What to Do with Your Family Relics

silk purse decorated with old buttons

Wondering what to do with those old buttons collected by Grandma or Great-aunt Jean?  How ’bout that man’s suit which has rotted away from a century of heat and humidity in someone’s attic- are there buttons to rescue and use?

book about making bags from fabric scrapsI found this wonderful book on making bags from old clothes and scraps of fabric, and felt inspired by an evening bag design covered with buttons.  The Perfect Handmade Bag by Clare Youngs has nifty ideas for ‘making silk purses out of sows’ ears,’ which is pretty much what I did with the blue silk donated by a neighbor, and a jar of old buttons collected from the sewing kits of these ancestors:

Bertha Dodgen Alexander in about 1935 or 40My maternal grandmother, Bertha Clara Dodgen Alexander, in about 1935 or 1940,

1908 costumesMy paternal grandmother, Beulah Arney Cavitt, (on the right) with her best friend, Bess Seale, and my then-future grandfather, James Harvey Mitchell, in about 1909,

woman in coctail dress from late 1920's or 1930My maternal grandfather’s sister, Lucy Jane Alexander Freese, in the late 1920’s or 1930,

Roberta Ruth Alexander in about 1936and finally, my own mother, Roberta Ruth Alexander, in about 1936.

The buttons I found range from bone buttons for underwear, through shell dress buttons eroded by years of washing in lye soap on a scrub board, to pearl shoe buttons from a child’s high-top boot, to a button from my Grandfather Mitchell’s white vest.

What do you do with your family’s treasures, and how do you display them?