Monday, February 18, 2008


So the husband took me thrifting. It wasn't our plan per-se, but it turned out that way. We had always planned on eating breakfast out this past weekend, to celebrate Valentine's Day. We would have gone to dinner, but we are keeping a tight rein on that wallet and we love breakfast out, so this suited us.

On our way out of Lowell Saturday morning we decided to "just see" if that tantalizing thrift/junk shop was open. We had only recently spotted it, on a street we traveled frequently. How had we missed it before? I'll be honest, it isn't a great block; a lot of people hang around there that I would not like to hang around with. We drove slowly up the street and there was that OPEN sign! We quickly parked and ran in. An older gentleman (he told us he was 83) and an equally aged helper were hauling furniture around the shop. The shop has been there for 15 years! He buys out houses. It was huge, full of old stuff. I immediately asked for sewing buttons as D checked out the records, CDs, magazines and books.

Here's a look inside:

D's parents are antiques dealers who still intrepidly set up at shows. I was hatched a fully formed pack rat. I must collect, I have no choice. We were in our element. I stumbled upon a spectacular cache of vintage buttons and could barely contain my glee. Probably didn't, I have a tendency toward tells; flushed cheeks, crazy grin. Still, the shop owner didn't overcharge me which was kind because sometimes they do when they smell a live one. D helped the men move some furniture. We got a price on a set of Viewmaster slides but didn't buy them. That wallet again. I can almost justify the purchase when the items are art supplies, like buttons. Plus I will be selling some in my DeStash shop this year. That will help.

We paid the man, ran over the icy sidewalks back to the car and got the hell out of there. Next stop: Billerica. We like the Belly Buster Diner on 3A. The food is good, the wait staff are smart and fast, the crowd is relaxed; mostly families, old timers, couples or dads out with the team after the game. And next door is a thrift/consignment shop called Shank's Mare (which means "on foot"). D didn't find much in there he was interested in, there's a high percentage of new stuff, so he took a quick look then waited for me in the car, patient soul. I found some vintage yarns and of course, more buttons. Plus a beautiful teal Pyrex in a bread pan shape.

Here's D after breakfast and Shank's Mare (he's not mad, he's just got a serious look):

After that I had the fever and needed to complete the trilogy so we headed for Goodies. This is a place we used to like better, both of us. It was taken over by a new owner who is nice enough but who talks TOO MUCH. Good lord. We were leaving, out the door and she was starting a new story. Also, her prices are a bit high and the place is so jammed you can't actually get to much. Still, she was very nice and dug up all the buttons she could find for me. I found a gallon Ziploc full that was priced well and got that. I left many prizes behind because I am cheap.

Here is the light coming through her glass display:

After that I knew I should stop. I already have thousands of buttons and I'd just bought thousands more. I'm like a compulsive gambler, the feeling is the same I'd guess. So we went on another of our favorite weekend dates: to a big box book store for coffee and free reading. I look at all the craft magazines and books, D checks out the latest in fiction.

But I couldn't concentrate knowing I had treasure in the back seat! When we got home I dumped the buttons on the table and started sorting:

I think you can see I am "in the zone" as D says.

I sorted for the rest of the evening, by color, by material. Later I will further sort by number of holes, perhaps size. The sorting itself is a joy, it involves thinking of all the garments and people the buttons touched, thinking about the beautiful way things were made in the past, what they were made of; bakelite, celluloid, mother of pearl, wood, glass. And the possibility of making something beautiful using a button that might have languished unnoticed, unloved, in a box, in a drawer, in a thrift shop.

And I wasn't just being insane buying all those buttons, I was actually trying to boost my collection in certain colors, I need red and pink having used up most of my best on my felty heart pins, and I wanted more aqua buttons, which are hard to find. But I have visions of uses for the others; barrettes, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, more pins, I'm so excited!

I fell asleep that night planning button storage and display...sigh.


  1. That sounds like so much fun! I am definitely checking out the thrift shop and Gist and I are always looking for good breakfast joints!

  2. Yeah, let me know what you think! He was smoking in there, and he had some stuff that after D looked at it, he was like, "Those aren't for sale!" So they are in your shop because...? But I liked him. And he didn't mind me digging around in the boxes under the tables.

    And let me know what you think of Belly Buster too :) (FYI: world's most awkward bathroom)

  3. Wow, you've got buttons! I love the photo of you "in the zone".
    I also love your thoughts on the journey of those vintage buttons. You are a true artist. :)

  4. Great report! Beautiful buttons, beautiful daughter!

    Love, Mom

  5. You thrifted in the ghetto! LOL. :-D

  6. love your blog - put it on my blog list of favs so i can come back and browse

  7. I lovvvvvve buttons. I actually have a trunkful at my store and I dig in that trunk at least once a week picking out little gems and then putting them back. They are so super addicting!

  8. Hello, I've been lurking through your journal after stumbling across it in google. I also live in Lowell and occasionally make art. I like reading about your thrift store outings because I never know where to find that stuff around here. My "old" favorite place to go was the 2-story antique mall on the main street in Haverhill, however I went there last week to find out that it is permanently closed =( a part of me died.