Saturday, December 25, 2010

Reader Question: Those Spare Buttons that Come with Clothes

Any suggestions on how to identify and organize those packages of buttons - and, with sweaters, those bits of yarn?

I just throw them into a container and never get back to them - but I'm not sure I would be able to identify them anyway!

Personally, my buttons are in their envelopes, in the bottom of my very-rarely-used sewing box. They aren't identified in any way, and I don't recall ever using one. So I went looking around to see what other ideas I could find.

It seems lots of people do something similar to what I do - there are lots of button jars out there! But for those who prefer a more organized approach, I found five techniques commonly in use.

1. Just throw them away.

Some people may want to save the buttons for crafts projects or their decorative value - but for those who don't, this can be a perfectly fine option.

On YouLookFab, blessed02 says: "I throw them all away! I’ve never had any occasion to even go looking for one."

And Lisa concurs: "I used to keep them all. At first I would label each button with the name of the item. Soon I progressed to putting them in a Ziploc bag. ... Now I just toss them out. I don’t recall ever using any of the extra buttons. If I did need one I’d just run to a craft store and pick one up now."

And Valleycat1 chimes in: "I throw them all out. ... I realized several years ago that I never have used the extra button OR sweater thread, so why accumulate them? If you have a large tin full, how would you ever track down the specific one you need? "

2. Sew them into the garment.

On YouLookFab, Amrita says: "Usually I sew them to a side seam or the hem of the garment. Got tired of digging through a button box trying to find the proper matching button."

Another advantage of this approach is that if you lose a button while away from home, a replacement is right at hand.

3. Label them, and put them in a box, bin or jar.

Over on GardenWeb, Molly says: "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."

And Pinktoes says: "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 ... 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)."

This is the same basic technique recommended by DwellWell.

And you've got to smile at what FetchezLaVache wrote on Mumsnet: "I write 'blue blouse from Next' or whatever on a small piece of paper, pop it in the little plastic bag, then mislay it."

4. Keep them in a business card holder (or something similar).

This is the Martha Stewart approach, as I learned from The Wannabe WAHM and Eternal Voyageur at YouLookFab. You can see a photo on the Martha Stewart web site.

Scarlett on YouLookFab does something similar: "I actually keep mine in a little booklet with pockets meant to hold business cards. Sometimes I include a note to remember what the button goes to. This works well for me, but it is not a large volume of buttons."

Joy on YouLookFab mostly uses the "sew it in" approach for her own clothes, but takes this approach for others: "For those that don’t get sewn in and most of DH’s extra buttons I’ve found my son’s abandoned plastic binder pages that held baseball cards to be perfect."

5. Sort and store them by color.

Rather than labeling individual buttons, some folks (including a couple on Julie Morgenstern's Idea Exchange) choose to just sort them by color, so it's relatively to find the right button when you want it.

Anyone else want to chime in? What do YOU do with those buttons?

[photo by Sally Hunter (gingermaddy), found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.]


Anonymous said...

I just stash them away in an old jewelry box. I've never actually needed the buttons, but I know where they are. Plus, I don't have a lot of shirts that have buttons, so it's easy to identify what goes with what.

One of my friends made a lot of cute necklaces with old buttons ('m guessing if you had a lot of buttons, for some sweaters, you could turn them into jewelry!

Jane Campbell said...

Having a "Wow, never knew it was broken" moment. If you didn't toss them yet, one tin for buttons, just loose, and a different container for scraps of thread gets the job done. Is it a challenge for your nervous system to find the 6 red buttons in the bucket of 200? Not even slightly. And who knows what creative ideas will come to you as you spend 25 seconds stirring up the tin.

Jeri Dansky said...

I got an e-mail with this observation, which seemed worth sharing: Regarding the extra yarn than comes with a sweater - it SHOULD be sewn into the side seam so it is washed with the sweater. Then, if you need to mend with it, it's aged to the same shade. My mother was a knitter and always put a few strands down the seam before she gave the garment to its new owner. Does anyone mend sweaters now???

Marcie Lovett said...

At one point, I sewed the extra buttons into the seam. Now I put them in a tin, with the envelope they come in. I used to write the name of the item on the envelope, but they're usually unique enough that I know what they go to. Periodically, I go through the tin and pull out any buttons that belong to things I no longer own. They go into a small clear glass jar filled with buttons.

My mother had a button box that I loved playing with as a kid and I have passed on the diversion to the next generation. I sometimes think I would like to make something with the various buttons, but the truth is that I just really like to look at them!

Jeri Dansky said...

And another good response, that came in by e-mail: I give them to my dry cleaner around the corner, who also does alterations and small repairs.

Jeri Dansky said...

And ANOTHER e-mail response: I too had made the depression era mind-set decision years ago to save those little suckers. My grandmother had a button jar, my mother had a button jar and I had a button jar. However my mother and grandmother never had as many “new clothes” as we all seem to acquire today, so theirs wasn’t as challenged to accommodate the regular influx of new buttons.

Like everyone else who has responded that they keep buttons but rarely use them— my button jar was neglected. A few years ago, I decided to donate all of mine to my dry cleaner who also does alterations and repairs. I feel eco-conscious.

The Wannabe WAHM said...

Thanks for linking back!

The business card holder really works.
I've never had to look for a button since.

Jeri Dansky said...

Graduated Learning: I'm in the same situation - not all that many clothes with buttons. Maybe that's why I've never set up any fancy system.

Marcie, it sounds like you've got a system that works just fine for you. We don't all need something elaborate!

Thank you both for sharing!

JustGail said...

I just toss them in a "odd button" box. I like the "sew them in the garment" solution though. Should one be needed, it's right there. And it saves ending up with a bunch of single buttons when the garment moves on out of your life. Giving them to a crafter/crycleaner sounds like a great idea, especially for all the odd shirt buttons I have.

The Declutter Diarist said...

Really helpful suggestions as I have just come across a small stash of these buttons. I have just starting to declutter my house which I am blogging about at and I think your blog is going to come in very helpful!

Hazel Thornton said...

Great post, Jeri! Wish I'd thought of #2 myself. Funny this post should come to my attention on the very day I have this issue with a client!

HKpowers said...

One more way to organize them is in a binder with the small square divided clear pockets (used for "slides") with labels and the date of purchase. What an interesting thread/post!