Tue 26 Feb 2013
A week or so ago, word came through the local knitting grapevine that Windsor Button is closing its doors. After 75 of business, their landlord has decided to renovate, and I guess it’s just time to move on. At first glance, it seems like this should just be another notice of a store closing and things changing in downtown Boston. And yet, somehow this is much more than that.
I had never been to the store itself, but I know it from my grandmother and my mother and a hundred other crafty people in my life who used to frequent the once-chain of stores. This was the place to go for sewing notions, for all of the buttons and other oddments that go into making of clothes. The New England crafting community talks of this place in that longing, reverential tone that knitters use to describe a visit to WEBs, or maybe to Rhinebeck. It has clearly always been a center and a mainstay for the creatively-minded, and it has been on my list of places to visit ever since we came back to the city. It’s always felt like one of those major landmarks that you can count on to be there when you need it, always ready with the perfect notion or little detail, always stocked with just the thing you need. In fact, I remember saying to Branden that being near Windsor Button would be one of the big crafting perqs of living back in Boston – always knowing that the perfect finish was just a few T stops away. I hadn’t made it over there yet, but it’s one of those places you keep in your back pocket, looking for just the right occasion to visit.
There used to be several stores planted around the area, but over the decades they have dwindled to just the flagship store, nestled in the heart of Boston. And now, that one store is about to blink out of existence.
On Saturday, we went to visit before it disappears.
It’s not much to look at from the outside; just a simple name on a pretty plain building. But there’s a large yarn store, a huge notions section, and a button wall tucked inside. And yes, I do mean a button wall.
There are buttons of all shapes and sizes, and plenty of each kind (no running short of one button for a sweater like in most stores I’ve been to). Each button is copied on the front of the bin with a price, so you can browse from the sales counter, and ask a clerk to get down the boxes you want to look at. (I wish you could browse directly, but I can only imagine the practical hurdles of managing a setup like that.) The selection truly is mythic.
I spent an hour or so there, browsing my way up and down the counter, looking for the unusual and unique that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. All things considered, I think I came out with a pretty reasonable collection (click to embiggen):
I was shocked to find myself drawn to those big, bold buttons (the blue one in the top left is about 2″ across!), but they’d be just the thing for a casual wrap that wants a touch of stylishness, or to dress up a bag or jacket someday. I was thrilled to find the silver clasp closures for the front of a sweater or shawl. I have wanted something like this a few times before, and these are much, much better quality than I could get at JoAnn’s. Overall, I was drawn to asymmetry, found a few flashy things, but mostly ended up with a collection of nice, solid buttons that you’d put on a favorite sweater. I also picked up some hardware for making bags:
And a random assortment of simple buttons from the $5 a bag bin.
All in all, I am quite happy with the haul. It wasn’t inexpensive to make a button collection in sweater quantities (from scratch) in a day, but I do love the ones that came home with me, and I’m sure they’ll find their way into something someday.
I am very sad to see this store go, not only because of the quality of their selection, but also because of the place that they have held in the hearts of crafters for generations. Everyone who knows the store has a memory of shopping trips with their grandmother, or some other fond recollection. Thank you, Windsor Button. You will be sorely missed.