Does anybody sew anymore? they asked looking around in awe, taking in the displays of antique buttons, vintage haberdashery and handmade bobbin lace. They run their fingers through the jars of colourful retro plastic buttons, an act nearly every person does when visiting The Button Shop in the Paddington Antique Centre.
“Don’t people just throw things away? Nobody mends anything…” They say thoughtfully.
It’s easy to think this is true. Given the ridiculously commercial world we live in today, where it seems almost everything is disposable. In this new era where Home Economics isn’t always offered in schools as a core unit in year 8 let alone as an elective through to senior high school, sewing may be becoming a lost art. Like loading film into a camera or doing a Mexican wave at the cricket, or fondue parties, or copper art or buying real-life books.
I went to an all-girls school and in year 8 Home Ec I made a fairly nifty, and at the time very fashionable, pair of maroon floral shorts for my second semester assessment. (First semester was cooking which involved making scones, shepherd’s pie, white sauce and chicken liver pate. All of which were carried home on the train in a tea towel craftily tied like a bag.) I went on to do Home Ec for the rest of my junior years and drafted my own patterns and made a maroon polycotton drop waist frock. Superb.
I enjoyed Home Ec, not only for the fun practical classes it offered where one of my all time favourite teachers referred to us as “Floss”, but also because it gave me the foundation for some lifestyle skills that have never, ever gone to waste.
I have been known to stitch myself into clothing on many an occasion. Or taken skirts in when I’ve lost weight. And let them seams back out when I’ve put the weight back on again. Or like when, having just returned from overseas without a penny to my name, I made myself a ‘ball gown’ out of a scrap of satin and an old skirt I had worn to a formal many moons ago. I’ve sewn buttons on for friends who have no idea how and I’ve made many cushion covers and curtains for my house when the dollars just didn’t stretch. Without Home Ec, I wouldn’t be wearing right now the funky halter that I whipped up for summer. And without having done Home Ec I never would have discovered the wonder that is The Button Shop inside the Centre.
The Button Shop has moved it’s haberdashery stock to a new home upstairs in the Centre. Moving a button shop is no small feat, and the new shop will be busting at the seams with stock. Buttons from the 18th Century, buttons made of glass, bakelite, celluloid, mother of pearl, bone, leather and timber. People are constantly visiting this intriguing little shop, including young people. Searching through the collection of haberdashery for embellishments or silk thread on wooden spools. Flicking through the vintage patterns for a design that has come full circle, or sifting through the jars looking for the perfect button to finish off their sewing project or refresh their winter coat.
So, the answer is, yes! People do still sew! All you need to do is look around at all the markets, at all the bespoke boutiques, the online stores and the new pop up handmade shops that are appearing around Brisbane. And if you don’t know how and you want to know how to sew that button on, there are always Workshops. The Centre even hosts some that focus on making creations using the very items you will find in The Button Shop.
Visit The Button Shop. You won’t be disappointed.