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All Buttoned Up

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Do you have a button bin? That is, do you have a collection of old buttons, perhaps snipped from old clothing about to be turned into cleaning rags, or an assortment of spare buttons that came with new clothing in case a button should come loose over time? Maybe it was your mother's or grandmother's, and seemed like a treasure trove of shiny and colorful finds as a child and now is being added to by you and your family.

Buttons are handy closures to be sure. They're easy to replace with just a few stitches, and small children delight in learning to dress themselves when they first slip a button through the buttonhole with tiny, clumsy fingers.

Buttons are great because just changing out the buttons on a coat or shirt can give the old item a brand-new look, a new focal point and can breathe some new life in old clothes. A whole closet could be transformed just by changing out buttons or using buttons as a decorative element.

Buttons have become a popular detail and decorative embellishment in lots of items. Far beyond being just closures, they can be used to create a pattern or add texture to bags, coats, shirts, curtains, pillows, boxes and wall hangings.

Buttons come in different varieties, flat two- or four-hole buttons are easier to stitch or glue in place than buttons that have a raised shank on one side, although shank buttons have move movement once sewn in place.

Here are just a few ideas for using buttons to decorate your home or wardrobe:

  • Cover a wooden or papier-mache box with buttons in a fun pattern and use it to store coupons, bills to be paid, takeout menus or receipts.
  • Add buttons to your curtains or throw pillows to highlight an accent color or add texture to your decor. Just make sure they are sewn on very securely if you have small children or pets around that might mistake them for a treat and swallow them.
  • Use small buttons the way some people use rhinestones and "bedazzle" your phone case, journal or sunglasses case.
  • Add buttons to a wall hanging or tapestry. By using different sizes and materials you can create depth, especially in waves, clouds or other natural details.
  • Cover a mug or crock to store pens on your desk or items in your kitchen.
  • Find cheap, plastic cupboard/drawer knobs and cover the knobs with beads and buttons to make each knob in your house unique.
  • Change out the buttons on your favorite blouse to give it a new look.
  • Replace the plain buttons on your winter coat with large buttons in a fun color or two. There's no rule that says the buttons have to be plain or match the color of the coat. This looks especially fun on trench or peacoat styles.
  • Find a removable wall decal to decorate your home and add buttons to give it dimension and make it even more eye-catching. You could even create your own by using the sticky, removable, plastic clear coating sold in office-supply stores for covering text books; cut out your own shape and add buttons and other details.
  • Find large, colorful or decorative flat buttons and affix magnets to the back for fun refrigerator magnets or for use on a magnetic calendar to indicate certain weekly events.

When you look at buttons as tiny works of art, as many intricate buttons can be, or as colored tiles in a mosaic, it starts to seem silly to limit them to closures. Lay out some buttons on your counter or tabletop and move them around like game pieces to see what design appeals to you.

In my home, buttons serve a multitude of purposes from embellishments to replacement game-board pieces. Large ones can be used as pretend coins for children learning to count or play store. The next time you are at a store that sells buttons, take a look around at the variety available. Sure, there are basics for making clothing or replacing lost buttons on clothes, but buttons also come in some very fun and classy shapes.

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