Any Chicagoans out there?

I need a little help from the locals! I get requests all the time for "cool places in Chicago to visit" referrals. Since it’s pretty obvious that I’m a weird crafting hermit and don’t get out much I thought maybe someone out there would have some suggestions. Cool gift shops with crafty or indie wares, great craft supply shops, vintage shops, etc? My usual recommendations are Penelope’s, Hazel, Una Mae’s, Bead in Hand (Oak Park), Flybird (Oak Park), Pumpkin Moon (Oak Park) and then I putter out. Any suggestions I could pass on would be so helpful! Thanks!

34 thoughts on “Any Chicagoans out there?

  1. jennifer says:

    our best friends used to live in oak park and whenever we used to visit them, my “most-go-to” place was PAPER SOURCE. it is so amazing, they have materials that inspire, and it’s just in such a faboo area.

  2. teegan says:

    You MUST go to RR#1. It’s in the city, on Ashland Avenue, half a block north from Chicago Avenue. It’s an apothecary/ gift shop that has everything from kitsch to classic, bizzare to beautiful, and everything in between.

  3. Robin says:

    Wish I had some good suggestions, but here in Batavia there is a whole lot of nothing. The only thrifting around here is the local Goodwill and they usually have jack and likewise squat. I am dying to hear where others go too, I am sorely in need of good thrifting!

  4. Courtney says:

    I used to live there, and some of my favorites (some have come and gone) were Art Effect and Urban Gardener (and many others) on Armitage,a few streets North of Armitage on Webster there are some nice little shops, more unique than the ones on Armitage, Jayson Home and Garden on Clybourn, A New Leaf on Wells in Old Town, Pearl Paint and Paper Source on Chicago (I used to be an assistant buyer at Paper Source, but that’s a whole other bad story), Hubba Hubba on Clark (great selection of bark cloth, but not at all cheap), Brown Elephant on Halsted for thrifting (is that still there?), down in the Gold Coast, of course there is Anthropologie, Chelsea Passage (the gifty section of Barneys) and Material Possessions, Quatrine, many good shops up on Southport (Uncle Fun?), and there is Bucktown (Stitch?)and Evanston too, but the names escape me (um, can you tell I like to shop?)

  5. MamaReba says:

    my shopping and extracurricular activities have been nearly eliminated since my daughter’s birth last year. but i can recommend a few gems:
    1) Paperboy on Belmont/Southport is a terrific source of cards, paper, knicky knacks, etc. and is right across the street from Uncle Fun.
    2) Mertz Apothacary on Lincoln in Lincoln Square is terrific place for all sorts of goodies. Actually, there are several new places in Lincoln Square worth checking out. 🙂
    3) Vogue Fabrics in Evanston is AWESOME! Best selection of discount fabrics and bric a brac.
    That’s all I can think of right now. If I think of more, I’ll send them along.

  6. carol says:

    Docero on Randolph is the best place to go for great tacos and margaritas…it’s not one of those “I’m too cool for you places”, but the atmosphere is really great.
    Of course there are a few places in the city for cupcakes, Fox and Obel is cool to grab food and go on a picnic and Milenium Park is sort of touristy but I LOVE it to people watch.
    Hmmm, I am hungry…can you tell?

  7. carol says:

    By the way, thanks for asking for suggestions. I must write down some of your responses…like you mentioned, I some times feel like a hermit and must overcome this in the summer! Plus I may live in the suburbs of Chicago, but I am willing to drive anywhere…thanks to living in LA for 9 years!

  8. teresa says:

    thank you – thank you. i will be there 19th through 23 of april for a conference.
    staying at congress plaza hotel. so i will print maps etc. and have some fun.

  9. hannah says:

    oooh, sounds like i need to take notes and plan a crafty trip this summer! on the entertainment side, i love going to see T.M.L.M.T.B.G.B (too much light makes the baby go blind). google it. its a cool little play house that puts on 60 plays in thirty minutes, super fun experience, but make sure you get there early, there will be a line around the corner!

  10. kelly says:

    – Rotofugi (designer vinyl toys) and Sprout Home (great plants and home decor). Rotofugi is on Chicago, near Damen; Sprout is on Damen near Chicago. One can stop at Atomix to get some good coffee, afterwards.
    -A New Leaf: a flower shop on Wells, at Lincoln, in Old Town (a few blocks north of Second City). The flower shop part is great, but the basement will blow your freaking mind. Any ribbon, strings of beads, glass thing, tiny candle, trim, anything.
    -If people are in town at the right time, Depart-ment (, in the Open End gallery (at Fulton and Damen), is loads of fun. All handmade, mostly local. Perfect for picking up one-of-a-kind gifts.
    – Not shopping, but the Music Box Theatre is one of the neatest places a person could see a movie. Get some cake at Julius Meinl (addison and southport) afterwards.
    -Maybe I shouldn’t spill all of the beans, but the Rogers Park beach (north of the red line stop at Loyola) is the best place to spend a day at the lake. The bike path down the south side (loop to UofC(?)) is gorgeous and way less crowded than the north side.
    -Architectural Artifacts: (4325 N. Ravenswood) a store to buy an old confessional booth, stone columns, or ceramic glove molds. Such a cool, slightly creepy, place to wander. Most of the stuff is big, but there’s plenty of cool small things to score. It’s worth the visit just to see the whole amazing collection.
    -Going off your Hazel suggestion: the Thai restaurant Roong Petch (a block or so away, near the brown line stop) is a mighty tasty place for lunch.
    France sure is nice, but I can’t wait to get home to chicago…

  11. hillary says:

    Thanks everybody! This is great and it’s jogging my memory from when I used to have a life.
    ah, yes, that Thai place by Hazel is yummy. But if you’re up that way with a car I’d skip it and hold out for Opart Thai (Lawrence and Western). Also I second the Mertz Apothacary recommendation. Wasn’t really thinking of it because it’s not crafty/gifty but it is very cool. If you’re up there hit Timeless Toys and the Huttenbar for a big yummy german beer.
    If you’re up Lincoln Ave maybe you’d want to hit the CB2 and there are some cute antique stores there on Lincoln just north of it.
    And oh yeah, duh! Rotofugi. Not far from Penelope’s right?
    You know Hannah, I’ve lived here forever and still haven’t seen that baby blind thing. People love it though!
    And I’m going to have to be the only naysayer in town and come out against the Vogue Fabrics recommendation. If you’re up in Evanston anyway definitely check it out but I wouldn’t make a special trip. Unless you’re shopping for bridal fabric? I never have any luck there. I know, I blaspheme.
    Keep them coming!

  12. Pattie says:

    I don’t have a store to suggest off the top of my head, but there is an exhibit at the Arlington Heights Historical Society “Tales From the Kitchen”, which runs through July 23rd. I haven’t been there yet, but it looks like lots of fun.
    The exhibit is running a special event on April 23rd “All About Aprons”, a free event. As much as I love aprons, I can’t go. Unfortunately our library is having a program featuring Elizabeth Berg….one of my all time favorite authors…on the same day and the same time!
    Here is the link to the Historical Society
    Hope this helps somewhat.

  13. jen says:

    I love all of the places suggested above (although I have to agree with Hillary on the Vogue Fabrics) so I only have a few to add.
    Tangerine (1723 Damen) has beautiful quirky clothes with the price tag to match, but I love sorting through their racks for inspiration and shopping their sale items.
    Tender Buttons (946 N. Rush across from Barney’s) is a great place to find unique vintage buttons. I always bring my project to lay out and try the buttons right on it. So fun.
    Margies Candies (1960 N. Western Ave.) is the place to go for huge old fashioned sundays served in a giant clam shell. It’s the best.

  14. stacey says:

    howdy, hillary:
    the mexican shop in evanston just reopened for the season and has stolen my heart away once again.
    if you end up going to too much light at the neofuturarium, stop and have dinner and a drink at hopleaf (although it can get Very crowded) – they’ve got loads of great beer and delicious fancy food.
    if you end up in architectural artifacts, be sure to check out the old riverview freak show posters in the very back room.
    millenium park downtown is lovely to wander through briefly – the bean is such a fabulous sculpture. and right across the street is the cultural center. check out the tiffany ceiling (i think) and also the old cigarette machine that sells tiny art. they’ve often got cool art in the galleries there.
    lincoln park zoo! i’m not sure your feelings on zoos, but i do love the lpzoo. there’s a conservatory at the north end that levi and i love, and also a fantastic statue of a fairy and two children just south of the merry go round. it’s tucked away, but if you are there you must hunt it down.

  15. Alison says:

    You guys are good. You’ve covered most of my favorites.
    American Science and Surplus is great. It’s on Milwaulkee, near Roscoe maybe?
    Quimby’s is a art book/magazine/comics store on North Avenue.
    Paper Doll on Division is a nice complement to Paper Boy on Belmont.
    J1 is in Schaumburg and has Japanese toys. (And I have to second the Rotofugi plug!) If you like toys, the bar Club Foot has tons of toys and a stand up 2 player Tetris arcade style game. It’s on Augusta.

  16. patricia says:

    For fabrics: Vogue fabrics on Roosevelt is amazing, as well as the Discount Fabric Outlet in Pilsen. It’s at 2121 W. 21st street (pretty easy to remember).
    But for putzing around boutiques, Damen north of North is a great street–lots of cool places to buy/look at clothing made by local designers. All the way up Damen, north of Armitage, is Robin Richman–the store has incredible handmade things: jewelry, clothes, shoes, (yes, handmade!), etc. Division street between Leavitt and Ashland is a cool place, esp. in the summer. The sidewalks are wide so there are tons of outdoor cafes mixed in with the boutiques. And I second the Paper Source recommendation–a *must* for crafty out of town guests! Everyone I’ve taken to it *loves* it.

  17. Brandy says:

    Rock on! Everyone has covered my suggestions, so I second: Aikos, Uncle Fun, Vogue Fabrics, Margie, Architectural Artifacts, Rotofugi, Quimby’s, Merz’s Apothecary…
    Huge shout out to The Chicago Cultural Center! It’s a true gem that is so overlooked. It used to be our main public library until we outgrew it. It has more mosaics in it than any other building in North America – and two great domes. And, it always has free art shows and lotsa free concerts.
    Through May there’s a really fantastic jewelry show by an artist named Kiff Slemmons. Her work is stellar and inventive.
    And there’s a group show of disabled artists next to it, both on the 2st floor. The most interesting part of that show was the artist’s statements and how each artist identified their disability and their art.
    The CCC is a fantastic resource in the city.

  18. Sandy says:

    Wow – almost everything is covered!! I really love the Discount Fabric Outlet at 2121 W. 21st Street, although I do find it a little intimidating, I’ve never actually bought fabric there but I’ve gotten some great vintage ribbon.
    I’m on the fence about Vogue in Evanston, when I had to dress up for work, I got great material for skirts, but since I’ve been able to wear shorts for the last seven years, there hasn’t been alot of need for dress material. Still I do like the bargains you can find in the remnant room. That’s pretty much the only room I look in anymore.
    It’s not in Chicago – but Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights (corner Algonquin Rd and Arlington Heights Rd) has a great book store for Japanese craft books. Plus, the food selection is amazing, I always pick up three or four containers of the bulgogi marinated beef and the spicy cucmber pickles.
    I’m out in Portage Park (4000N/6000W), so it’s almost faster for me to drive to Arlington Heights than it is to get to Lincoln Park or Bucktown or Andersonville. Cross-town traffic sucks. Oak Park is a quick drive, though, so I’m definitely going to be checking out the OP recommendations.

  19. Melissa says:

    Has anyone mentioned Mint? It carries all local designers (paper, jewelry, bage, etc.). I used to be at Webster and Clybourn, but I think they moved somewhere else in Lincoln Park.
    Also on Division is a new indie designer store called Habit (Division and Damen). Really cool (but kind of expensive) clothes.

  20. jennifer says:

    i agree with a lot – now that i have a wee one i also love getting to go to red balloon and psycho baby when i’m home visiting. my mom and i buy stuff for baby girl, but there’s cute knick knacks for me too! like cram cream bags and great toys.

  21. Sandy says:

    Ok, the BEST ITALIAN FOOD ON EARTH is at the Italian Village. Look it up! I love the food there! So after doing your crafting and all go have a great Lasagna there! YUMMY!!!

  22. diana says:

    If your visitors are into knitting or other yarny things, Nina on Division is a beautiful store, and Knitting Workshop on Lincoln near Webster is also nice. Caravan Beads at Lincoln, Paulina and Roscoe has a fantastic selection of Japanese glass seed beads and other great jewelry-making supplies.
    For fabrics I love Fishman’s, which is right near the Vogue Fabrics on Roosevelt Road (just north of Roosevelt on DesPlaines, I believe).
    For eating, Lula in Logan Square is fantastic–really creative and specializing in local and organic ingredients. We also love the Vietnamese restaurants on Argyle Street, and our friends from out of town always enjoy visiting the different shops there. Oh, and don’t forget the great Indian restaurants and boutiques on Devon Avenue! The sari and jewelry stores are amazing for window-shopping, and the fabrics are fantastic!

  23. Lynn Dykstra says: on Milwaukee is great for well reconditioned vintage wear.
    American Science and Surplus on Foster/NW Highway/Central is always fun.
    Textile Discount Outlet on 2121 Wes 21st Street (NOT 21st Place) is my favorite place in town.
    Fishmanns fabric on Roosevelt and DesPlains has fabulous woolens and lawns and silks.
    Don’s restaurant surplus on Elston is where to get parchement paper and other cooking supplies cheap.
    I love Garfield Park Conservatory.
    Buckingham Fountain is a great night place to take visitors.
    If you eat lunch or go for drinks at night at the 95th restaurant on the top of the Hancock, you see the city without paying for the observatory fees.
    The Village Discount chain of resale stores has the best prices. Unique Thrift is better organized but higher prices. It has half price on everything on Mondays.
    Midwest Discount Yarn on Irving Park Road has a lot of crappy yarn, and hidden in the back, some really good yarn. Good prices.
    The Chagal mosaic at the old First National Bank is a good place for a picnic.
    I love living in Chicago!

  24. k. says:

    wow. do i really need to add anything? i used to live in wicker park and you can find some pretty cool independent stores all around.( expect to hand over some dough) and the mexican shop! oh my! that was the only place i would buy my clothes and jewelry in high school. (way way back in 1982.gulp.) it’s still a great place.

  25. teresa says:

    Hello everyone. Thanks for all the helpful info. I leave tomorrow am and can’t wait to get started shopping.
    Hilary – i have posted a link from my new blog to yours. I hope that’s okay. Or should I inquire before I do that kind of thing.

  26. teresa says:

    I am back from Chicago and although I did not have much time I managed to see Paper Source and Tender Buttons. Paper Source actually has a catalog – I signed up for the mail list – but the store is well worth the cab fare for the side trip from wherever you are staying. Same thing with Tender Buttons. I love those small – hole in the wall – stores like this. I never imagined so many beautiful buttons. I spent $80.00 on carnival glass type buttons – jeweler made buttons – and some adorable teddy bear face buttons. Can’t wait to start those projects. Will post photos and more info on my blog.

  27. Brooke says:

    My ultimate spot for inspiration is Robin Richman. Richman creates her own fresh designs for each season and also carries a select set of international designers. She has an amazing eye for things. 2108 N Damen Ave
    Chicago, IL 60647-4529

  28. Beth says:

    So many great ideas, some I’ve been to, others sound new to me. I agree with Brown Elephant for thrifting and Sprout Home (on Damen I think?) has some cute stuff, lots of garden and home things. In the River North district there are shops like Paper Source & Pearl (right across the street from one another). Paper Source is 3 floors, so make sure you hit them all. Paper SOurce also has locations in Lincoln Park and of course Oak Park.
    For a fun brunch/lunch- we like Kitschn on Roscoe in Roscoe Village. The crab cake benedict with cornbread hash is the best.
    Lush on Armitage (near Halsted) has fun soap and bath stuff.
    Not sure if you want to go into the suburbs- but Geneva has some really cute shops now. Especially on and around 3rd street. There is even a cool yarn shop in an old house right on Route 38.

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