Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Every button tells a story

Gather round, blog friends. The story of this button is a long one, but a symbol of hope in these troubled times.

TMB's grandparents were Russian refugees who arrived in Britain around the turn of the last century. They were fleeing the Cossaks, who at that time were successively raiding and destroying villages.

TMB's grandfather found work pushing a vegetable barrow up the steep hills of his new home, because all the flat routes had been taken. His wife worked in a factory sewing uniforms but made a few pretty frocks on the side. Because they were light, TMB's grandfather put them on the side of his barrow, and money being tight in those days, he offered competitive "hire purchase" frock deals to his vege customers. 

Over time, the dresses became more popular than the cabbages, and being lighter, were much easier to transport. TMB's grandfather was an entrepreneur, and spotting an opportunity and a market, they moved over to manufacturing clothing full time.

Every season they lived hand to mouth. His grandmother re-interpreted Parisian styles for the every day woman but they never had enough to sew more than a season ahead.  If they made a mistake with their styling they were doomed: they would not have enough capital to make it through the next season.

When the factory they were hiring came up for sale, they scraped together enough cash for a deposit. Fate then played them a lucky hand: almost as soon as the sale was complete, someone offered them considerably more for their factory.

For the first time ever, they had money to spend. They invested in a new factory and began manufacturing in earnest. They were eventually quite successful, and were able to leave a modest inheritance to their children.

This button comes from a garment made in that factory, and it is somewhere between 60 to 80 years old. My mother-in-law gifted all the remaining habadashery to me. 

Isn't it gorgeous? 


  1. That is one of the most beeeautiful haberdashery stories I've ever heard.
    Button on!

  2. I have just spend a wonderful 15 minutes reading your blog. I love your writing style and this story is especially wonderful. Thank-you for visiting my blog and I think you may be right with the advice given!

  3. Awesome, Mary Nanna. What a great story. It is often bandied about in the business world that if you can make your business work when times are tough, you will reap many rewards when the economy recovers. One more success story, and this one very close to home.

  4. Just reading this when catching up on back issues of your lovely blog. It's the first I check when I'm in the reading mood. (i did try following blogs but it became another thing to keep up with. I have no staying power). This is a great story. Thank you for sharing it. Those of us who have never had to start from nothing are so lucky.