The Notions Department

Jars filled with buttons
Image by Shannon Smith from Pixabay

I enjoyed reading Jean Tubridy’s post this morning entitled The Sewing Tin. Both my grandmothers as well as my mother had a sewing box of some sort. Some were in old tins and others were in boxes. I, too, remember well the contents of those boxes. They held a little of everything.

I remember well the first time I went to a small department store with my grandmother and our visit to the ‘Notions’ department. There I saw a vast array of all the items necessary to construct a garment, or drapes, or even cushions and pillow covers. There were graduated displays of thread in every color imaginable (although there were not as many bright colors as exist today). J&P Coats and Clarks were the most familiar brand names. The spools were made of a soft wood with a thin cut at the top to anchor the loose end of the thread.

There were zippers galore, delicate pairs of hook and eye closures, needles, pins and pin cushions shaped like tomatoes, lace, elastic, and shiny new scissors. There were also wooden cases with drawers used to hold dress patterns in every size. My grandmother always knew exactly what she needed so there was not much time for browsing.

The section of notions that always made me STOP in my tracks, were the buttons. Every woman in my family had a jar full of mis-matched buttons. You never knew when a button would be lost and the search through the button jar would begin.I loved playing with the old buttons, but I was so thrilled to see little cardboard cards full of new stylish buttons that matched!

I learned to sew on a button very early and have sewed on many buttons in my time. But sitting here today and thinking back it has probably been 10 years since I sewed a button on a garment. My generation might be the first in my family with no button jar.

When I started learning to make beaded jewelry, buttons were always part of the wire wrapped rings I made. I guess I never lost my fascination for them.

I don’t know of any stores that have a ‘Notions’ department now. Some of the mega discount stores like Walmart have small sewing departments, but you generally must go to a fabric specialty store to buy such things now.

Another disappearing part of our culture.