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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…

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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:

Micheal Levine.
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.

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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.

L.A. Alex
416 9th Street

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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.

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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

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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!

~Justine

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 lindsey@burdastyle.com if you’re interested in writing about your favorite spot for the BurdaStyle blog!

52 Comments

  • Bb856e7e-ff54-4fd5-ba83-b8882f742ccf_large

    Oct 31, 2011, 04.44 AMby amandala

    I went there this past Monday, I didn’t even see this burda post until now! It was on overall great experience for me. It was my first time there (blush) and I’m definitely going back!

  • Missing

    Oct 12, 2011, 06.17 PMby zrinka

    The first time I went was after a friend told me about a sketchy part of town where you cab find great interior dec fabrics. And I was looking to make some curtains. I went with my mother in law who came for a visit from Croatia and my older son who was a baby at the time. On a Saturday. It was such a mess, and so crowded, as we were looking for parking my mother in law became obviously worried. And to be truthful, I felt uneasy too. We turned around and went home. It still makes me laugh when I think about it. I have been many times since. Now I know where to go and where to park. But, you have to have time to spend there, there is no use paying high prices for parking and then staying for an hr. And no weekends. No way. Sometimes I do get a bit overwhelmed and it seems to me there is a lot of lycra around. A lot. And very cheap fabrics, low quality. I love to work with cotton and linen, and while I was able to find some decent and some very nice cotton, I was a bit disappointed with the quality and variety of linens. Or maybe I did not look at the right place? Also, I find the people working there not very helpful. Once I was looking for a stretchy fabric for pants (the kind you see in all the outdoors and yoga stores). I even had some sample fabric with me. But nobody could help me…

    1 Reply
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 15, 2011, 06.48 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      Yes most of the shopkeepers don’t speak English very well . I have a couple really good places I like but most of the shops are really junky I agree. It’s not a dangerous area though. But inwouldnt go there at night!

  • Missing

    Oct 11, 2011, 08.46 PMby sewing2

    Just found this post and recognized a few places! I went to LA for the first time last spring and spent a day in the garment district. I live in a rural area. so this kind of shopping is fabulous! (I had brought an extra suitcase and bags fly free on Southwest). I’ve only been to the New York district twice, but I feel New York had a much more exotic selection. I also felt some of the prices were high in LA, particularly Michael Levines. However, I have plenty of treasures!

    1 Reply
  • Missing

    Oct 11, 2011, 08.02 PMby thriftymama

    So jealous of you! lol! the pics remind me of the abundant fabric stores found in my country, Malaysia! Small & large stores, I love them all! LIving in South FL, my only fabric store is Joann’s..it’s better than nothing! I would’ve gone broke if I was close to the Garment district!! lol

    2 Replies
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 12, 2011, 06.05 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      There are some great sewing bloggers coming out of Malaysia and their fabrics are so gorgeous. I’d love to visit there. Is it true you can’t throw your gum on the sidewalk?

    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 12, 2011, 06.05 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      There are some great sewing bloggers coming out of Malaysia and their fabrics are so gorgeous. I’d love to visit there. Is it true you can’t throw your gum on the sidewalk?

  • Glo_copy_large

    Oct 11, 2011, 06.59 PMby domestic-divaonline

    BTW – There are plenty of great deals in the district for crafters too but you might not know where to look if no one tells you. I just found out on my last visit. Go to the Flower Mart between Wall and San Julian, and 7th and 8th. Walk through what looks like shops dedicated solely to flowers. Deep inside them, you’ll discover craft paints, rhinestones, and so much more!

    1 Reply
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 12, 2011, 06.02 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      Thanks domesticdiva. I have yet to visit the flower mart and will do that next time!

  • Glo_copy_large

    Oct 11, 2011, 06.53 PMby domestic-divaonline

    Love this this thorough article and your great photos. I’m a regular at Michael Levine. You truly find fabrics there you would not see anywhere else. I also wrote an article on the district with parking tips, maps, etc. if you’re interested.

    http://www.infobarrel.com/Tips_For_Shopping_The_Fashion_District_In_Los_Angeles#axzz1aJNGYJZ7
  • 2008_6_chanelrobertson_1__large

    Oct 10, 2011, 11.34 PMby dj1

    Thanks for the feature on the Fashion District in L.A. i live 40 miles from there and remember the first time i went there i thought I died and went to heaven .. after that day i would soon make it my place to go for trims and notions… My next trip will be to Mood on pico and F&S fabrics….But i am enjoing the benefits to online fabrics online such as Fabric.com and FashionFabrics .com……..Im trying to sew up the fabrics that I already have …

  • Mypicture_large

    Oct 10, 2011, 10.58 PMby SewnLovely

    I feel like I just glimpsed heaven.

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Oct 9, 2011, 08.54 AMby loulourosa

    You are so lucky to have all those shops with inexpensive fabric and trimming,… I live in Bruges in Belgium, and there are only 3 fabric stores left, 2 expensive, and one with a sad range of fabrics. But here in Belgium we are fortunate to have many good designers, they have stocksales every 6 months. Every time I try to go and get my hands on a beauttiful fabric at Dries Van Noten, or at an other designer stocksale,….Mosly with succes! My cupboard is allready so full, I have asked my husband to make an extension to it :-)

    3 Replies
  • Img_0828_large

    Oct 9, 2011, 02.27 AMby noknee

    I was just down in the district today. It’s awesome seeing some love for the LA district here. It’s definitely hit or miss.

  • Monjio-1_large

    Oct 8, 2011, 06.00 PMby Monjio

    Nice, article! I sure miss shopping in LA! I loved shopping there because it was located downtown clost to an amazing millinery supply store!

    Now, in the country-side of Italy the closest and only fabric store is a one hour trip! At least it is a nice scenic route!

    1 Reply
  • E7cf3a48e70ca90b1d46e4d04db4b2b0ebe00371_large

    Oct 8, 2011, 05.44 PMby tambasmall

    I look forward to one day visiting LA for the fabric and all the other tourist stuff. I live in Miami and the quality to me is just below average as far as the fabric goes. Downtown Miami has a few decent shops but they overcharge. I go right to fabric.com and fashionfabricsclub.com to get better quality fabrics. It’s cheaper even with the shipping. :)

  • Dscn0826_large

    Oct 7, 2011, 08.45 PMby ruthw

    It looks great. If I ever make it to LA I’d love to explore the notions stores particularly. But, just out of interest, what does FIDM mean?

    2 Replies
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 8, 2011, 04.20 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      It means the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

    • Monjio-1_large

      Oct 8, 2011, 06.01 PMby Monjio

      And boy do I miss the amazing FIDM exhibits!!

    • This is a question
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