can keep some tape, a pen and a book and it will take a few seconds to get this going as I am putting away any new clothes I buy.

    I did also like the idea of sewing the buttons into my clothes but I have to be honest with myself that I will only sew if a button comes off something I truly love or wear a lot.

    I do think I need to get rid of some of the buttons, someone here gave me the idea that maybe a school or organization could get more use out of them than I have.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    20 years ago the Yup'ik in Western Alaska were just obsessed with buttons. If you want to "get rid of some of the buttons" you might go to Google and look for Bethel or BNC and inquire at some forum there if anyone wants them for shipping costs.

    The people I knew there all retired to milder climes.

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