Monday, June 30, 2008

Button, Button…I've Got the Button!

The sound of sobbing floated out from the garage. I paused, not sure if I was really hearing someone crying, if I should quietly leave their yard sale, if there was any help I could offer. The two women in the garage noticed me just then.

“Oh, sorry,” one said, wiping her eyes. “Our mom died four months ago and we’re just having a little breakdown.”

The next thing I knew I was giving them hugs. The second woman waved her hand around and sniffled. “It was just…there was a family here a few minutes ago, and they reminded me of our family…” Her voice trailed off and she sniffed again, then said, “Actually, my sinuses have been acting up and this is making them feel much better.” In another minute we were talking about the movie Steel Magnolias and one of the sister’s business as a custom seamstress. I love the resilience of women.

I keep telling you, you never know what you’ll find while you’re out garaging on Saturday morning.

This scene was in total contrast to an earlier one. That sale was a fundraiser by a women’s organization called the Blue Thong Society, and these ladies were a hoot. The repartee was so fast and snappy that I was desolate not to have a tape recorder on me. When I arrived one of the organizers was looking at some plates someone else had donated. “You ought to give me these. After all I found you your dog and you haven’t even paid me yet. These are cute plates. How much are they?” Another of the group told her they were a dollar, but for her they’d make that ten dollars. And they were off. I was laughing out loud as I rummaged through the tables of donations, spotting a couple of pieces of clothing that looked interesting. By the time I paid up my dollar we were all talking, and I asked about the dog the one had found for the other. (You know me and dogs.)

Turns out it wasn’t a dog. She’d said job. “When you recommend someone who gets hired, you get a bonus when they’ve worked there sixty days.” How much longer is that, I asked the hiree. “Fifteen more days.” I said that ought to be a piece of cake. “Yeah,” said the first one, “especially since we’re closed all next week!”

Apparently the Blue Thong Society is something like the Red Hat ladies, only sassier and there’s no age limit. If they’re all like this group, I'd say you’ll have a good time if you join!

My favorite quote of the day was from a sale where a young man was inspecting a wet suit. From across the driveway came an indignant woman’s voice: “Hey, that better not be my wet suit you’re selling!” No, replied her significant other, you have two. She seemed mollified, but it sure sounded to me like he was selling her wet suit!

I spent $8.25, which got me:
A book I'm looking forward to rereading, and three movies.

At one of these sales, I noticed a book in the pile with labeling that looked familiar. Sure enough, it belonged to the library system I work for, and there were no discard stamps on it. As I paid for the movie I was buying I told them I work for the county library, and that this book belonged there, and I would be returning it. They said they’d never seen that book before, had no idea how it got into their stuff they were selling. Uh huh. Not the first library book I've seen at a yard sale, won’t be the last. I kind of enjoyed being the library cop though.

Two vintage rhinestone pins. One is marked 20 ½ KT GF on the back, with CA and an arrow through it.
(New camera coming this week…pictures will get better…)

A small backpack to replace the one that I spilled salad in at Disneyland the other day. Backpacks do not smell good when they’ve been salad dressinged.

A cute batik jacket for me…

…and a hand-embroidered raw silk robe (these were the Blue Thong buys). The robe looked great on my friend Heather, who was staying with us while she attended the American Library Association convention over the weekend, so it went home with her.

Another vintage embroidered tablecloth. I think the stains will come out with a good oxy soak (that stuff is amazing, it even took red ballpoint ink out of a linen shirt). And if they don’t, I'm out a whole quarter.

A set of eleven antique partially-completed crazy quilt squares.

There’s a whole quilt-history lesson here; it's fascinating to see blocks in progress. The fabrics appear to all be silk. Some have suffered the ravages of time, but most are still in good condition. Crazy quilts flourished from 1876 to about 1910, and these puppies do feel old.

At the same sale I saw a big ziplock baggie full of buttons. They were fifty cents. I snatched them up. I took them home. I dumped them onto the dining room table just to take a little peek. I felt ridiculously happy looking at them. I started sorting them into ordinary buttons and cool buttons. Then I started making piles by color. Then…at some point friend Heather and my husband dragged me away from my buttons so we could have dinner. Two days later they are still on the dining room table, and all I have to do is go in there to feel happy.

Part of me thinks it's absurd to be made so glad by something as insignificant as buttons. But that’s the thing. Buttons may be small, they may be commonplace, they often go unnoticed. But practicality aside (and I'm a person who appreciates the practical), buttons can be tiny works of art. Over and over as I sorted through this stash, I'd pick up a plain button, turn it over—and be amazed at the other side. (I swear every single cool button landed cool-side down.) There are ten black faceted buttons made of glass. When I grouped them I found that there are seven different patterns of faceting among them.

There are fifteen of these terrific brown buttons.

There are buttons on cards that are themselves wonderful, including several from “Starlet Buttons…Styled in Hollywood.”

One little white button that I thought was just a regular shirt button has two perfectly placed parallel lines on the other side, a work of art half an inch wide.

Buttons. If buttons can be so amazing when you turn them over, just think how much lies unseen among all the people you encounter, and what you might discover when you look at the other side.


  1. What fantastic stuff! I especially like the vintage pins and all of the buttons. 50 cents for all of those is an awesome deal. Buttons are so expensive nowadays! As for the Blue Thong Society - they sound like a hoot!

  2. Wow!! I learned something from reading your blog today......don't sell a library book that you stoled at a garage just kidding. I learded about OXY. I have seen it in the store but have not tried it. I saw a beautiful easter colored tablecloth at a thrift store and it had a small stain. I put it back because I was not sure how to get it out. Now I do!!

    Thanks so much! Another greeat advenure to drool over.

  3. I get the house brand of the oxy stuff, which is less expensive. (Hey, when you buy something for a quarter you don't want to spend dollars removing a stain!) For some stains I find you have to let the thing soak for several days (like the red ink). But it usually does the trick.

  4. i love the buttons and tablecloth!

  5. Thank you for visiting my blog! I absolutely love your blog title! And what interesting posts! I wiil for sure be back for more!
    The tablecloth is a great find, been looking for something like that....but that is the fun of it, the hunt!


  6. Thanks for visiting my blog. I love your outlook on life. There is definatley kindred spirits that have yard sales and those of us that buy at yard sales. Those that only shop at the mall just don't have a clue.

    Have a good weekend.

  7. That`s the first "button and people" analogy I`ve read. Go figure. I`m a button collector too. I wonder if I can get the local Red Hat Ladies to join the Blue Thong Society.

    Sort of off topic. When I was a kid, we had blue haired ladies. Perhaps that`s why they went to Red Hats!

  8. just like a librarian to find peace an joy organizing something...even buttons!
    Hope you take another picture of that second pin, the one that was on the bottom. It looked very elegant.

  9. what a beautiful quilt. what a story to..about out on your garage sale finds.

    good stuff.

  10. those crazy quilt squares drive me crazy!
    have almost run out of my stash and dont know if i can wait until christmas to get more (my sweetie always gives me stuff like that)

    love love love them

  11. I get a little weak int he knees for bags of vintage buttons. and thanks for visiting my blog. :)

  12. Buttons are actually amazing little things, they make everyone happy, big and little!

  13. Ohhh. Buttons!

    Love the analogy.

    Although, it would be difficult to sew and person to a shirt.


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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