In Search of Boston’s Fabric District

Unexpected excursions are wonderful, but when they are with your sister and include fabric shopping, they just could not get any better.  My sister’s husband was taking a business trip from Florida to Boston and graciously invited her to join him. We were nonchalantly texting when she said where she was going. Seriously! Being from Connecticut, I feel like the Boston to New York City corridor is all one state and that she was going to be in my state without telling me. Of course, I invited myself to come up, so she decided what we would do for the day.

 Boston Harbor as seen on the water ferry.

Boston Harbor as seen on the water ferry.

Neither one of us had ever been to the garment/fabric district in Boston, yet we are both sewers/crafters who grew up in the Boston suburbs. We had always shopped at the century-old, Saftler’s in Whitman, which devastated us when we found out that they closed. Since I was at home with a desktop computer and she was in a hotel, it was my job to find all the names and addresses of the fabric stores and efficiently map it for the day.

 The plaque for the Leather District on South Street

The plaque for the Leather District on South Street

Our first stop was in the heart of Chinatown, which coincides with that of the garment district. On our way we passed the sign for the leather district, but when we googled it on our phone and searched at each entrance way, we could not see any sign and nothing gave any indication that they were industires still left in the leather district. We could see that there were many floors that could have contained unlabeled companies, however, they all looked dark and uninhabited, so we moved on through Chinatown.

 Chinatown in Boston

Chinatown in Boston

Van’s Fabrics was our first stop.  It is located on 14 Beach Street with an entry that requires being buzzed in. It is a rather small shop that takes advantage of every inch of space. As befitting its location, it revels in Asian prints and silks.  These are truly one-of-a-kind bolts of fabric. We each had our secret list of fabrics that we wanted to spy or shall I say truthfully, buy, but they were not at Van’s Fabrics. Those were for another day.

 Van's Fabric 

Van's Fabric 

On the corner of Beach and Harrison, we see the remains of another fabric store, but it has long been closed.  We surmise that this is Harrison Textile on our list and cross it off.

Harrison Street was the home to Grey’s Fabric and Notions, but I had seen on the web that it was permanently closed, so we did not bother to track it down. As it turns out, it was purchased by Mercer’s Fabric and just recently moved to 121 Charles Street. Judging by its website http://mercersfabric.com, it looks promising and carries many modern pattern designers and fabrics. I hope the new owner, Natalie Mercer, does well, as it looks like Boston is need of a new and upcoming fabric store.

On to Chauncy Street to look for Fabrics for You, but it also did not exist.

Dido for Clement Textile and New England Textile on Chauncy Street.

 Winmil Fabrics

Winmil Fabrics

Finally, an open shop…Winmil Fabrics at 111 Chauncy Street. The outside looks promising with large windows and a comfortable entrance, but inside is disappointing.  It looks as if it is ready to close any day.  The shelves are bare. Remnants are hung on hangers on clothes racks that are pushed far apart to make it look like there are more choices than there are. We walk around thinking that maybe that special fabric will just be waiting for us, but our hopes are dashed as we round the last corner, but feeling that it probably was an admirable store in its day.

 Winmil Fabrics

Winmil Fabrics

Windsor Button Shop was just around the corner on 35 Temple Street, but as you can probably guess by now, it was closed too.

 The former Windsor Button

The former Windsor Button

Well that changed our plans.  We had exhausted our entire list of fabric shops and it was not even lunchtime.  We discussed taking the “T” and visiting other shops, but decided that we would just lesiurely walk to Faneuil Hall for lunch and then of course, dessert. We would shop afterwards.  Well, as sisters do, we talked the afternoon away and had a thoroughly marvelous time just enjoying one another’s company. Then in the evening, on to the North End to drool over all the bakery shops that we could have eaten at, only to end a great day with a truly authentic Italian dinner with her husband, making it a fabulous memory.

So Boston, where are your fabric stores? I would love to know where you Bostonians shop for your fabric.