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Custom sportswear from Chicago Knitting Mills

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The essence of 'Do it yourself' activities and hobbies is that non-professionals take part in the process of manufacturing or modifying products/devices, whether through having creative input or doing some of the work yourself. The notion of 'DIY' is thus rooted in cutting edge innovations such as 3D printing and self-modified electronics, as well as the old-style artisan crafting that pre-dates mass production and consumerism.

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Chicago Knitting Mills, located on 3344 W. Montrose Ave, has been around since 1968, supplying sportswear for academic institutions and sports teams all over the city, as well as specialty clothing for individuals, made to their exact specifications. As a store, it's a intriguing example of the small-scale artisan ethos that forms the core principles of the 'Do it yourself' movement.

It's proprietor, Bob Soll, is a veteran when it comes to creating sportswear. The evidence of his experience is displayed all around the store, in the jerseys, letter jackets, t-shirts and patches hung on coat-hooks and displayed on the walls. Nearly every Chicago school mascot is represented among the many patches on the walls, and he's created customized apparel for all of them, both as general orders from the school itself, and as custom jobs requested by individual students or nostalgic alumni.

The more interesting jobs he's taken on, Bob recounts, are special orders for specific types of clothing that have somewhat gone out of style over the years. When asked what the more unique items he makes for customers are, he mentions school sweaters, which used to be as ubiquitous in high schools as letter jackets, and polo shirts for local bowling team complete with logos.

“I've also worked on costumes for movies.” he adds. “But that's not my main thing.”

Stores like these–slightly out of the way, independent, and long-lasting–are important parts of urban communities. Chicago Knitting Mills, in particular, is a good place to learn about the history of clothing and fashion over the course of the last half-century, as well as a good place to order any custom clothing you may need.