Young Cultivator Merit Badge: All Buttoned Up, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,428 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,782 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life  

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/All Buttoned Up Beginner Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, Nora and I were all about the buttons.

Isn’t that a song? “All ‘bout dem buttons, dem buttons, dem buttons?” No?

Anyway, we did this badge in spite of the fact that I held a bit of grudge against the little things. You see, my Gramma Barbie loved her button collections. Loved them so much she stored them in cleverly disguised tins that once held cookies.

Good for her, but annoying for cookie-hungry grandchildren.

I’m just sayin,’ Grams, you could have kept them in Brussels-sprouts tins or something less tantalizing.

But I swallowed the bitter disappointment of years gone by and Nora and I got to collecting. She’s all about collecting, that girl. She’s got a collection for just about you can name: stamps, spoons, rocks, paper dolls, temporary tattoos, bookmarks, pens and pencils, snack food, stickers, stuffed animals, beads, belly button lint … okay, maybe I’m making that one up. She says it’s fairy cotton balls. I remain skeptical.

Finding a few to start her collection was easy enough. First, her dad submitted a shirt for the cause: it was stained and a bit ragged so we salvaged the buttons off with a sharp pair of scissors. That gave us several nice enough buttons to line the bottom of our cookie tin with (tradition, you know). After that, we went yard sale-ing, and sure ‘nuff, found a mason jar of mismatched and intriguing buttons for less than a dollar. She had a blast sorting through those (and found more to add to her fairy cotton-ball collection, to boot). Also, a bit of loose change and some safety pins. I nearly rummaged around myself in case of a spare copy of the Declaration of Independence or something at that point, but we had to stay focused.

Of course, you can just go to the craft and sewing supply store and buy a few buttons to start your collection, but where’s the fun in that?

Nora, being Nora, had to line them all up, in order. First order was by color, from the blues to the greens to the aquamarines. Then she mixed them back up and arranged them by size, smallest to largest. Then she settled on her own personal organization system: favorites. From left to right, from most favorite (a shiny heart-shaped button in pale pink) to her least favorite (a plain, black round one).

photo by stitchlily via

But then she felt bad. After all, at this point, they were like her mini children. You can’t arrange your children by favorites! It’s frowned upon in most circles, even the 8-year-old Button Mama circles. Which is totes a thing. So she scooped them up and poured them back into the cookie tin, letting them run through her fingers first.

Because there’s not much more of a better tactile, hands-on, experience than sifting through buttons.

Unless of course, it’s sifting through cookies.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    My Grandmother had a decorative tin box full of buttons that sat on top of her treadle machine. I remember being allowed to take the box and empty all of the buttons on the floor and then admire all the shapes and colors. While Mom and Grandma worked on quilts and other sewing projects on hot afternoons, I was entertained by this box of buttons that felt like a treasure chest to me!

  2. M. Vick says:

    I am enjoying collecting buttons also! I plan to use them on sewing projects. I organize them in a plastic clear box (with divided spaces). Each space holds a certain color of button. So much fun to glance from the top of the container and see all the colors divided. Easy to find the certain color button needed!

  3. BB king says:

    I have a close friend, Stella, who collects and sells antique buttons. I mean little works of art- honestly. Going through her buttons is a real experience in beauty and art. I have the usual assortment of buttons from the past, a lot of bone and mother of pearl ones especially. My mother ,who was an ace seamstress, and made all her own clothes and mine too, swore that the beauty of any item of clothing was determined by its buttons . She acquired really gorgeous ones for her creations. Yes- buttons are part of my life.

  4. BB king says:

    Oh MaryJane, I seem to remember a lovely article about your huge button collection in your magazine a few years back. I copied it and sent to Stella who was thrilled . Also wasn’t there another article about the town that made like all the country’s mother of pearl buttons at that time too? All with lovely photos ofcourse, and the cards they came on for selling in stores.

  5. Krista says:

    I loved looking through my mom’s buttons as a child. She always seemed to have the prettiest buttons. My favorites were the ones with swirling colors. Just a couple months ago I looked through her collection again for the perfect button for my project. Since then I have purchased a few of my own bags. One day I’ll have a collection like hers.

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