There had to be a ‘downside’ to being at Sturt Winter School and that was its proximity to several delightful places specially designed to separate me from my money! One such was the wonderfully eccentric shop Peppergreen in Berrima. Naturally I had to go twice.
On the first visit I managed to walk away with only a hand-made lace doily to add to my collection. On the second visit my wallet fared rather worse and I bought 3 exquisite handworked bags and a ball of French linen twine in red, white and blue. Very patriotic.
‘Bag‘ is too mundane a term to describe these items: they’re the sort of handmade fold-over cotton, silk or linen bags that girls of a previous generation made to keep their special garments in, such as delicate underwear or silk stockings. For some reason there was an entire barrow full on sale and I picked up these for less than $30!
Don’t be under the impression, however, that Peppergreen is cheap. No. However, things would have been considerably more expensive if the shop assistant had been allowed to get away with adding $12.50, $12.50, $10 and $7.50 up on her CALCULATOR and somehow arriving at the grand total of $157 dollars! She didn’t take kindly to me pointing out her error and consequently was extremely snooty with me as I paid.
What I really mean, though, is that there are a lot of gorgeous items in the shop with gorgeous prices: I coveted some shiny glazed blackbird pie funnels but they were $65 each, while the equally enchanting white elephant pie funnels were over $100…
Having said all that, you can’t fault the selection available and if I had more money I’d have been in purchasing heaven. Brass 1940’s doorhandle sets, Victorian jelly and chocolate moulds, hand-stitched quilts and linens from decades ago and every variety of silver or bone-handled cutlery you could imagine. Large boxes full of assorted buttons or mother-of-pearl buttons or whole cards of buttons, drawers full of antique haberdashery, shelves of books, labelled bags of patterns for everything from tatting (did I mention I also bought Italian, German and Spanish tatting patterns and a 1940’s red tatting shuttle…? Oops!) to model train making, rolls of canvas for making espadrilles and quantities of gold thread for bullion-work. Boxes of old dolls’ clothes (I looked but sadly nothing I liked), a hat stand full of 1930s and 1940s hats, jewellry, furs, gloves, combs, paper patterns… I can see why the shop is a magnet for stylists and set dressers.
Just across the road from Peppergreens is the ostensible reason for our two trips into Berrima: the shop The Art of Bookbinding. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised it was open Wednesday to Sunday so when we first turned up, on Tuesday, it was closed. When we came back we cleaned up on rolls of bookcloth, Japanese hand-printed endpapers, bone folders, book binders awls and headbands – or at least, I did! The bone folder and one of the awls are for a friend, but even so I managed to spend a fair amount of money (sigh). The owners, Hugo and Henni van Willigen, have a formidable reputation but they were very welcoming and offered telephone support if we run into technical troubles while binding something, which was nice. I was in awe of their bookbinding equipment, seen in the studio at the back of their shop, but then they are serious bookbinders, working with leather and gold tooling and lots of things about which I know nothing.
So there you have it: Berrima, shopping Mecca in the southern highlands, and blessed with the Gumnut bakery next door too which, in case you were wondering how I know, does the most magnificent vanilla slice and I bought one on each visit to enliven my evenings at Sturt and repel the cold!