I love poking around charity shops and junk shops. I quite like nosing around ‘antiques’ shops, although mostly I can’t afford to actually buy anything in these! But the trendy Vintage shops send me cold, I hate the unending grey and pastel paint everywhere, on everything; all that bunting and everything from jam jars to cardboard boxes has a button or lace on it. Don’t get me started on those wooden boxes and crates with the French sounding names stencilled on the sides – I am stunned that so many people are taken in by this fakery. Even the last bastion of Old Tat, the charity shop seems to be falling prey to the retail marketeers with many now having specialist outlets for “vintage” (anything from the 1980’s and earlier) and the rest all displayed like it was an outpost of TK Maxx. My favourite shops are the grubby, slightly smelly ones where stuff is left where it was abandoned by its donor; the ones where the best (and most interesting) things haven’t been “cherry picked” by a small army of volunteers in readiness for offering at a specialist sale, or, god forbid, making an appearance on Flog It or the Antiques Roadshow to get that all-important Expert Valuation. Sadly there aren’t too many places like this left in my area, but there is one in a small village not too far away from where I live that has some fascinating stuff.
Last week I was out and about with daughter number 2 searching for cheap and cheerful crockery for a vintage themed tea party she is holding for some of her friends. A trawl round a few charity shops netted an eclectic mix of cups, saucers and side plates and a rather racy looking cake stand! On our way home we stopped in at the ‘secret’ charity shop on the off-chance and bingo! Three one litre glass jugs for a pound each plus a couple of small side plates completed her purchases for the day.
It was here however that I found my little gems. I am a keen stitcher and anything sewing related is going to get me hyperventilating, so imagine my rapture when I spotted a little wooden box full of embroidery threads alongside a small metal box full of buttons. Oh joy! These things are so often plundered by the chain-charity shops who would charge you 5p per button and probably 50p for each complete skein of thread, the rest most likely being thrown away.
A couple of hours sorting the button box out revealed all manner of interesting buttons, several ‘sets’, quite literally hundreds of shirt buttons and two fabulous finds – a set of 4 metal buttons from the mens uniform jacket from the GB Team of the 1960 Rome Olympics. This was made from grey wool (tropical weight) cloth and had a single breasted jacket with 3 metal buttons, each bearing the Rome Olympic logo (the twins Romulus and Remus) and the date in roman numerals (MCMLX). The jacket also had patch pockets.
Set of 4 metal buttons from the 1960 Rome Olympics mens uniform jacket
1960 Rome Olympic button from Team GB uniform
Now I don’t think for one minute that these buttons have any significant financial value, but they are a fascinating piece of social history and I would really like to know from whose jacket they came.
A second ‘find’ is a single button from the tunic of a member of the Girls Naval Training Corps, a WW2 organisation set up to teach girls how to sail and about seamanship.
Tunic button of the Girls Naval Training Corps
The GNTC was set up in 1942 as part of the National Association of Training Corps for Girls and was run along the same lines as the Sea Cadets. After several years operating alongside the Sea Cadets and a couple of slight changes in name the GNTC was finally absorbed into the Sea Cadets in 1992. Again, this plastic button is unlikely to have any value beyond that of social history; and again, it would be fascinating to know who originally owned and wore it.
The ‘sorted’ button box
The green tin which held the original buttons is now all sorted out and houses just white buttons (with 6 spare giant red ones and an assortment of wooden ones). It is actually an old military box of some sort; I know this partly because it is painted in Olive Drab (the standard colour for Army accessories) and partly because Mr PP was once a serving member of HMF and we have several old boxes of this nature storing stuff.
The embroidery threads in their little partitioned wooden box are still waiting to be sorted out – a job for later this week I think.
Finally, despite my comments about bunting, I have made some bunting for daughter 2’s Tea Party – and yes I have used ‘vintagey’ floral fabric! Hey-ho….