Uncle Alfred was a New Englander who left behind many things when he died in 1994, including a large pickle jar full of buttons. In about 1996, the button collection fell into the hands of my good friend, Carrie de Azevedo Poulsen when she helped out at Alfred’s great-niece’s sale for his estate.
Maybe it’s strange to blog about something as simple as a jar of buttons. But, for a traditional crafter and fashion lover, a gigantic jar of buttons that dates back for decades brings me both endless ideas and a feeling of reverent appreciation.
Most of Alfred’s buttons are very masculine. Maybe he snipped them off long underwear, dress shirts, coats, and military garments as they headed to the rag bin. Carrie tried to keep Uncle Alfred’s button jar whole for many years. Like a vinyl record collection, she felt Uncle Alfred had gathered the buttons together to become a unified work. But then one day, Carrie, who felts and recycles old sweaters, came across many fibers in blacks, grays, browns and tweeds. And she decided the time to use some of Uncle Alfred’s buttons had come.
Uncle Alfred was a trailblazer for the do-it-yourself movement. He built solar panels on his roof and painted his home silver for the reflective properties. He sewed and mended his own clothes, was involved in the early environmental movement, shunned red meat, drank only water and was known for growing beautiful roses. Carrie describes him as the “quintessential old Yankee bachelor.” And we love him because he saved each and every button he ever came across.
Alfred’s great-niece, Kristin wrote the following to Carrie about her great-uncle and his historic button collection, after hearing about this blog post:
“Uncle Alfred lived to be about 96. He lived in Ashburnham, MA, and was never married, never had any kids. He was an inventor, an artist, a gardener, and was interested in just about everything. He loved to collect things like art, music, flowers, postcards, and the buttons that you have. He loved to paint, water colors were his favorite medium. He spent a lot of time in his garage/workshop building and creating.”
Craft Lake City is coming up on August 14 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Gallivan Avenue in downtown Salt Lake. Carrie will be there with her gorgeous felted flowers, garlands (my favorite), birds nest jewelry and headbands, and most importantly, many pieces made from Uncle Alfred’s buttons. If you see cream, grey, tan and brown buttons stitched or beaded together, chances are you are looking at a piece of a New England gentleman’s history. Don’t miss your chance to support art and add it to your collection.