What do you do when you are in an unfamiliar city where you don’t know anyone, hundreds of miles away from home?
Why, you find the nearest fabric shop, of course!
This is exactly what I did when I was travelling to a conference in Chicago in May 2018. I have been dreaming of going to America for a very long time, but for various reasons, it took so long for me to get there for the very first time. An architect friend who used to live in America once told me that it’s the most beautiful city in the States (her views, please don’t get up in arms!), so I was particularly excited to start my American adventures here.
Spoiler alert: I loved it, though it took me a bit to get acclimatised to the ‘bigger is better’ way that applies to just about everything over there.
Before I left, I did a bit of research to find some local fabric shops, but I could not find a lot of blogs with recommendations. There are of course Yelp and Google listings, but I wanted to get some views from sewing people. I also asked questions on IG and stalked #chicagosews tag, but not a lot of luck until the very last minute (read on for the whole story).
So, although I only visited two shops, they were something else, and I just had to write a post and save my impressions for other visitors.
This guide is a contribution to my Fabric Shops Directory project.
TEXTILE DISCOUNT OUTLET
I had been warned about this shop, that it’s insanely big and you can get lost. Tilly, when she visited, said she expected to find the bones of past fabric shoppers buried somewhere under some piles of fabric.
Check out a The Grid video for a full-on impression.
I visited on a Thursday afternoon after my conference finished, and it was really easy to get there on the train, less than 20 minutes from the Loop (downtown Chicago). It’s a 5-7 mins walk from the Damen Pink line station, in the Pilsen neighbourhood. It was a bit of a change from the skyscraper skyline in the centre, with clapperboard houses and more of a residential feeling. But it was all forgotten as was getting quite fluttery with excitement as soon as I walked through the door.
It definitely does not disappoint, size wise! There are more than 10 large rooms, over two floors, containing both dressmaking and massive amounts of home decor fabrics. They also have massive racks of trims, ribbon, feathers, pretty much whatever you can think of.
They are a bit pall-mall in some areas, and it’s pretty much self-service, i.e. you grab a trolley, take the rolls off the racks and take them to the large cutting tables to be cut and measured.
They have the biggest selection on leather I have ever seen, from coloured, textured and just plain skins.
It really is quite overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a plan. I didn’t, but at the same time, I didn’t want to go home without getting anything at all. So I decided on some unselfish sewing, and I got some rayon with metallic thread for two Seamwork Alameda kimono (I already have the pattern in my stash) which will be presents for my two good friends I will be visiting in Romania shortly.
What I really liked what that if you are looking for a particular shade or pretty much any type of fabric, they will probably have it.
Not to mention this animal print madness…
The prices are fairly reasonable, but if you are not American, don’t forget that the displayed price is not the final one, they need to add the sales tax, which in Illinois is 10.5%.
Textile Discount Outlet Details:
VOGUE FABRICS EVANSTON
This is hands down my favourite fabric shop ever! It’s the biggest, tidiest shop I have ever seen, and definitely nothing comparable in the UK. I was so overwhelmed that I only just now realised how few pictures I actually took!
Vogue is a family run business who has been around since 1945, and it’s really well known to sewists in the area, but also in the neighbouring states. I met the owner who told me that they get buses of people coming from all over to stuff their fabric bags here!
And I am not surprised at all! There is something here for every taste and for every budget! Again, maybe too much choice can be an issue if you haven’t got something specific in mind. But it’s pretty awesome if you are looking for good quality or rarer fabrics.
The prices vary from very reasonable to quite expensive, but for sure on par with the quality.
They stock dressmaking fabrics, home decor, speciality fabrics (religious ones, for example), but also haberdashery, tool, sewing machines and patterns.
I again managed to be very restrained, and I only bought a few meters of kasha satin lining, which is not available in the UK. I got a beautiful taupe colour that will hopefully end up inside that mythical winter coat that has yet to happen.
Details Vogue Fabrics
I went to Evanston because of the lovely Mary Beth from IG, who picked up that I was in Chicago and sent me a message asking if I’d like to meet up. Of course, I did! She posted a message on Facebook and Sheila joined us as well!
We had a fabulous time chatting and drinking pink wine and I can definitely vouch that Midwesterners are incredibly lovely and friendly!
OTHER FABRIC SHOPS IN CHICAGO
I haven’t visited these shops, but I’m listing their details in case anyone might be interested.
Vast warehouse stocking a wide array of select upholstery & garment material from around the world.
JOANN Fabrics and Crafts
New Rainbow Fabrics
Before I sign off, a quick reminder about the latest update of the Fabric Shops Directory, with a few really good locations being added (including Chicago, of course).
- Edinburgh, UK
- Helsinki, Finland
- Indianapolis, USA
- Munich, Germany
- Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
- Portland, USA
- Seoul, South Korea
Never to miss the updates to the Directory. Click below to subscribe and receive an email with all new destinations added.