A Lunchtime Storm

I was minding my own button business, sorting through a ‘new’ box of vintage patterns, when I heard the crack and rumble. I looked up at the vast, vaulted blue ceiling of the Paddington Antique Centre as though I would see clouds. Once upon a time, in the Plaza Theatre‘s hey-day I would have, but today it was just the old ceiling with blue plaster peeling off it, giving the historic building a lovely charm. Outside however, the skies were darkened with heavy clouds, so black the lightning flashes were visible at midday. The rain was falling in sheets and our parched gardens and lawns were enjoying a Brisbane Summer’s day lunchtime storm.

Paddington Antique Centre interior

Normally from the button shop, tucked away inside the huge Paddington Antique Centre, it is impossible to know what is going on outside, but this storm must have been huffing and puffing. Aside from the grumbling skies, the buzz of the delightful treasure trove that is the centre, became even more hyped as people flocked in from Latrobe Terrace to escape the wet. The Plaza was doing what it was initially designed to do and was carrying the excited voices, and the squeals of delight at the much needed rain, through the big space and up to where I was sitting in the button shop. I left the Vogue, Simplicity and Easy McCalls I was packing to go see the rain. I walked through the shop past the the buttons, ribbons & antique laces and along the upper level of the centre past the photography studio with its exquisite costumes and dresses. I made my way by the cabinets of vintage brooches, beads and jewellery and towards the new Paddington Antique Centre Cafe. The grinding of the fresh beans and the clicking of them being dispensed made me stop. I breathed in the smell of the fresh Blue Sky coffee. The hiss of the steamer releasing as the barista worked the coffee machine made me decide that this beautiful rainy day was the perfect time to have a coffee.

Paddington Antique Centre Cafe

There is nothing better than a well made cup of coffee. On a rainy day. In a beautiful cafe. Enjoyed with the company of a good friend, a good book, or the fabulous smug feeling that you just found a great buy. The new Paddington Antique Centre Cafe is a beautiful place to be enjoyed. The freshly refurbished plantation like surrounds will transport you to another time and place. Beautiful butterflies and the iconic artwork of Jan Jorgenson hang on the vintage wallpapered walls. I sit, as I wait for my coffee, on the revamped lacquered cane chairs letting the mouth watering smell of cakes baking envelope me. My stomach rumbles like the thunder outside as I scan the new menu of delicious lunch items and more-ish treats.

Inspired and relaxed from my visit to the new cafe, I make my way back to the button shop with my coffee. I walk past the antique and vintage wares to the sound of excited chatter inside the centre and the sound of a Brisbane Summer’s day storm thundering down outside.


Paddington Antique Centre CafePaddington Antique Centre Cafe

Paddington Antique Centre Cafe


Haberdashery is alive!

“Does anybody sew anymore?” they ask as they look 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 they visit Buttons @ Paddington. They say thoughtfully, “Don’t people just throw things away? Nobody mends anything…young people don’t sew…” At first, it is easy to think this is true. Given the uber commercial world we live in today, where almost everything is disposable and where it seems school kids can buy anything they want with a ready supply of cash that comes from a place I only wish I’d had known about when I was 14. In the new era where Home Economics isn’t always offered as a core unit in year 8 let alone an elective through to senior, it is easy to think that sewing is becoming a lost art. Like loading film into a camera or doing a mexican wave at the cricket.

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. Lovely. I really 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.

sewing book

Pages from a 1962 school sewing book

Since working at Buttons @ Paddington my brother has taken to telling everyone I am a ‘haberdasher-a’. Now, I think there would be a few people out there that have no idea what in fact a haberdasher-a is. When I hear the word ‘haberdashery’ I think of the dinky little shop I used to visit with my mum when I was little. It was packed to the rafters with bolts of fabric, cards wrapped with cord and piping and laces and little selector cards of melamine buttons with elephants and moons on them. And of course, tubes of buttons with a sample stictched to the lid. The shop was literally busting at the seams!

sewing book 2

That was 30 something years ago, but maybe my brother is onto something bringing back the job title of Haberdasher-a. Working at Buttons @ Paddington I see everyday, people who have a love for sewing, whether it is part of their past, present or future. Older gentlemen visit the shop and look around reminiscing, showing me the sewing machine their mother had and telling me how their school shirts had mother of pearl buttons on them. Women tell me about their Home Science days and how they practiced their stitching. And I constantly see young people in here at Buttons @ Paddington. They are searching through our 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. Just like I did with mum 30 years ago. Haberdashery is still alive!

You only have to go to the markets to see the amount of creative stitching that is happening in sewing rooms all over the country as machines whir away into the wee hours of the morning or as bub’s have naps. Stalls of dresses, skirts, handbags, baby goods, bibs, blankets and quilts at farmer’s markets, handmade markets, twilight markets, church markets….the list goes on! And now we are seeing pop up handmade shops all across Brisbane. A place for artists and designers of handmade goods to sell their wares in a retail environment. This is our opportunity to support creativity.

So, the answer is, yes! People do still sew! Isn’t that fabulous!

What are you sewing at the moment?

Celebrate and reinvent, the humble button

The Church denounced them as the “devil’s snare” when European ladies began wearing them on the front of their dresses. Napoleon introduced them to men’s jacket sleeves to prevent soldiers mutilating themselves when they tried to wipe their noses. They are ubiquitous, beautiful and practical and we have them en masse at Buttons @ Paddington.

I promise you, a visit to Buttons @ Paddington in the Paddington Antique Centre will reinvent you opinion of the humble, quirky, “dangerous” button. Forever.

One of the two owners of the buttons in the shop here at Buttons @ Paddington, confesses to having been a button tragic for decades. She said it started when she stumbled across a button in a museum in the UK about 25 years ago. She was stunned by the history of the beautiful little talismans of social history. Her first purchase was a set of 16 Victorian jet mourning buttons. Her passion now, she says, is for art deco buttons, but she also loves art nouveau silver buttons, satsumas and other enamelled ones, cute little plastic 1950s buttons and so it goes…

Set of 7 French Jet Buttons, $25

Set of 7 French Jet Buttons, $25

Victorian Black Glass Waistcoat Buttons. $6 each

Victorian Black Glass Waistcoat Buttons. $6 each

But buttons are not just beautiful, they also tell stories. Buttons in many ways tell the story of our civilisation. Originally used as decoration in the Bronze Age 3,000 years ago, it was many hundreds of years before their safety advantage saw them displace the pin as the fastener of choice.

An industry grew up around a growing practical demand for buttons, but it wasn’t long before the upper classes sought to reclaim them as  status symbols. Legend has it that King Francis I sported 13,600 buttons on his royal outfit for a meeting in 1520 with a similarly resplendent King Henry VIII of England.

The vanity associated with the most extravagant buttons has caused controversy over the years. Risqué buttons on ladies’ dresses in 16th Century Europe attracted the ire of the Church, which labelled them the “devil’s” snare. To this day, the Amish community does not wear buttons because they are seen as a sign of pride.

By contrast, buttons have sometimes also been associated with austerity and control. The most famous example of this is the black mourning buttons that dominated fashion for decades following the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert.

During the last century, there was a dramatic fall in the importance of the button due to the emergence of mass-produced clothing and unforgiving modern washing machines and dryers, which required simple, easily-replaceable buttons. But if the interest in Buttons @ Paddington is anything to go by, buttons are well and truly back in vogue.

The diversity of antique, vintage, retro and modern buttons available in our shop provide a wonderful opportunity for us to make an individual statement either on our clothes, our jewellery, accessories or our collection.

You won’t have seen so many buttons have so much fun as you will at Buttons @ Paddington!

The Plaza Theatre – Paddington Antique Centre – Buttons @ Paddington

There are now 496 (& counting!) of you fabulous folk who ‘Like’ Buttons at Paddington on Facebook. I’d like to take this opportunity to say hi and hello to all of you who have joined us in the past few weeks. Buttons @ Paddington’s blog is a space where we talk buttons. Button ideas, craft, sewing or just tell some stories about what happens in our lovely little button shop. With so many of you new to our bit of online space, I got to thinking about how many of you have actually been to Buttons @ Paddington, or indeed how many of you even live in Brisbane. And so, I thought I would take you on a little tour of our real space, our home in the Paddington Antique Centre. A bit of a tale which includes glamour, stars and even a ghost.


The Latrobe Terrace exterior of the Paddintgon Antique Centre.

Buttons @ Paddington lives in the top cosy corner of the Paddington Antique Centre. The Centre is home to 50 dealers in our one amazing location. Each dealer has a space in which they sell their antiques, vintage and pre-loved wares. The variety of quality stock is enormous and includes furniture, collectable costume and estate jewellery, vintage and retro clothing and accessories, lighting, Australian pottery, clocks and watches, china, glass, silver, linen, military, art deco and lots, lots more including buttons, of course, and the delicious treats of the Plaza Theatre Cafe, named after the building.

The Plaza Theatre

The Plaza Theatre tile work on the floor in the foyer of the centre.

The Paddington Antique Centre is inside the old heritage listed Plaza Theatre. The Plaza theatre commenced construction in 1929 and opened for business in September 1930.

Plaza Theatre newspaper ad

Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #110851

The grand opening advertisement declared the The Paddigton “Plaza” was “Queensland’s Only Atmospheric Theatre”. At the time it was, but there went on to be seven in Australia, and the Plaza is now one of only two remaining. The ‘Atmospheric’ style interior of the theatre means that it was decorated in an exotic manner to create an outdoor atmosphere, a style that became popular in the 1920s & 30s. The Plaza theatre was theamed and appropriated from Spanish and middle eastern architecture to create illusion. The vaulted ceiling, which remains painted dark blue unique to the Australian ‘Atmospherics’ style, featured suspended, wooden, cut-out clouds which were originally back-lighted to simulate the moon behind the clouds. Together with lights imitating the stars, this enabled the patrons to imagine they were seated out of doors.

Paddington Antique Centre interior

View of inside the Paddington Antique Centre from the button shop.

The theatre was open seven days a week, with serials shown on Monday and Tuesday nights, and feature films and newsreels on other nights. A matinee was also shown on Sunday afternoons. The theatre had a capacity of 1500 who were seated in double canvas chairs on one large sloping level. The tram would wait across the road (Trammie’s corner) until the movies had finished to transport patrons home after their film and a visit to the milk bar which was part of the original shops along the Latrobe Terrace frontage. There was also a special soundproofed glass room was also built, called the ‘cry room’ which was provided for young mothers and their babies.

Visit us today and you will see remains of the theatre’s features including the enormous bright blue plaster ceiling.  The large Spanish style proscenium arch heavily decorated with mission tiles and plaster scroll-work and includes the original textile valance embossed with the theatre’s name. still remains. Flanking the wide proscenium are ornamental balconies topped by large, arched columns under which used to stand classical style statues and below the balconies are niches with twisted Roman columns all interspersed with scroll-work and other ornamentation.




In such a big space with such obvious history, it is easy to let your imagination run wild and believe it may be haunted. I was told by a colleague the other day, that the centre does have a ghost. The story goes that a young woman was stabbed in the foyer one evening, by a jealous lover, or something like that. It isn’t hard to think the urban myth to be true, I think the centre, especially now carrying  antique wares, has 1000s of stories to tell!

The theatre continued to operate with relative success until television arrived in the late 1950s and diminishing patronage brought about its closure in 1962. After its closure, a level floor was installed, making it suitable for use as a basketball court and basketball matches were played until the building was sold in 1977. The antique centre was established here in 1985.

And that is The Plaza Theatre, the Paddington Antique Centre; home to Buttons @ Paddington! Come in and visit us sometime, it is totally worth it.

Button Bouquets

Years ago, a friend of mine with terrible allergies got married. Not wanting to risk streaming eyes that weren’t tears of emotional joy, or sneezing her vows, or having a red nose in her wedding photos; she decided to have a bouquet made from silk flowers. A mighty clever choice and they looked stunning. And most probably still do today!

Another friend of mine recently got married in Las Vegas. It’s the Marriage Capital of the World and the place where weddings can be redefined. Hosting about 115,000 weddings a year it is the ultimate venue where the bright lights are the decorations, the atmosphere is electrifying and exciting and the guests are everyone else who is in Vegas.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Lights

So what is the best accessory to compliment the stunning lights? What topped off my friend’s gorgeous 1950s inspired wedding dress with the fuchsia pink trim? A button bouquet of course! Perhaps it didn’t have a fragrance that lingered, but it certainly added a personal touch that will last forever.

Button Bouquet 1Button Bouquet 2Button Bouquet 3

Her bouquet was from Lillybuds Bespoke Bridal.  It is simply delightful.

Ever thought of making a button bouquet? It doesn’t need to be for a wedding, it could be to add a little bit of a joy to your home, a gift for a girlfriend or your mum or grandma. It could give you a reason to use all those lovely little buttons you have been collecting for years!

Here are a couple of simple steps to making a button bouquet:

  1. Buttons. You need lots of them! Don’t have enough in you button jar? Ask your friends, you mum or your grandma; try Op Shops, garage sales or visit us at Buttons @ Paddington for some stunning feature buttons.
  2. Other Bits & Bobs. To make the button flowers you will need metal florist wire and maybe some florist tape. You may also like to use other accessories like lace, pearls, beads, special mementoes or keepsakes, maybe even old brooches.  This could be a great way to put all those special little bits & bobs you have never wanted to throw away to good use and make them even more special.
  3. Make Button “Flowers”:  Stack two or three buttons on top of each other in order of size, starting with the largest and finishing with the smallest button on top. Let your imagination go wild, sort colours, contrast colours, shapes and patterns. Then, cut a piece of wire. It needs to be double the length of the bouquet. Thread the buttons onto the wire through the holes. (Buttons with shanks may be difficult to do this with. Try using them as feature buttons thread individually onto wire. See step 4.) To keep the buttons secure and tight, bend the wire and push it back through the holes in the opposite direction.
  4. Add Features: If you want to add any special features like lace, ribbon or feature buttons. Wire them individually.
  5. Arrange the Bouquet: Arrange the wire button “flowers” and featured wire pieces into a bunch, the same way you would normal flowers.
  6. Secure: Tie the wire stems together with a rubber band, just below the flowers so it can’t be seen. Use ribbon to wrap around the stems or tie as a bow.
  7. Finishing Touches: Check the bouquet for wire protrusions. Use florist tape to cover wire if needed. Add any extra bling or embellishments if required. Bend button “flower” stems into desired position if needed.


Buckle Up!

It has been all about buckles this week here at Buttons @ Paddington. That hardly ever thought about, clever little device that is used for fastening two loose ends. Before the invent of the zipper, the buckle was indispensable in securing two ends together. One loose end was attached to the buckle, the other end was held by a catch in a secure but adjustable manner. What an ingenious idea!

Assorted Vintage Plastic Buckles from $5

Assorted Vintage Plastic Buckles from $5

Spring sewing ideas are continuously popping into my head at the moment, and this week when my attention was drawn to the huge collection of buckles we have in the shop, I couldn’t help but start thinking of ways to use the clever little clasps. The basic buckle frame comes in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the intended use and fashion of the era. I spent the morning at the shop selecting just some of the many buckles we have to put into a new display. We have designs ranging from the oversized and elaborate Bakelite style thermoset plastic buckle from the 1900’s, to the simple, funky, retro plastic ones from the 1950s.

Circa 1900s. Bakelite

Circa 1900s Bakelite style thermoset plastic $165

Buckles are as much in use today as they have been in the past. And now, they can be used for much more than just securing one’s belt, they can also be the perfect accessory to an outfit. What better accessory is there to wear with those Summer frocks I am making! The dresses, mind you, are coming together slowly, what with the distraction of all the “new” vintage patterns and fasteners and finishings that keep arriving in the shop. I’m thinking of making some belts that I can change the buckles on. Perhaps using favourite fabrics, our stunning American ribbons and even some vintage lace.

Do you collect buckles or make belts? We would love to see your work! 

buckles 8

Top – circa 1920s $45
Centre – Metal $25
Bottom – Celluloid circa 1920-30s $35

Buckles 4

Fabulous Vintage Horse Buckle. $35

buckles 7

Stunning Edwardian Buckle Set $495

Circa 1920s Galalith

Circa 1920s Galalith Alligator Buckle $195

Just some of the buckles on display in the shop.

Just some of the buckles on display in the shop.

Experimenting with Ribbon & buckles in the shop. Ribbon $6.95/m & Vintage Plastic Buckle from $5

Experimenting with Ribbon & buckles in the shop.
Ribbon $6.50/m & Vintage Plastic Buckle from $5

A Brisbane Pattern

It is Ekka week here in Brisbane and with the Royal Queensland Show comes a particular weather pattern. The dry westerly winds always seem to arrive on Day One of the Brisbane Show. Each year, I wait for the “Week of Winds” as I call it, because usually by the time the Gravitron and the strawberry sundaes have been packed up, by the time the ferris wheel stands motionless and Side Show Alley falls silent, the Ekka leaves Brisbane and so do the winds and then, it is time to say a very happy hi and hello to Spring!

I love the anticipation that comes with Spring. A new season means a ‘new’ wardrobe. It is time to put away the boots and woolies and put on a frock and strappy sandals. It is the time of bbq dinners and long lazy evenings where the air is fragranced with the perfume of the blooming jasmine. There is the buzz of anticipation as we approach our Christmas party season, where we take a break, visit friends, the beach and enjoy crisp wines and delicious seafood.

I have decided that this year, I am going to ride the anticipation of the season and try and sew some dresses for summer. I say ‘try’ because, while I can sew, these days it is mostly hems, side seams, cushion covers and curtains that I pull the sewing box out for. It has been a while since I have put my high school home economics dressmaking skills to the test by making complete ensemble.
But working at Buttons @ Paddington, I have no excuses! We have a huge collection of vintage patterns starting at just $5 and dating back to the 1940s. With womens and menswear, children’s clothing and sleepwear there are plenty of designs that will take you on a trip down memory lane. We have patterns for dolls clothes, swimwear and home decorating patterns for bedspreads and pillows.  The old haberdashery shelves in the shop are overflowing and stock includes some patterns sent out from The Sun pattern services back in 1951 and a number of Vogue Couturier Designs from London and Paris.
Patterns4 Patterns3 Patterns2Patterns1
With such a selection of designs along with our latest stocks of vintage and antique laces, Sylko threads, buckles and of course, buttons, there is no doubt I should be able to make something completely original. And for someone like me, who doesn’t enjoy clothes shopping because I always want something a little different, something that flatters me just a little more, something that won’t break the bank; this is may just be the answer to my very own Summer 2013/14 collection.
Wish me luck!
Have you made anything gorgeous lately?