crafts · fabric · Sewing · travel

Fabric shopping: Chicago, Minneapolis, and Joann’s (?)

I have retrieved my fabric from my in-laws, and I’m ready to talk about the fabric stores I visited on my trip!  I asked for suggestions here, and you were all kind enough to give me the details on the best places to visit.  I made a plan of attack: visit the Textile Discount Outlet, Fishman’s Fabrics, and the downtown Vogue fabrics location on the same day (they are all near each other) and visit SR Harris in Minneapolis.

We drove to Chicago on Wednesday and made it to our hotel (in Schaumburg – I usually stay downtown, but the price was right, and we weren’t staying long.  Note to self: never again.  Other note to self: should you ever move to Chicago, live close to downtown – the traffic is madness!)  We did go to a fun restaurant there – a conveyor belt sushi place.  I wouldn’t say it was the best sushi I’ve ever had, but it was a fun novelty, and really not bad for what it was.  The next day we went downtown to (among other things) visit the fabrics stores.

Textile Discount Outlet – 2121 W. 21st street

I read the reviews of this place saying how huge and messy it was, but I was not prepared.  I think this photo says it all:

Want that fabric?  Be prepared to move a literal mountain of foam!

I actually love places where you have to dig, but I didn’t find anything to buy here.  There is a ton of polyester, and I’m not against that in general, but nothing really appealed to me.  I was also running on very little sleep, so I was maybe not in the mood to dig deeper.  This place is totally worth a visit if you’re in Chicago – there are several floors in an old warehouse that are literally piled with fabrics (I’d say it’s maybe half home dec? Seems like it would be great to visit for that purpose.)

Fishman’s Fabrics – 1101 South Desplaines Street

This store is located very close to the downtown Vogue Fabrics – less than a block I’d say.  The store is clean and well organized – the photo on the website is very accurate to what the store looks like.  There are salespeople eager to help you with your project, and a good selection of interesting trims.  I’ll be honest – I’m probably too much of a bargain shopper to love this place.  The fabric is all lovely, but it’s mostly pretty expensive.  I don’t shop that way, but that’s because I have the time and willingness to scrounge through piles and wait for sales.  I also go through a pretty high volume of fabric, so I like to save money where I can.  If you want a special piece of fabric this would be a great place to shop!  They have a fun collection of articles and memorabilia from their long history in the entryway, and I enjoyed reading all about the history of the place.

Vogue Fabrics – 623 West Roosevelt

I visited the downtown location.  I did not make it to the flagship store in Evanston, but I enjoyed the downtown location.  There is a lot of fabric in this place.  Organization isn’t too bad, but it’s not great either – there are a lot of mystery fabric bolts.  There is a whole room of remnants, most of which are a decent size (enough for a top or short dress.)  This was my favorite of the Chicago stores, although I once again failed to buy anything (as I mentioned, I was pretty tired and coming down with a sinus infection!)  I really wish there had been a better selection of natural fibers – as with most stores these days, there was more poly than anything else.  I wasn’t surprised, because one of my frustrations with the vogue website is how much polyester they carry, but I suppose they know what sells better than I do!  I don’t hate polyester in some forms (knits mostly) but I wouldn’t choose any of its more slippery forms (charmeuse, chiffon etc) because they are so hard to work with.  And yes, that is a poly charmeuse down the page… the price was right and I loved the print, I’m a hypocrite!

So yeah, I left without buying anything – can you believe it? I think I was not in the mood.  But I still had one more stop.  Several days later my husband and I ventured off to SR Harris in Minneapolis (my in-laws live in St. Paul, and it was about a 35 minute drive to the store.)  And this is where I fell in love:

This store is huge.  Seriously, the photo doesn’t even begin to show the size of this store.  It’s basically organized in sections – linens/wools/knits/shirting/knits/quilting/ silks/designer fabrics.  There is a lot of fabric.  It’s not all labeled – some is wound onto reused bolts.  The fabric is stacked in a way that requires some serious muscle power to get out of the stacks!  The best part?  A ton of natural fibers.  Tons.  It was easy to find the area I wanted, though not to find fabrics.  I spent two hours here, and could have taken more time.

Fabric cutting is self-serve, and checkout is on the honor system (you make a tag for each fabric with the price on the bolt and how much you cut.)  All fabric is 50% off the bolt price (I assume this is all the time.)  This makes most fabrics roughly the price you would pay online at a place like fashion fabrics club or  It’s a great deal in my eyes, particularly if you know what you’re looking for!  They have a decent selection of designer fabrics – I saw Donna Karan, Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren, and even a few Milly prints (sadly, not the ones I wanted!)  I didn’t buy any of those, choosing to take my chances in the stacks.  Here is my final haul, along with the patterns I’m considering.

I was able to buy three linens to make my colorblocked shift dress (Vogue 8805).  I plan to make this soon – I love the color combo!

Nice quality matte jersey to make McCall’s 6553.  The color is a deep grey.  I’m fascinated by this pattern, and not at all convinced it won’t look like a giant weird sack (it has a belt through the front only) but I want to try!

This was a mystery fabric – I think it might be a linen, but it was filed with the denims.  I want to make a dress with some chevron stripes – maybe Vogue 8789, which is designed for stripes.  On the other hand, this fabric is a bit on the stiff side – I’ll have to wash it and see how it comes out.

This is a Michael Miller linen/cotton print.  I love the print so much, and want to make a fun novelty skirt using New Look 6872.  This print comes from a collection of Tammis Keefe reprints they came out with a bit ago.  It will need to be lined.

This is a soft batik print.  I thought it was a rayon challis(it was not labeled, other than manufacturer name) but according to the Robert Kaufman website it’s a combed cotton.  Either way it’s soft with a nice drape, and appropriate for clothing.  I ordered the Jade dress from Style Arc along with my recent order, and I think this would be a good fit!  It has a beachy feel, which I like even though I don’t go to the beach (and I love the turtles.)

I also bought this cotton/lycra print.  The pale seaglass green is my favorite shade, and I couldn’t resist.  I’m not sure what I will use it for (a vintage dress I think) but I’m glad I picked it up!

On our way home I went to a Joann’s on a rest break (that’s a long drive!)  They had 50% off clearance fabrics, and they were getting rid of the April Johnson Project Runway line from last year (they have new fabrics – the line looks to be recurring.)  And yes, it’s sad that I ended up buying fabrics there – but I don’t have a real hate on for Joann’s.  For many people it’s their only fabric source, and I really feel like they’ve been trying hard to improve their apparel fabric offerings.  Plus – cheap!  None of this was over $5 a yard, and most was much less.

This fabric looks like lots of tiny eyes staring at you.  Try to unsee that image now!  But I like it anyway, and want to use it to make Simplicity 1803 (I’ve been looking for a fabric all spring for this one!)

I mentioned Burda 7220 the other day.  I want to try it in this fabric, which is a bit lighter than it looks on my screen.  Orange isn’t my usual thing, but I liked this one for some reason – and it’s the same on both sides, essential for the odd hem.

I also picked up this Burda (7204) when I got the pattern above.  Wouldn’t the top from this pattern look nice in a turquoise tie-dye voile?

I got two other clearance fabrics that I don’t have any ideas for – but I’m sure something will come up!


The sequin print is a poly charmeuse, and I know… it isn’t my favorite fabric.  But I think it could make a cute blouse, and I’ve liked it since I first saw it (it was something like $3 a yard.)  The second fabric is a cotton sateen.  I’m considering Vogue 1298, the new Rachel Comey dress.

22 thoughts on “Fabric shopping: Chicago, Minneapolis, and Joann’s (?)

  1. I have a piece of that stripe in a blue colorway, and the bolt said linen/rayon, not sure of the exact %. It washes up beautifully, by the way. Nice fabric haul! I was totally overwhelmed the one time I got to shop at Vogue, but that didn’t stop me from spending $100 on some of their lovely wool suitings!

  2. What a great haul! Lovely fabrics and fun patterns to go with them. I hardly sew any more due to time constraints and the fact that there are no decent fabric stores within 35+ miles of me. The largest, most diverse one is more than 1.5 hr drive one way and though it has a beautiful selection, it is very pricey. So lucky you for having such a fun excursion.

  3. Lot’s of lovely fabrics and plans there!
    Jealous of your haul.

    US fabric shops generally seem to be bigger and often better than UK ones. Or at least in Yorkshire there are no warehouses like that which I’ve seen. Maybe someone will correct me!?

    1. Most fabric stores here aren’t like that – only the ones that are concentrated in larger cities. I used to live near one, but it closed, so I have to do my shopping online or on trips now!

  4. You got a really nice haul! And I’m with you on the polyester thing. I would absolutely LOVE to have access to a larger selection of affordable natural fibers. Sometimes I dream about starting a fabric manufacturing business….and then I wake up and reality kicks in. I think it would tick me off to try and buy fabric somewhere that the pieces aren’t labeled wrt content. I want to know, dangit!

  5. How fun. I wish I had known about the Minneapolis store when I’ve visited in the past. I am really interested in the orange Burda top too. I think I want to make that pattern.

  6. Beautiful fabrics, and the plans to go with them. One question: where is your husband while you go fabric shopping on your vacation? He sounds like a super supportive guy!

    1. My husband is awesome. When we travel his primary objective is to really see the city – not the touristy places, but the real city where people live. So I’ll plan somewhere to go, set the gps to avoid highways, and we go explore the city, eventually ending up at the store. But yes, he went with me to all those stores! To be fair, he has hobbies too – I visited two lego stores on this trip, and went with him to see “The museum of questionable medical devices.”

      1. Where is the museum of questionable medical devices??? Because that sounds hilarious.

        I love your linens for the colorblocked Vogue. I had a skirt/blouse set back in the late 80s- early 90s that was white to peach to aqua with a navy skirt, so your dress reminds me of that.

  7. Super fun! Have you seen sallieoh’s version of McCall’s 6553? It looks super cool! I think your plans sound amazing! Looking forward to seeing these in action!

  8. SR Harris another one of my must get to stores – so I’ve got a serious case of fabric envy here! *LOL* I can’t wait to see your V8805 in linen because I’m making mine in ponte…worried about the wrinkles for me. You got a great haul and I can’t believe you’ve assigned it all to patterns already!

    1. I figure it’s going to wrinkle, but I’m adding a lining which should help. I thought about ponte, but I’m already making a ponte color blocked dress for fall! You must go to SR Harris sometime – it was amazing!

  9. ugh! JEALOUS!! I’ve cut myself off from buying fabric until I can get to the zillion projects I already have in my head. I’m looking forward to your NL6872 with that cute fabric. Actually, I’m looking forward to all of your projects. Love your blog!

  10. Jessica: Some time ago u posted about a photograph blog. I have no idea where I had the info, it was a tuto about making a white box for being able to photograph ur projects. Will u be so kind as to direct me to it? t hanks, Jimena

  11. How much fabric do you usually buy when you don’t have a piece of clothing in mind at the time of purchase? I would think 3 yards? but I hate having a yard or more left over.

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