Lucky Dip, vintage sewing style

On the weekend we went to an auction in Woodend that had several lots of vintage and antique clothing. As you know, auctions are my idea of fun, so even though I hardly need more stock at the moment, Tim and I drove up for a day in a cold shed packed with lots of other people with their best poker face on, and put up our hands repeatedly hoping to buy old wares.


Wedding gown with Edwardian beaded stole and ’20s parasol in the background.

You don’t have to have much money to enjoy an auction: you can put early bids on items and when you’re outbid, you still get the thrill of imagining what it would be like to take a certain item home.

This is what I did on a long Edwardian oak shop counter: I hardly need one, and would have trouble fitting it into my little salon, plus I’d have to find a new home for my beloved ’50s cake counter but it was nice to dream and I was secretly pleased not to win it (even though it sold for a very reasonable price). There were also a few really nice small antique sewing cabinets for threads and the like: not for me that day, but I’ll be keeping my eye out for cheaper versions at flea markets.

Of course, any bid carries a risk that you will win it, so you need to be careful if you’re not serious. Auctions run on trust that you will honour your word.

When I had spent my small budget I settled up, and loaded the van with the booty – including a hall runner for our home, a handbag display/room divider for the shop and several vintage petticoats and a fabulous rose print ’50s dress that I wish was my size. I thought there was another lot, a box of sewing items but it wasn’t on the invoice so we headed home – later there was a phone call as the box had been found and the auctioneer kindly brought it to the shop this morning.

It was a lucky dip: I bid because I couldn’t resist the camellia print tin but had no idea what else was in the mystery box. It was fun to unpack. If you sew, you can appreciate how random a sewing stash – or part thereof – can be. There were a few auction lots of “box of sewing” and each one was unique – one had lots of buttons, one had buckles and another had zippers. This one was a bit of everything including lots of things you’d normally throw out: old empty packets of things but vintage packaging is still interesting even if it has served its purpose. I’ve sorted them into categories:


Three beaded butterfly appliques, an embroidered pocket piece and large 1930s buckle.


Buttons: assorted materials, some old, some new.


Fabric scraps – like me, this lady kept the bottoms of trousers that had been cut off to shorten, although the single silk sleeve and intact collar was unexpected.


Hand embroidered ribbed tights, a ’50s plastic container full of hair roller clips, a ring sizer and a ’70s Vogue pattern.


Needles and Needle threader.


Ribbons, a large roll of millinery petersham, pair of elastic cuffs and small pearl beads.


Embroidery floss (for the pantyhose?), threads, bobbins, elastic for shirring, bias binding and skirt fasteners. Press studs in two sizes.


Wooden darning mushroom (how did they know I wanted one?), pincushion, crocheted needle book, thimble, corks (what were these used for?), odd little mysterious crochet thing, part of a sewing machine foot and the essential tape measure – I never go anywhere without one of these.

And where is the camellia print tin? Here you go – it’s nice and big, and has a hinged lid. This one originally held Cadbury chocolates – I love a nice flower tin.

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