Good morning velveteen rabbits and other assorted much loved animals. Speaking of velveteen… we got in some of the new Anna Maria Horner fabrics this week at the shop and there’s VELVETEEN!! Gah. I love her fabrics so much. There’s voile on the way too, I can hardly wait.. For poor rabbits with no access to local retail outlets, I just noticed that the fabric’s up on our etsy site. Mmmm… velveteen. Don’t bother going for Lovesme Lovesmenot in Goldenrod. I plan on buying the whole bolt. My entire wardrobe will be different pieces in large-scale print velveteen….

Speaking of retail outlets… I was scurrying around on a fabric hunt yesterday afternoon and decided to do a few posts on the shops we have here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. While we’re a reasonably sized metro area, we are in the heartland of the U.S. and there could be more choices. But we’re lucky with what we have! Of course, I WORK at one of the fabric shops here in Minneapolis… but I think I’ll save my shop for last in the series (or when I have absolutely nothing else to blog about and need a quick subject!) Today, we’ll tour S.R. Harris, the giant, scary, mecca for design students, prop masters, decorators and other assorted oddballs such as myself. Here it is in it’s panic-inducing glory.

First, a geography lesson… here’s a nicely drawn map of Minneapolis and St. Paul with all the most important landmarks. The river, downtown Minneapolis and my house. As you can see, the two cities are right next to each other, although the two downtowns are about 15 miles apart. While Minneapolis is smaller geographically (at least, according to my not-to-scale map), it has more people living in it. Of the two cities, St. Paul is more quaint and pretty with winding streets and a lot of charm. And Garrison Keillor. Minneapolis is more urban. And we have First Avenue, the site of the filming of Purple Rain and plenty of nights from my misbegotten youth that are best left in the murky past. The Mississippi river runs through both cities and smells very, very bad in late August.

I’ve marked where our house is – in south Minneapolis. My street has lots of big trees that are all going to die in the next 10 years because of some beetle. We’re about five miles away from downtown Minneapolis and close enough to the southern boundary of the city that my friends like to pretend that I moved to the suburbs, which I did NOT do!! And that, my friends is the end of the geography lesson. Fellow Minneapolitinis, please feel free to chime in if I forgot anything pertinent, although what’s more pertinent to our lovely cities than Garrison and Prince, I ask you?

On to S.R. Harris. The store is far away from my house, I guess it’s only about 20 miles, but it takes multiple highways to get there and I’m pretty sure I go through a couple suburbs. It’s not pretty, and it’s close to a Fleet Farm.

[image courtesy of Mr. Bug]

It is PACKED full of fabric. Fabric in rolls, fabric on bolts. Sometimes, getting the fabric is a workout in and of itself. One of my main reasons for braving the suburbs and potential cow attacks is to lovingly grope the large selection of wool. Here’s the wool aisle.

[wool as far as the eye can see]

Ah. A whole aisle of wool. Wool crepe, wool suiting. Silk and wool blends. Cashmere. For the most part, the fabrics are sold at 50% off the price marked on the bolt. So the purchase price on most of the wools varies between $10 and $50, with most of the bolts marked at $20 and selling for $10. There’s also a giant pile of wool suiting remnants that sell for $8 a yard of $6 a yard if you buy the whole piece.

[enough wool suiting to clothe me for a year]

Of course, if fake fur is more your thing, there’s a whole aisle for your as well. A rainbow of fake fur!

[a lot of muppets died to bring you this photo]

And an enormous pile of leather that’s sold by the square foot.

[next project: tarzan and jane suits for the Bug-family]

That’s the leather pile on the right.

The store (warehouse??) Is sort of divided up in what I would call an odd way. There’s a small area of broadcloth and shirtings.

[I smell bankers]

The bottom weights are in another section. Twill and denim and stretchy wovens all mixed up together.

[I know exactly where to go when I need to make some nice orange pants…]

Large barrels of designer denim…

My other favorite reason to head out into the boonies is to paw at the silks…

[What does one make out of silk net fabric?]

Most of the silk is a heavier weight that I would consider more appropriate for home decorator projects – lots of dupioni and things like that. There’s a small selection of lighter weights like charmeuse that make it totally worth it to touch every single bolt of silk… And there’s some really cool stuff that’s fun to look at – you can see some silk crewel work in the very bottom right-hand corner. And silk velvet!

[mmmmmm… quilted silk velvet……]

[more silk]

Most of the silks are between $10 – $15 a yard after the discount. There’s always a few barrels filled with special discounted silk that’s around $5 a yard. Here are three barrels of silk chiffon and organza.

[silk chiffon and organza]

This was the point of my S.R. Harris field trip yesterday – silk chiffon to make up Vogue 2850, a very flirty shirt, as part of the Spring Palette challenge.  Here it is on the model…


I found this lovely silk chiffon in the sale bin. Score! Totally the dusty blue I had in my mind, with a print that seems sort of vintage-like to me – brings to mind the dustbowl and Steinbeck. With a nod to a favorite of mine, the polka dot. (the faint white flowers are showing through from other layers.)

Speaking of a score – in Minnesota we aren’t charged sales tax on clothing and this extends to things that make clothing. So, no sales tax on fabric, thread, zippers, buttons… anything that ends up in a finished garment.

Back to shopping. If you’re buying under five yards of most fabrics, you cut and mark it yourself. It’s an honor system. You can see one of the cutting tables in the center of the pictures.

In addition to shirtings, bottomweights, silk and wool, there’s also four of five aisles of polyester, rayon and other man-made fibers. Nothing is marked and it’s a really mixed bag. Prices after the discount range from $3 to maybe $10/yard.

[man-made fiber heaven]

I skipped the photos of a few sections. There’s tons of quilt weight cotton, an aisle of camouflage and an aisle with sunbrella and other odd industrial-like material. And there’s a lot of upholstery fabric. Most of that is in barrels or sort of set up in home-dec-teepees…

[Home decorator fabric, lined up and ready to take the silk section down once and for all. They have gotten the toiles on their side and will prevail.]

There’s usually a bunch of women wandering around with a look of confusion in their eyes, clutching onto an accent pillow they’ve brought from home to match. The place is a bit overwhelming. They’re occasionally accompanied by well-dressed, bustling, bossy decorator types.

There’s also an aisle of satin, a lot of dress sheers, one of ‘dance costume material’ (lots of metallics) and an aisle of linen and linen blends. And there’s an aisle of knits. I haven’t had very good luck with the knits from S.R. Harris, a lot of them are very thin, prone to rolling up, jerseys. But they’re fun to look at.

[knits, knits, all over the place]

Shopping at S.R. Harris is fun. And scary. And a bit of a work-out, shifting the bolts around to try to drag out the one you want! I have to admit to usually rolling my eyes over the place, but I know we’re lucky to not be stuck with just the chain fabric stores! Here’s one more photo – this one of the wall of oddly wrinkled and faded linings. Most sell for $3.00 – $5.00 a yard. I’ve bought a few lining fabrics from the store and they’re very slippery and nice, although often with the odd flaw here and there.

[I spy with my left eye… purple polka dot lining fabric!]

I’m off to snuggle with my new silk chiffon! Happy weekend, bunnies!

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