Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Can’t explore a coral reef? Try a discount fabric store


     One big benefit of never going anywhere is that when you finally do go somewhere, it’s really cool. I probably would have been happy just to enter an interior space and be surrounded by walls other than my own. And here I was, wandering this incredible brilliant soft world of fabric in Pilsen. And not just cloth: spools of ribbon and thread, buttons and glittery fringe. But mostly fabric, in big log-like bolts, in scraps on the floor, pulled out in dizzying sheets for inspection. 
     I wish I could say that I went because of my relentless journalistic curiosity, exploring every corner of the city, seeking out the new and fantastic. But you don’t need to go anywhere for that: a firehose of the incredible — mostly incredibly bad news from Washington — hits you in the face every day. Hard.
     The reason is ordinary. Many are remodeling the homes they’ve been stuck in for six months and will remain stuck in for God knows how long. My wife and I, despite my pretensions to the contrary, are ordinary suburban folks. We’re remodeling the TV room, which has the same grim white linoleum floor and mournful blue walls it had when we bought the place 20 years ago.
     Over the past half year, we finally took a good look at the two sofas the boys spent 15 years jumping on and squirting juice boxes over. One had to go immediately. When I dragged it to the street, and saw its tears and stains in daylight, I was sincerely ashamed, embarrassed to have it sit on the curb, evidence of our unseen interior lives. I worried that the neighbors would think less of us. “Look what the Steinbergs had in their house!” We North Shore types can be so judgmental, and no judgment is more welcome than one confirming superiority over somebody else.

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  1. I’ve heard that to get rid of a couch more discretely you can use a sawzall (reciprocating saw) to cut it into pieces and then put the pieces out in the trash a little bit at a time. Those are cool saws.

    1. I did that once for a condo.
      But in Chicago, just leave it in the alley, thee city garbage men will take it, although sometimes they wait an extra week to do so.
      You can also just call for a special pickup.

  2. Perfect pitch for this horrible historical moment.


  3. I'm certainly content to marvel at this establishment from afar. (Neil went there, so you don't have to, adapting the Bobwatch motto.) Just looking at the photos of the mishmash of assorted, uh, stuff, makes me vaguely anxious, I gotta say. But to spend hours there, punctuated by lunch, and walk out empty-handed, unable to spot "the exact right fabric?" That's cherce, indeed...

  4. I've been there a couple of times, years ago. I'm glad to see they're still open. There is something hypnotic about wandering up and down the isles. It's easy to get lost. "Have I been down this isle before?" There's so much to see it's overwhelming. I was also looking for fabric for a slipcover, and while you're looking for what you want, you just tend to stop and look at stuff you have no intention of buying: "oh look, pink sequin material!!". It's weird but kinda fun.

  5. In the late Seventies, I lived across the alley from Vogue Fabric, whose Evanston address is 718-732 Main Street. At that time it looked very eclectic. Over the decades (starting at the end of WWII), it had expanded from one storefront to five, each with a different facade. While I was still their neighbor they tore them all off, and replaced them with a uniform brick facing and larger display windows.

    Vogue was always mobbed on Saturdays. Busloads of day-trippers from out-of-state would disembark in the parking lot. Mostly women's clubs and church groups. I think visitors could even take a tour of the store. That's probably all out the window now, especially those bus trips. My first wife was a regular customer, as she was a top-notch seamstress. Vogue also sold sewing machines. Maybe they still do.

    They also sold interesting one-of-a-kind swatches, stretched onto wooden frames, that could be hung as artwork. On one of my rare visits, I found a rectangular swatch of fabric with six windows on it, each with a view of a different kind of weather...sun, rain, snow, clouds fog, wind. Probably meant for a kid's bedroom, as so much of their "artwork" seemed to be. But I'm a weather junkie, which made it perfect for my apartment. Years later, I finally gave it to my young niece.

    Discount fabric stores are cool. Hell, all discount stores are cool, especially if you're a cheapskate like me.

  6. It seems like an old Maxwell Street store on steroids. Tailor shops with bolts of fabric piled everywhere or carpet stores with rolled up remnants, but minus the Chicago blues musicians playing down the street.


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