Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Charming Charm Strings

Charm StringsThe Winter BazaarThis is an idea straight from Victorian times when girls used to sit around all day and wonder who their suitors would be. Charm strings (or Memory Strings) are long laces with collections of buttons strung on them for safe-keeping and display.

The tradition says that a girl and her friends would collect buttons and string them on a piece of rope or twine (never anything as fancy as ribbon) and the goal was to collect 999 buttons before your friends did. But not 1000 because collecting 1000 buttons was to be cursed with spinsterhood. Instead, the legend said that when you collected 999 buttons it would be your turn to get married and your Prince Charming would present you with the last button for your collection. Quaint, no?

It seems like a fun tradition, regardless of it's political incorrectness, and I can see little girls (or even boys) enjoying collecting buttons for their own strings. Here are a few of the "rules":

Charm Strings1. Buttons should be one of a kind. Each of the 999 should be unique if possible.

2. The more beautiful, sparkling and brilliant the better.

3. Buttons should not be bought. Instead they should be presents from family and suitors or traded with another collector. That's why they're often called Memory Strings, because back when buttons weren't as common each piece of the collection represented a memory. "This one is from the dress I wore to Julia's cotillion, this one from Grandfather's uniform" etc.

4. Buttons with shanks are preferred as they nest together and form colorful necklaces that and be worn or displayed.

So look through your boxes and see what buttons you have. For small children stringing buttons promotes good small motor skills and sorting buttons into piles is good for analytic thinking.

Any ideas of your own that are good for whiling away the hours?



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22 comments:

Cocoa said...

I inherited a huge tin of old buttons when my great-aunt died. This would be a good way for the kids to sort through and display them.

Marcia said...

Oh! What a lovely, lovely idea!

chelle said...

Ooo that would be fun ... once I do not have a potential choker in the house we may have to try this!

Edi said...

I remember when I was a little girl, my grandma brought out a tin of buttons and let us play with them and make necklaces.

I wish I had a tin of old ones - my kids just have to make do with the ones I have. They enjoy sorting them by color and using them in various crafts.

I had never heard the story of the 999 buttons.

Jen@BigBinder said...

This is fascinating. I throw buttons away immediately as I know perfectly well that I will never sew it back on and I have a 'thing' about getting rid of stuff (and by thing I mean compulsion :) )but I kinda wish I had some now.

Amber M. said...

I have lots of cllected buttons...Anna would LOVE to string and unstring them. Great idea...and such a cute story behind it.

Melissa Markham said...

What a great idea! I had a button collection when I was a kid. My dad had a friend with an old cabin in the mountains and their dump was there at the cabin. There was a huge pile of leftover clothes (50 years or more old) I would collect the neat buttons. But somewhere during a move, that collection was lost. Bummer.

Loved the deck stair sliding photos! We live on a hill, but so do a lot of trees. Our sled riding adventures have led to one broken leg and one broken finger.

kawaii crafter said...

I just love this idea of collecting 999 buttons. What a fun tradition. I might have my daughter start up a button necklace of her own.

Where did you learn about this?

jessica

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I have read in many books about button strings and necklaces but I had never heard of the folklore behind it. Very cute.

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

I love this idea! Not only do I love pretty, girly things, but maybe it would keep my three princesses busy now and then!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

What a sentimental idea. I am not sure I have the patience for it, but boy would it be neat in the end.

Chris said...

That's adorable but I don't have that many buttons!

Did you know you were nominated for "Hottest Mommy Blogger" here?:

http://www.bloggerschoiceawards.com/

I thought that was a riot!

Maytal said...

Thanks for sharing this. I never heard of such charm strings and it was really intresting to read!
Thanks :)

Scribbit said...

Chris-

Yes, thanks for noticing :)

I'm not sure which is funnier, me being nominated or that I have received exactly "zero" votes in the three months the votes been going.

I guess I should at least get Andrew to go over and vote for me--save some face :)

ewe are here said...

I have a box of buttons, but I never thought about stringing them. The strings are rather pretty...

Daisy said...

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura and Mary are thrilled to make a button string for their little sister, Baby Carrie. Simple pleasures are wonderful.

Pretty Life Online said...

great tips! Have a nice day!

Sherry said...

Scribbit,
I love how you share old fashion charm with us. Sometimes I wished we lived in simpler days. What a treasure a necklace like this would make.

Thanks :)

Annie said...

Cute legend. Stringing buttons reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie books, just like Daisy said in her comment.

Magpie said...

Sweet. My child made me a button necklace at daycare. She loves when I wear it.

Dianne Young Erwin said...

Love it, my son will now have a button collection and I will blog about it once I get all of the buttons into a jar from around the house. I am sure I can find 999!

Thanks

freetolive said...

Love your blog. found it through Lizzies home. great posts.