I used to shop in charity shops all the time, especially when I was in my late teens and twenties. Then you could pick up a flapper dress, heavily embroidered and beaded; silk chiffon 1940s tea dresses and silk satin 1930s evening dresses. Such were the low prices and lack of fashion interest that these vintage items were affordable to a student, and worn as somewhat eccentric day wear by me and my fellow David Bowie fans. Over the years I have found some amazing things including a Mulberry handbag for £1, silk blouses, cashmere jumpers, lovely belts, 1920s shoes, and lots of 1940s and 1950s cotton summer dresses. Now there is a vintage fashion industry most of the really good stuff is extracted before it gets to your local high street.
I even ran a set of 20 charity shops in London (which were part of Notting Hill Housing in the early days).
These days the charity shops are full of the sort of thing that would otherwise go to landfill – Primark clothes, lots of polyester, Mom jeans and not very stylish shoes. Many shops buy-in goods too – candle holders from India, shoddy scarves from China, greetings cards and gaudy, cheap necklaces. There are nice things, of course, and there are bargains if you know what you are looking for. The smaller towns outside the South East tend to be the best in terms of long forgotten treasures and lower prices.
I can’t resist a quick visit and often spend a few minutes flicking through the racks. I donate all my clothes and household goods to the charity shop and I love the fact that every year this makes a reasonable amount for the charities I support (especially as they are gift aided too, getting some of my tax back). But I don’t come away with anything worth shouting about.
However this weekend, wandering around in Whalley, bedecked as it was in Union Jacks celebrating “our independence” from the European Union (the country is divided, even my family is divided with everyone over 65 taking one view, and the rest of us being keen Remainers), I found something wonderful.
I am not sure if someone was having a clear out, but it was nice to come across a good selection of sewing books (I left several for the next person) amongst the out of date travel guides and Jamie’s dinners. Of course these sewing books are all available, second hand, through Amazon for about £8 each, plus postage. I find even the rather dated ones useful in terms of good explanations of techniques – certainly as good as some of the newer books which are more expensive and rarely as thorough. And the really old ones don’t date – the Natalie Bray includes illustrations from the 1940s which are useful if you like making tailored and vintage style clothes. While I appreciate the modern Japanese books too with their very different approach to pattern cutting and style, I feel these older ones are always relevant, don’t you?
I also bought some knitting items. Sharon on Clitheroe market sells a range of donated goods to raise money for the local children’s hospice. I knew she had a good range of knitting needles, in all the sizes, and I as I am “thinking” about knitting a jumper I decided to start at the very beginning. I also snapped up a little booklet that explains how to check your tension and block your work. This “handy” guide obviously came free with a knitting magazine, although I am not sure why someone would want to “use the ring” to attach the cards to their knitting bag.
What is the blue plastic thing? Another “free gift” with a women’s magazine I thought it might be handy. I wonder if you know what it is for? Maybe you got one in the 1980s and use it all the time?
Do let me know what you think below and I will give you the answer on Friday.
(Sorry post was truncated earlier; now restored)