A Theatre of Buttons

It’s been a whirlwind week.

First a trip to Montréal for fun with three friends (from Henhouse Fibers and ilo), and right on its tails a trip to New York for work. My mind is abuzz with ideas and plans after viewing art, design and textiles in both cities.

And spring arrived in the midst of all the travel. I am thankful for that.

What stands out at the top of my list from these two expeditions is a lovely confection of a button shop in the garment district of Montréal. It was the final stop on our jaunt on Rue St-Hubert north of Boulevard Jean Talon. We were tired and had inhaled our share of must and dust from lifting bolts of fabric and pawing through ribbons and trims in many quirky shops on this street. So the button shop came as a true grand finale.

The name is Rubans Boutons. Richard Letendre, the shop owner, held court in the narrow charming shop. The first third of the space was full of drawers of buttons and a few vintage dressforms and lamps adorned in interesting ways with ribbons and trims. Then there were red velvet curtains, pulled back to reveal the rest of the shop. A glass case in the center  displayed a museum of vintage buttons, many of them from Paris.

In one case there was a sea of thousands of buttons that could be purchased by the bag (three sizes to choose from and six prices depending on whether you hand-picked the contents or just filled the bag at random). My friend Brenda and I got right down to business hand picking buttons.

We were the only visitors in the shop so we struck up an easy conversation with Richard, who is a playwright in the quiet hours of shopkeeping. The plays he writes are then performed in the shop (explaining the velvet curtains). He has a show coming up in May. All around the till there were button rings, jewelry and sculptures made by his girlfriend. The place was a veritable notion fantasy!

The walls were filled with clear vials full of large and small buttons of shell, wood, glass and other interesting materials. Denise and Janet collected vials of buttons to lay against fabrics they’d purchased earlier in the day. Ribbons and trims were of the highest quality and many were like ones I’d only seen in places like Paris or London: silky and leafy designs, quality grosgrains, and gossamer silks.

The silken leaf trim was so unusual and the shade of mossy green so irresistible that I bought several meters. Only a little remained on the spool and Richard told me how he loved the color but didn’t think he’d reorder it since he saw the newer dye lot and it wasn’t nearly as lovely. Not a sales pitch–just a lament that things change and quality shifts with time. I purchased what was left on the spool and now I am cooking up ideas for where to use it. For now it hangs from hop vines above the dining table.

I will never travel to Montréal again without a trip to this special place. If you’re going too, let me know and I will meet you there!

Rubans Boutons, 7363, rue St-Hubert, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, H2R 2N4, 514.847.3535

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Britta
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 12:29:45

    Choosing some buttons in this fantastic store must be so exciting. I love the little paper vest with the 3 nacre buttons. Have a great springy weekend, my dear friend! xo, Britta

    Reply

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