As well as all the sewing stuff (of which you have seen a very small sample), I collected buttons – one of only three things that I was/am really interested in. (The others are linens and wooden jigsaw puzzles/block puzzles).
Before zips, elastic and velcro, buttons were far more important. Baby clothes often had little tiny mother-of-pearl buttons, mourning clothes were fastened by jet buttons, clothes could be made much more interesting looking with glass or metal buttons. Shoes and boots were often held on the foot by buttons and collars were fastened to shirts with special buttons called studs.
Loads of buttons used on every day clothes were made in the UK but glass buttons were often imported from countries like the former Czechoslovakia (as were glass beads) and beautiful enamelled buttons were imported from France. In the thirties and fifties of the 20th century, buttons were often made in fun shapes in the new and useful material of ‘plastic’. Also made in plastic were millions or even trillions of really boring buttons of which I have had my fair share.
I found very quickly that I wasn’t the only person interested in buttons, as I could seldom find any at auction, except very run of the mill, modern buttons, but every once in a while I would come across a cache of buttons that was very exciting (to me)!
My most memorable ‘find’ was in a small town we stopped in on our way home from a holiday. We saw a charity shop while we were walking around the town, went in and found an entire cake-sized tin of buttons for 50p! I still have some of those buttons, but can’t think of how to display my favourites so they all sit in bags in a cupboard.
Linens were really where I started. I knew absolutely nothing about sheets, table cloths, doilies, coasters except for their obvious uses but I quickly saw that some of the better quality linens had been hand-embroidered with beautiful cut-work, and counted thread work.
It is a sad fact that many, if not most, of the linens one buys from auction are stained with either food residue or rust. I spent a small fortune finding products I could remove old stains with an, once clean, I ironed them – a job I particularly dislike in the normal run of things.
One time I bought a lot containing many rolls of hand-made lace of different widths. The work was so gorgeous that I was able to sell most of them within a couple of weeks.
Doilies and antimacassars are another item that turned up in their dozens as well as huckabuck towels, pocket handkerchiefs, and the occasional piece of clothing.
Okay – I’ve turned this into a lesson on linens and I didn’t mean to so –
Once my shop had been open for about 6 months a gentleman called Des B. turned up. He was, I suppose, a ‘runner’ – someone who goes to sales and picks up pieces at a reasonable price then sells it on to other dealers, still at a good enough price that she can make a profit. Des knew more about ceramics than I could ever hope to know and thus began some years of buying – and learning – from, him. I learned the difference between ‘china’, porcelain, and earthenware. I learned about the earlier English ceramic factories such as Caughley, and the more famous, Worcester, Chamberlain and Davenport. The strange thing is that I didn’t become very interested in ceramics. During the early years of the 21st century, people went in for minimalism and stopped buying antique plates, thus I am still the proud owner of six full crates of antique and vintage plates (and other bits and pieces of ‘china’.
– In the next part, I’ll discuss the wooden jigsaw puzzles and antique and vintage games, as well as the large box of ‘scraps’, many post cards, and other pieces of paper ephemera that I have had or still have.