“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.
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!
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?