But, my friends, this was one was different. I could tell as soon as we walked in the door. Well, after the lady yelled at us after we walked in the door, I could tell. Actually she didn't yell, per say, but I wasn't expecting to have to take a number when we walked in, kind of like a deli counter.
My husband had promised me a day of shopping for my birthday and I happened to stumble upon this store as we were walking near Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti (aka Fabric Heaven). When I was there the other day, I believe this is the merceria that they had recommended, but in our excitement that they had understood that we were looking for a zipper, the directions to where to buy the zipper had gone over our heads. We did eventually find a zipper, but the store we found seemed more fitting for home decor projects —lots of tassels and window treatment notions. I digress. Back to this place. So I told my husband we would just go in and look so I could go back later. But now, we were in possession of a number! We would have to get something. I was in need of buttons, interfacing and a new pair of scissors. We took a deep breath and went for it.
First, let me describe the shop. Tucked in a little piazza, the store was pretty small. One small square room (where the front door leads into) with shelves of buttons (from floor to ceiling), a rack or two of Burda patterns, another wall filled with drawers of lace trim, a glass counter stuffed with beads, a cashier and then all nooks and crannies around the room overflowing with other notions. There was also a staircase that led upstairs, where I think was the yarn, but we didn't go up there.
Then you go around the corner to a second room. This one was a long narrow rectangular room with the cutting counter, in front of rows of lining and fabric, a huge rack of ribbon, more drawers of trim (this looked more like rick-rack and more decorative ribbon) and then scissors, rotary cutters, and the random knitting items. The rooms were small and jammed packed with stuff and people. The staff was helping customers one number at a time. And it was busy. Women were buying lace, thread, fabric, and trim all around us. We found it hard to stay out of the way while we were waiting.
Finally our number came up and a (very friendly) woman came to help us. We told her that I needed three black buttons. She started to pull down the trays of buttons from the cabinet behind her and laid the options on the bead counter. The first couple were just meh. For those who know me, choosing buttons or trim can take me weeks of agonizing indecision. But here in this store, I had to choose. She brought out a couple more options and I just had to decide. I did:
I chose buttons in about five minutes. This is a world record for me!
I still needed interfacing. This I knew would be tricky, even though I had promised myself that I would look the translation up before I tried to buy it, it didn't happen. We needed the big guns. The dictionary came out. We (my husband, actually!) described what we needed (even though he didn't really understand it) and eventually we got to a common sewing ground. She understood, or we made ourselves clearer, either way: Yay! She brought down a fusible interfacing in black and we could cross that off the list. Next was a simple pair of scissors, so no problem. She wrote it all down on a slip (similar to the fabric store) and handed it to the cashier. We paid and left.
I was giddy. It was actually really exciting to do all this in such a crazy busy (and crazy small) shop. And the best part? My husband turned to me and said, "That was a lot of fun!" Whether he was being nice for the sake of birthday or not, I think he genuinely had a good time being in the midst of a very busy, bustling every-day Roman sewing store (the farthest away from tourist you could get). I think he also enjoyed trying to use his Italian, and he said he would go again with me. That was the best present ever.
Okay. Onward with my project!