The Button Story

Something from nothing / Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Also known as, “Extra! Extra! The One and Only Fashion Post”

“I need gray buttons for this dress I am sewing,” said Mrs. Zook to herself one June day. “I have nothing gray on hand in my stash. I will buy some.”

The dress fabric was lovely, a soft yellow background scattered with tiny white and gray flowers. The perfect buttons would make it.


First, she checked in the fabric section of Walmart, because in her short life she had already learned that given Joann Fabrics or Walmart, she would rather pay Walmart prices. Unfortunately, the button selection was extremely limited. Twenty-odd packets. No gray.


“Very well,” Mrs. Zook said, “I will pay the Joann’s prices and get something Nice.”

Joann Fabrics had a whole aisle filled with buttons, with a heavy emphasis on blacks and whites, as well as bright colors. Not much nuance to be found. The only gray buttons were silver metal, or rather dingy craft buttons in bulk.

“HELP!” said Mrs. Zook. “I was sure they would have something right.” The longer she looked at the aisle, the more some of the metal buttons reminded her greatly of a few in her own button collection at home.


“Perhaps I could make do with metal,” she said. “But these are expensive. I remember using metal buttons on another dress I sewed, and cutting them off to reuse when the dress wore out,” she said. “I’ll see if I still have them.” While she had never considered herself a tightwad, she didn’t wish to spend that much money for an option she considered second-best.

But she could only find three of the salvaged metal buttons in her stash, and she needed enough for an entire bodice – six to eight of them. She must have used up the rest for another project. And still nothing else in her collection came close to looking right.


“I will buy buttons online,” Mrs. Zook announced, and into the cyberworld she went, armed with nothing but cash and optimism. There were pretty buttons on Amazon, but they cost twelve to fourteen dollars a card. Or were sold in enormous packages.

“I will not buy buttons online,” Mrs. Zook announced. “But where in the world will I buy them?”


Then she had a brilliant idea. “I will go to the Salvation Army and pick a cheap top with gray buttons to cut off and use. It will be more economical than buying new, even if I discard the top. YES! I love this idea.”


“But hmm. I have the dress nearly completed, except for the buttons, and I’d like to finish it. What if we have old clothes right here at home that I could cut buttons from?” So she went a-hunting. She searched in her own closet and her husband’s, in her sons’ room, and in the Salvation Army donations box, but she came up emptyhanded. Finally, she looked through her daughter’s closet, and found some adorable silver-gray buttons.

On her daughter’s favorite top.

Which, fortunately, had a small hole on the front.

Mrs. Zook approached her daughter. “Um,” she said. “I know you really love this top. Do you know it has a hole in it?”

It turned out that her daughter did know, and could remember why. And was still resolutely in love with the clothing, and wishing to wear it through the summer, though it would no longer be fit for school in the fall.

Mrs. Zook did not apply pressure. She knew about favorite tops.


Off to the Salvation Army she went, armed with nothing but cash. To her delight, she found many good options within minutes, including one particularly unappealing turquoise sweater with exactly the right buttons: the size, the color, the number. For only four dollars!

It was uglier in real life.

Cheering, she drove home.

(She briefly considered returning the top to the Salvation Army buttonless. Or sewing on random buttons as replacements. However, had anyone wanted this article of clothing in the first place? Much less shorn of its attachments? The sweater looked like it wanted a nice, long sleep in a dark place.)


But oh help. Oh dear. Once home, it became obvious that while the buttons were beautiful, they struck the eye differently when pulled from a shocking turquoise background to be placed on a light yellow. They looked – too dark!

Mrs. Zook was not out of ideas yet. She went to her spray paint stash, and chose the plain white. She arranged those buttons on a flattened graham cracker box on the porch –

and she dusted them.


For all Mrs. Zook knows, yellow and gray may be out of style by now. She would have to ask her sister Kim, who knows about things like that.

Meanwhile, she is very, very happy.

24 Replies to “The Button Story”

    1. I think it was meant to be and you cannot stop things meant to be. But I agree with you, Jean! Thanks for sharing this lovely account, Mrs Zook!

  1. Long has the thrift store been my source of buttons, but I have never have I tried to alter them. This is amazing!

    Maybe you should try fashion blogging. I would greatly enjoy it; if it was of this calibur.

  2. I chuckled at “which, fortunately had a small hole on the front.” Ah, we mothers and our infinite practicality…
    What cute buttons you ended up with! I bet you’ll be cutting these off to reuse someday too, after all this.

    1. Well hello, Mrs. Slabaugh. So good to hear from you. ❤️

      You are a smart cookie. But Mrs. Zook has tried to wash this spray paint out of various other articles of clothing without success. She has found it very sticking.


      It’s exterior grade, and not water soluble. There’s not a jot of change after a wash or two… Fingers crossed, but I think we’re good.

      Miss ya!

  3. Such a great post, glad I got on today and this definitely brightened my day, amid the days of rain we’ve been sloshing through. Bring your piles of fabric when you come over in August and we’ll see if we can find you some buttons from Grandma Zook’s button tin. BTW, I do think the dress is beautiful.

  4. “Oh my word!” exclaimed Mrs. Smucker. “That persistent search sounds JUST LIKE ME.” But then she read about the spray-painted buttons. “That Shari! she exclaimed. “She has me beat by a mile.”
    “Also, that dress is adorable,” she added enviously.

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