Start online, and shop by color (with 65,000 items at Anatol’s Fabric Outlet, you can find plenty of delft blue). Shop by label—Robert Allen, Waverly, Tommy Bahama, maybe even the hot bright stripes of Annie Selke. Study all the toiles. Click the link for polka dots. Or multi dots (a separate category, for dots of different sizes). Or dottie dots (which are tinier, and not to be confused with bubbly circles).
If you’re not sure, you can buy a swatch—but most don’t. “Only 25 percent of our orders come from people who ordered a sample,” says owner Bob Tamsky, who was surprised by the result. “They are either impulse buying, or they know what they want.” St. Louisans, though, can schlep bits of whatever we’re matching to Anatol’s new store in Hanley Industrial Court and hold them up to real bolts of fabric.
For fresh designs, Mr. Tamsky likes “a mill in Argentina—this kid, he’s about 30, inherited it from his family. He’s doing some of the coolest things, and he can deliver from scratch in six weeks with a one-roll minimum.” One pattern is blocked with the faces of iconic Americans who died before the age of 40; another has hands doing American Sign Language in every square.
Anatol’s still sells the bridal fabrics that Mr. Tamsky’s father popularized. His grandfather, Anatol Tamsky—a Russian émigré by way of Cuba—started with a stand in Soulard, then opened a shop on Washington Avenue, selling leftover fabric from hundreds of apparel manufacturers. And now Mr. Tamsky does 90 percent of his business online, with fulfillment cen-ters all over the country.
Their business is like the fabric itself: All that changes is the way the threads are woven together.
Anatol’s Fabric Outlet, 1328 Strassner, 314-968-0090, housefabric.com