Show and Tell Friday

Sometimes a shop seems more like a museum than a retail outlet. There is one particular inner Auckland treasure trove that I like to visit when I have a town day. I dropped in there yesterday to escape a sudden downpour and to dry out before making my way up the hill to University. The shop is called Upstairs Antiques and you can find it on the first floor of Queen's Arcade in lower Queen Street. The owner is a lovely old lady who has run the business for 34 years. Walking through the door, it feels as if you've stepped into her cluttered parlour rather than into a shop.

The merchandise ranges from crazily expensive antique glassware, books and ceramics to  reasonably priced sewing notions, fabric pieces  and other pretty items like lace handkerchiefs, still in their boxes, and lovely embroidered linen.

These are two delicate silk swatches with ceramic vase prints. The small print at the bottom of the swatches indicates that they were produced by a cigarette company, although I'm not sure why that would be the case. Perhaps the company sponsored an exhibition of Chinese ceramics back in the day.

I mainly visit this shop because if you ask to see the buttons the very nice lady will produce half a dozen shoe-boxes from beneath the counter, which you can happily root through for a good hour or so trying to decide which ones need to come home with you. I chose a card of twelve red buttons with faceted edges because nice red buttons are very hard to find these days. I also chose two toffee coloured diamond shaped buttons and three unusal green corded buttons that will be great as fastenings for a linen workbag.

As a rule, I'm not generally attracted to 'antique' pieces because really old things tend to give me the creeps, but when the kind woman asked if I'd like to have a look at a box of Victorian lace collars, each one wrapped in acid-free tissue, I found my hands trembling as I carefully removed each piece to examine the incredible handiwork. I imagined how these intricate handmade accessories would have transformed a plain linen garment into an elegant ensemble for wearing to church or for hosting an afternoon tea. The stunning piece, pictured above, with strips of silk in the palest shade of green threaded through the silk crochet, ended up coming home with me. Very indulgent, I know, but the collar fits perfectly and I knew immediately that I would be able to use it as a template to make a contemporary version of it, as I did with the collars I made from old ties and scarves using the antique Amish collar (below) that my sister bought for me at a market in Iowa.

Anyway, designing a new textile accessory will be the perfect Easter holiday project, and I hope to incorporate some pretty fabric covered buttons into my version of the Victorian collar.

Enjoy your weekend!


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