The one stop shop holds no appeal for us. We are in thrall to the specialist retailer whose stock is selected with care, each item’s purpose understood and its provenance known. These establishments are too often embattled, pushed out but not replaced by big stores. They’re not all gone though, and some of those that survive are in rude health.
One such place is Ramsgate’s Haberdashery Shop. Occupying a site left vacant by McDonald’s, walls and aisles are lined with thread, bobbins, needles, scissors, tape measures, snap fasteners and row upon row of buttons in every imaginable shape, size and colour – toggles, football buttons, bear noses, eyeballs, letters and numbers. It’s no exaggeration to say this is the best selection of buttons we’ve ever seen. On the upper floor are fabrics, zips, feathers and anything else required for sewing projects large or small.
An inventory as exhaustive and specialist as this seems well suited to the internet, until one considers the scale of that undertaking – measuring, describing and photographing thousands of small items. So for now, seekers of missing buttons and stray braiding must head to Thanet and the exhaustive archive of The Haberdashery Shop.