My Favorite (Local) Fabric Store

9 Apr

So, eons ago, Baltimore had an actual garment district. It covered several blocks in downtown Baltimore. In fact, the London Fog Company was started in Baltimore. The largest manufacturer of straw hats and umbrellas was once in Baltimore. We were *the* importer of Panama hats for a minute. Twelve years ago a button manufacturer actually burned down. Of course, all that has changed now. And there is just one fabric store left downtown in our old garment district.

Guss Woolens was started in 1919 and bought by the current owners in the mid 90s. I shop for fabric here because it’s locally owned and they have really really great men’s suitings and shirtings. Like more suitings than I’ve seen in place. Possibly ever. And yes, I’m counting G Street. And, well, if you go on a Saturday afternoon, there are a lot of seriously hot men who want your opinion on what to buy. Why so many hot men? Because we have two or three sports teams and those athletes are super tall or super big and muscular and often need custom tailoring. And who am I do deny the draping of fabric against their broad shoulders while delicately guiding their decisions on fabric?

The first floor is the cutting room where most of the in season suiting is. The shelves line both walls. And, the owner says at last inventory they had over 2,200 bolts of fabric. I’ve heard they even sell to Britex.

Four drawers like this have remnants of two to three yards between 12 and 20 dollars. Linens, wools, shirtings, silk twill, tie silk — you name it. They have it. Well, not like lace. But, you get the drift.

The second floor. Be still my heart. Stacks upon stacks upon stacks of two and three yard pieces for a pittance. Ok, not an actual pittance. But, easily for sale for 50 percent less than when they were on the bolt.

At any rate, this Patrones dress and the creamsicle Burda dress boast thier fabric. Three yard remnants are $20 or less. I had to literally put down the black duiponi silk. I tell you readers, only for you did I enter this store today. I almost broke the 2010 fabric fast. But, whew. I was strong.

I share this with you because I realize I’m a lucky son of a gun. When pressed, I have at least two options for fabric between Guss Woolens and A Fabric Place / Michael’s. When desperate, I have several Joann fabrics within 20 minutes of me and G Street within an hour. The good news for you is that Guss Woolens does do mail order. Who knew, right? The website is terrible. But, you can email them from there and let them know you’d like fabric samples. Just tell them what you’re interested in.


But, what I REALLY really love here, is the stove  (it’s a stove right? Coal? Wood?) on the second floor:

Gorgeous, right? It’s covered in dust. But, if you look real close, it says ‘Improved Baltimorean’.

If they ever go out of business that stove is going home with me.

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51 Responses to “My Favorite (Local) Fabric Store”

  1. Sanna April 10, 2010 at 02:30 #

    That fabric store looks gorgeous! I am so jealous…we pretty much only have quilting cottons and polyester here. I’ve been looking for red wool for ages now, and I can see multiple bolts in your pictures alone. Thank you for the link and the review…I’ve already emailed them!

  2. Carol April 10, 2010 at 03:39 #

    Yeah, well, I’m really coming to live with you now. We get nothing where I live.

  3. Belinda (sew4fun) April 10, 2010 at 05:08 #

    What a cool store! Even cooler is hearing the athletic male population is keeping it in business. No wonder you have so much fabric! ;) Bring home any boyfriends lately? Only kidding! :)

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:21 #

      Not from here! They might want me to sew for them!

  4. Colleen P. April 10, 2010 at 06:14 #

    Hmmmm…I have out-laws that live on Kent Island, I’m heading inland next time we visit to hit this place up! I could just die happy there! I’m drooling over the linens right now (silk/linen blend for only $10 a yard? Be still my heart! and I’ve never even SEEN wool and linen blend before!), but I love me some wool and my options here in town are JoAnn and Hancock. Sigh…

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 06:23 #

      I’d say we’re just over the Bay Bridge and just under an hour from Kent Island!

      • Colleen P. April 10, 2010 at 07:50 #

        OOOOH I am SO there! LOL! What a fantastic resource, thanks for sharing it-I would never have known about it otherwise. I’m going to start saving my pennies now!

  5. Victoria Baylor April 10, 2010 at 06:56 #

    You’re so lucky to have so many fabric stores in your vicinity. Thanks for the tour. If I ever find myself in your neck of the woods I’ll definitely have to check Guss Woolens out. I don’t have as many options. I have to depend on one JoAnn’s and one Hancock Fabric. I find it hard to fabric fast since I have so few options. You almost have to buy it when you see it. Thank goodness for online shopping though. BTW, that stove is super gorgeous!

  6. Nancy K April 10, 2010 at 07:06 #

    The linen is $6.75 a yard? Wow. What was the quality like on it? No, I am not buying fabric. Don’t answer. Gorgeous men huh? Funny.

  7. Shelley April 10, 2010 at 07:37 #

    You are very lucky and that stove is totally fabulous. Love your blog.

  8. M April 10, 2010 at 07:39 #

    You are one lucky *daughter* of a gun. Resist all cliches! Resist! Anyhow, I count myself luckier…I’m a 3-minute train rain away from Vogue Fabrics, the premiere Midwest destination for any fabric you can think of, including lace. :)
    However, there isn’t a quaint stove like the one you show above. Darn!

  9. Auntie Allyn April 10, 2010 at 07:55 #

    Well, heck, what’s not to like about this place? Thanks for the information . . . I’ve never been there, but I think this is worth a drive up from Washington!

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:21 #

      Come on up! I’ll be your private tour guide :)

  10. Jane S April 10, 2010 at 08:05 #

    Fabulous pictures of one of America’s disappearing treasures. When I first moved to Maryland and the Baltimore area (30+ years ago), I never knew about the clothing manufacturing industry in and around town. But as I became familiar, and started sewing again about 15 years ago, I was fascinated to hear about companies like London Fog, Joseph A. Banks and the uniform and other tailoring companies throughout the area. Harry Guss is a gem….and thanks for pointing out the stove detail. I have never noticed that:-)

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:20 #

      Me either! I keep thinking I should pitch a garment district story to Urbanite or Baltimore magazine.

  11. Marcy April 10, 2010 at 08:10 #

    Great piece, Renee. Gets a non-sewer excited.

  12. kathleen April 10, 2010 at 08:18 #

    Vade retro, Fabulous Fabric stores. I am not buying more fabric (until I make some more stuff) But now I know where to go when i am ready to buy more

  13. brocadegoddess April 10, 2010 at 08:27 #

    Drool, drool, drool.

  14. Julie April 10, 2010 at 09:14 #

    Thank you for showing us the inside of Guss Woolens. I have been planning a trip to Baltimore for later this year. I’m also plotting where I want to drop tons of dough for a fabric feast. I wasn’t sewing when I lived in Baltimore. Now I live in the fabric desert of TN and want to sew with nice fabrics. Guss Woolens was already on my list. Now it has just moved to the top!

    • Colleen P. April 10, 2010 at 10:01 #

      Julie that’s a real shame about TN-years ago my grandmother and my cousins grandmother used to meet up at the H.I.S clothing factory in (I believe) Nashville and buy bolt ends of fabrics, and apparently sample cards with large squares of fabric samples on them. My grandmother and I made a quilt from sample card scraps from there when I was just a wee biscuit of 3 entire years old, so she could teach me how to tie knots. I kept a piece of that quilt (the majority of it fell apart years ago-it was wool and not stored properly) and it’s lived all over the place-everywhere I sew, I have it with me.
      It’s really disheartening that sources for really good fabrics are slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, disappearing in most of the country. Once upon a time I had my paws on a scrap of fabric with a cutting slip from MACY’S, in NYC, from way the heck back when they actually sold yard goods! Kudo’s to Celie for doing what she can to keep Guss Woolens a viable option! Once places like this are gone I’m afraid we will never get them back.

  15. justgail April 10, 2010 at 10:20 #

    Color me Jealouuuuuuusss! I have Hancocks, Joann, quilt shops, and 1 sewing machine store that also sells some nice apparel fabrics. No good looking men asking for advice in any of them either. Also, no great old stove, it looks like a coal burner. I *think* coal stoves were more common than wood in cities. With coal, they could just pull up to the side of the building, and dump it down a chute into the coal room. Wood isn’t quite so easy to handle. The coal room may still be in the basement.

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:19 #

      I wonder if it is salvageable. I might broach the subject with the owner on my next visit.

  16. justgail April 10, 2010 at 10:24 #

    I forgot to add – if that stove were in an antique store around here (Iowa) it most likely would have a price tag of several thousand dollars. Might put a dent in the fabric budget. 8).

  17. Reethi April 10, 2010 at 10:34 #

    The athlete thing cracks me up!

  18. Toby Wollin April 10, 2010 at 10:46 #

    Everyone else is going nuts about the fabrics (ok, me too), but I’m mesmerized by the damn stove! Why on the second floor? I wonder if the second floor was once a ‘live over the store’ apartment? No matter what, that is some stove. You could build an entire living room around that stove.

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:18 #

      I would build an entire house around that stove. It’s really something to see Toby!

  19. Carolyn April 10, 2010 at 10:51 #

    Okay so when can I come and stay the weekend?! *LOL* You make me want to make sure that my credit card is payed down so that I can shop to my hearts content…now when did you say I could come?

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:17 #

      *Anytime* It’s really a great place because they specialise in men’s stuff. It seems to be good quality. I could use your eye to tell me otherwise!

  20. sallyjo April 10, 2010 at 10:53 #

    I was thinking that, being as how this is nearly a national treasure you could justify fabric purchases there by saying that it’s like buying a pass to a national park.
    Ask me. I can justify it.

  21. narcissaqtpie April 10, 2010 at 11:09 #

    Thanx! I’m gonna go VERY soon. It’s ok to break a fabric fast to support local business right!!??!?

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:17 #

      Maybe I need to organize a little shopping day there for the locals?

  22. Vicki W April 10, 2010 at 14:30 #

    Flashback! Thank you for the walk down memory lane. When i loved in the DC area (early 80′s) and made almost all of my suits, I would go to Harry Guss once or twice a year. I was quite poor but could always find a good bargain there! I love that place! There used to be another shop nearby that sold various kinds of notions and other odd things. I think it might have been across the street.

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 14:43 #

      Yes, that closed and is now part of the Hippodrome Theater! Guss Woolens moved from Baltimore St to Park ave a few years ago. The owner told me it’s a 1000 sq ft smaller now.

  23. rmcandlelight April 10, 2010 at 16:35 #

    I don’t know nothing about fabrics and sewing but that stove is beautiful :)

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:16 #

      I’m such a vintage ho! I love antiques. Love :)

  24. Lisette April 10, 2010 at 17:02 #

    So you have been keeping this place a secret…I see how it is.

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:15 #

      LOL! I know. I know! I only discovered it last year. I’ve been meaning to blog about it *forever* but just never had my camera with me.

  25. Mpressive Threadz April 10, 2010 at 17:24 #

    Now I have another reason to like Baltimore. Thanks for the tour of Guss.
    As luck would have it, I have to come to Baltimore next Friday. I need to find out how close it is to Morgan.

    • Miss Celie April 10, 2010 at 17:46 #

      I live about five minutes from Morgan in NE Baltimore! Guss is downtown, so maybe 20 minutes?

  26. Elaray April 10, 2010 at 19:32 #

    Good fabric and hot men! I’m going there the next time I drive to UVA!

  27. Marty April 10, 2010 at 22:46 #

    I. Am. Salivating.

    All we have is JoAnn’s!

  28. Gabrielle April 11, 2010 at 00:55 #

    I really wish we had a shop like Michael’s or Gus Woolens in Seattle–I’m so envious! Thanks for the photos.:)

  29. Brenda April 11, 2010 at 09:34 #

    Now THAT is a soulfood shopping trip!
    Thanks for sharing it! I’m glad you had your camera with you!

    Brenda

  30. vicki April 11, 2010 at 19:31 #

    What a great store! And the prices look pretty darn good too :)

  31. senaSews April 12, 2010 at 05:24 #

    What a magical place! Thank you for sharing with us!

  32. Marjie April 13, 2010 at 14:35 #

    I’m so jealous! I love old, local stores. The closest we come are a hobby shop (think: model trains), Ace Hardware and the local lumber yard. *sigh*

  33. Phyllis April 14, 2010 at 05:29 #

    Yes its a coal grate, retrofitted onto an older firebox so coal can be burned as fuel instead of wood. The firplace is not super old, its post-civil war because the round shape and being made from one piece of marble dates it to the Victorian era. But that coal grate is a gem and really valuable, if he ever closes try to get your hands on it!

    • Miss Celie April 15, 2010 at 05:52 #

      Thanks Phyllis! I’ve been curious about that stove for a few years now. And, I don’t know very much at all about these types of things.

  34. Nmuse April 14, 2010 at 16:04 #

    “A Fabric Place” in Mt. Washington! Let me tell you Michael has lowered his prices dramatically!!!! I actually hadn’t been there in years because the prices were way out of my budget.

    For those that order from michaelsfabrics.com, going to the actual stores is even better.Michael and his staff are super helpful.

    I walked out with some Betsy Johnson fabrics for 10-12.00 a yard, and a beautiful cut of french fabric at 7.00 a yard.

    I really like Gus Woolens,too I need to visit them at their new location. They have the most beautiful suitings.

  35. Mike Marsh April 17, 2010 at 11:03 #

    Miss Celie,

    Thank you for posting our fabric store on your very cool blog.
    I just brought in new tie silks,denims,a bolt of British Khaki cotton twill
    from Ralph Lauren,and a super 120′s navy pin stripe suiting.
    Please come in and pick out a few fabrics,on the house.

    Thanks, Mike

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  1. Tuxedo Pants « Miss Celie's Pants - March 9, 2011

    [...] muslins of a straight legged pair and gave up becore moving to these. I bought the fabric from Guss Woolens in downtown Baltimore when Trena visited a few weeks ago. Mike, the owner, suggested the wool / [...]

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