We truly are spoiled living in New York City with the Garment District little more than a train ride away, providing us with thousands of fabric, trim and notion choices at our finger tips. However, we often forget that there are abundant districts in other cities that provide inspiration and materials to sewers and crafters throughout the United States and the globe. One such district is in Los Angeles, California and guest writer Justine Abbit from Sew Country Chick documented a recent trip to the LA garment district to share her tips for getting the most out of the LA scene!
I have been shopping for fabric in downtown Los Angeles since I was a student at FIDM years ago. Unlike most neighborhoods in LA which are always being revamped, this little slice of the downtown area hasn’t changed much. It’s bordered by Skid Row, a rundown area on the north which has been cleaned up a bit by the new loft boom; industrial warehouses to the east; the Staples Center to the west; and the low budget knock-off shopping district known as “The Alley” on it’s southwest side. You can find the fabric district on South 9th Street between Wall and Maple streets, a small shops spill out into the surrounding streets that fall in between Maple and Wall.
And, as a bonus, they have the best hotdogs in the world there…
Street vendors wrap them with bacon, grill them, and top them with grilled onions and peppers, adding a flourish of avocado salsa mixture topped with mayonnaise and ketchup. It alone almost makes the drive there worth it, AND the hot dogs are only three dollars.
Most of the shops are small mom and pop operations. Bargaining is fine, especially if you are buying more than two yards of fabric. If you find something you like at a good price you should buy it because usually once it’s gone, it’s really gone. Most shops are jobbers which mean they buy up extra fabric from manufacturing houses. I’ve seen expensive top designer fabrics in the same shop as cheap polyesters and many of the shops have really low quality fabrics so you have to make sure to look carefully. One store I definitely recommend checking out is:
919 Maple Street
If you have never been downtown, you should start here. It’s more expensive than the small shops but it is huge and has an exhaustive selection of fabrics, trims, notions, and knitting supplies. There is also a well stocked home decorating branch across the street. Although more expensive than most shops downtown, you can find top quality dress and home decorating fabrics at Micheal Levine and it is still less expensive than the pricier fabric stores like Mood and International House Of Silks and Woolens on the pricier westside of LA.
A little further south on 9th Street are some amazingly well stocked trim shops. If you don’t shop with a list it can be overwhelming and your head can start spinning while taking in all the beautiful and inspiring trims.
416 9th Street
A giant bargain basement with dress, home fabrics, notions, and trims.
I can remember getting home from a trip downtown one day and realizing I had forgotten to buy the item I had originally gone for. Instead I had been seduced and sidetracked by other more colorful and interesting prospects: zippers, flowers, studded trims, feathered trims, jeweled trims, laces, beads, velvets, colored hooks and eyes, grommeted trims. It’s like being a kid in a candy store! As a tip, I would advise you to always remember to bring your list.
Another place to stop when you are in the area is the Scholarship store of FIDM. Beautiful fabrics and trims can be found there for one to two dollars a yard! I once purchased about 25 yards of gorgeous lace trim for only six dollars, but like most bargain fabric stores in the downtown area, shopping there is hit or miss. Manufacturers in the area donate their unused fabrics to FIDM with the sales going to support the Scholarship fund there.
At FIDM, there is also a wonderful bookstore and a small but interesting fashion museum on site as well. Some of their displays in the past included costumes from Mad Men, and Tim Burtons’ Alice in Wonderland. On my most recent vist there was a fantastic exhibit titled “Breakfast At Tiffany’s and The Little Black Dress”.
FIDM Scholarship Store
919 South grand Avenue
All stocked up on fabric and we also bought a balloon gun! Don’t forget to buy a fruit paleta when you visit. I bought Sandia this time, or watermelon. Muy sabroso!
I grew up only ten minutes away from downtown, but these days heading to downtown LA is an exciting adventure for the mini country chicks who don’t get to the city very often!
After moving from Los Angeles to an old farmhouse in the country with her husband and four children, Justine Abbitt (a trained fashion designer) found shopping outside the city rather uninspiring and difficult. So, she decided to get busy with her needle and thread to start making things for herself and her family. Looking to get in touch with other DIYers she started her sewing blog, Sewcountrychick, which is also about country living through an ex-urbanists perspective.
Do you have a great materials sourcing spot where you live? We want to hear about it! Share your favorite fabric and notion stores around the world in the comment section below or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in writing about your favorite spot for the BurdaStyle blog!