Buttons had a special place in her life. Mama worked hard and she expected her kitchenware, sewing machine, broom, and mop to do likewise.
A button to Mama was a button. It was not anything with a picture on it to wear on a lapel and surely not something that you pushed. They were shank buttons or flat ones with four holes. There were no fancy cloth buttons.
Mama said, “Buttons know their place. They should be seen and not heard. Their job is to keep my boys’ sweaters, jackets, shirts, and pants closed and neat.”
Very few things annoyed mama more than a button stepping out of line—getting loose or G-d forbid falling off. Then the button became the recipient of a long litany of curses used only for reprimanding the Czar.
Mama had a button collection that would make any collector drool with envy. She had them stored in Mason jars. She knew every button and from where they came. There was every color of the rainbow and design.
Before sewing back the button Mama closely inspected the buttonhole. It had to be just the right length. If it were too small it would put unnecessary strain on the thread when the button was pushed and twisted in use. On the other hand, if it were too large it would not remain buttoned and her boys would be cold or embarrassed.
Of course there was her ever-ready and trusty fingerhut (thimble). Mama never left the house without it. “You could always find a needle and thread, but where would you get the right-sized protection?” It went over her left index fingertip.
Once all was in readiness and the needle threaded, Mama proceeded with the skill of an artisan. Her hands flew as the needle whirred in and out. The needle had to be just the right size and she had the full set from numbers 1-10.
Mama had a pattern depending on the piece of clothing and the location on the garment. Mama was partial to the four-hole buttons. The patterns of the sewn thread formed a square or an X. She told me the parallel sewing style made a weaker stitch.Mama knew her buttons.