Of Buttons and Buckles

Being a firm believer in keeping things in case they one day come in useful, it is probably no surprise for you to learn that I have a considerable button collection.  I have the spare buttons in their clear little plastic packages, carefully saved from garments going back donkeys’ years.  I did have a phase of attempting to label them, so that I knew which garment the button belonged to, but the trouble is as the years go by you do wonder which particular pair of beige trousers this specific button belonged to.  Was it a pair that went to a charity shop a couple of decades ago? Quite possibly. And then there are the buttons that were cut off clothes before being thrown out altogether.

However, some of my buttons did indeed come in useful for a project I completed just before Christmas.  It was also a great opportunity to use up some of my equally large collection of fabric off-cuts.  I decided to make a ‘twiddle rug’ for my Dad for Christmas.  Now, I already had a knitting pattern for a ‘twiddle muff’, but I somehow didn’t think that would work for him.  But a bit of hunting around on the internet revealed designs of ‘twiddle rugs’ (sometimes also called ‘fiddle rugs’) – basically a lap rug with lots of things attached to fiddle with.  People with dementia and associated conditions (my Dad has Parkinson’s, so some days are more lucid than others) can often be seen fiddling with their clothing or bedclothes, so a twiddle rug gives them something else to play with and can offer stimulation.

Basically I made a patchwork of variously textured fabrics and backed it with a lightweight fleecy material, attaching buttons to fasten, buckles to slide, a zip, a pocket, a large popper and dog motif.  I also sewed on his initials.  It’s no great work of art but it was made with love for a dear father.

Twiddle Rug
Twiddle Rug

I already had the button tins that had belonged to my aunt (my Dad’s twin sister) and my cousin.  As I was on the lookout for particularly large buttons, Mum now also gave me my Nanny Wakefield’s button tin (my Dad’s mother – Lily Wakefield, nee Bryant).  I think it’s fascinating to look at some of these buttons and wonder what kind of garment they came from:  the obviously sixties buttons, the little shell buttons, toggles, covered buttons and downright ugly buttons.  What stories they could tell of the past! But they were all kept by someone in case they came in useful.

And come in useful they have.  I don’t know for how long Dad will be able to make use of the twiddle rug, but I enjoyed making it and allowing some of these old buttons and buckles to see the light of day once more.

Buttons and buckles from Nanny Wakefield's button tin
Buttons and buckles from Nanny Wakefield’s button tin


New Year’s resolutions


This time last year I decided that my New Year’s resolution would be to complete my George family write-up.  Well, I’m pleased to report that, despite the difficulties of the year, I did achieve this goal, and a number of family members received a copy for Christmas.

It documents the George family of East Dereham from my earliest proven ancestor David George, born around 1786, through two more generations born in East Dereham to my great grandfather (another David George) and his move south to Croydon and his marriage and family there.  I’ve included my hypothesis that John George and Ann Gallant were the parents of David George senior, but, despite many years of research, I have been unable to prove this.  I’ve also included as an appendix what I know of the family of Astey George, buried inside East Dereham church, but with whom I believe my own family has no connection.

George family of East Dereham

Although a family history is never finished, I do think that it is good to bring everything known so far together and to disseminate what is known among wider family members.  It has already produced a new snippet of information from my aunt and a small family-related artefact from my Mum.  I will also send a copy to Norfolk Family History Society at Kirby Hall in Norwich.  All of this will hopefully mean that, even though there are loose ends, what I have been researching for getting on for 40 years (I did start in my teens!) will not be entirely lost if something suddenly happens to me.


I was interested to read in this month’s Family Tree magazine www.family-tree.co.uk  of various contributors’ family history-related resolutions for the coming year.  It is heartening to know that even a professional researcher like David Annal has decades-worth of papers waiting to be organised!

This year, once I have finally tidied up the George papers and filed them away neatly, I plan to re-visit my Wakefield research.  In particulary I want to update my research on my grandfather Jack and his brother William, both from Woking, who were in Flanders in 1918 at the same time, though in different regiments.  One was killed and the other was captured, and I want to be able to upload their stories onto the Surrey In the Great War website www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk and also the IWM Lives of the First World War.  It would also be great if I could locate the graves of their parents in Brookwood Cemetery, and I gather there might be a finding aid at Surrey History Centre to help with this.

So that’s the plan.  No doubt I will get sidetracked along the way, but that’s the fun of family history, isn’t it?

Happy New Year!