The Second Yard. 706 W. Broad St., Falls Church (536-2336), and 307 E. Market St., Charlottesville (804/295-6054).

Nothing is perfect all of the time, including fabric. Sometimes when the weavers get finished, they discover that the design isn't uniform, or a thread has been pulled out of line. When that happens, the bolt of fabric is usually relegated to the "seconds" or "imperfects" bin. That's also the signal for a bargain. The Second Yard, a new Falls Church shop, specializes in selling not-quite-perfect and mill-end decorator fabrics for making draperies and slip covers and for upholstering. "Sometimes you have to buy a few more yards to overcome the flaw, but you're still saving money," explains manager Kay Thomas. And often, the flaw isn't detectable at all. The velvets, silks, cottons, linens and wools, in traditional and contemporary designs, stand in bolts along the walls of the Second Yard, which occupies a reconditioned old house. Well-known brand names abound, but the shop doesn't broadcast them because of the complications that can bring in its business with fabric suppliers and its relationship with competitors. The price of imperfection can be very nice, indeed -- the fabrics cost 20 to 80 percent less than if they were perfect.