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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

  • Unt300_crvena-itled-1_large

    Oct 7, 2011, 08.05 AMby FEDRA

    Paradise! I live in a small town in Croatia in Pula, but we have a great shop for materials http://www.pineta.com.hr/web/app/ This is one of the best equipped shops in this area and perhaps in all of Croatia. Many envy us. I often go there and spend a lot of time examining and seeking “the right” material for my new creation. I feel comfortable, sellers do not bother me with questions, so I have plenty of time to think about what I actually need instead of buying something by impulse (although I always come up with something later). Prices are moderate and you can always find great material for super price!

    2 Replies
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 07.41 PMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      I love the high quality fabrics in Europe. I have always wanted to check out Croatia’s beaches!

    • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

      Oct 9, 2011, 08.56 AMby loulourosa

      Oh you live in Pula! How great! It is a lovely city! My parents and I have often vistited your citie during our holidays long time ago!

  • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

    Oct 7, 2011, 02.59 AMby turtlegirl00

    wow. i am droolig. i live an hour from a joanns… and the rest are quilting stores.

  • Missing

    Oct 7, 2011, 02.19 AMby rochelle49

    one of the online sites I like for fabric is voguefabrics.com. They have often low priced promotions that are great fabric. Plus you can always ask for a swatch.

  • Missing

    Oct 7, 2011, 02.17 AMby ravenfrog

    You should have checked out The Loft, where you can buy fabric by the pound.

    1 Reply
  • Missing

    Oct 7, 2011, 02.11 AMby rochelle49

    This is great! I’ve been to California twice and L.A. once. I had no idea this was there! I live near Denver Colorado and we have the California Zephyr Amtrak that goes to near San Fransisco. It’s not hard to head south to L.A. We have one really nice fabric store in our area called Denver Fabrics. They are in the southwest metro area. There you will find great material for great prices! Joanns stores are around us but they don’t often have good material. When they do, it is very expensive. Thanks for the nice orientation!

    1 Reply
  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Oct 6, 2011, 08.28 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    Next time I come to LA, I’m all over at least going to Mood Fabrics. I’ve been to the one in NYC, why not the west coast one? Btw, is there a great place to get discount yarn? I’m always thinking about yarn. I probably knit more than I sew, but I have more fabric than yarn.

    1 Reply
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 07.38 PMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      Hi Yarn U. Mood fabrics is on the other side of town were all the super expensive but great fabric shops are. But you can often find the same quality as Mood in the garment district for a fraction of the cost. As far as yarn goes, micheal Levine has some lovely yarns.

  • Iphone_237_large

    Oct 6, 2011, 07.45 PMby Amberla Hickman

    Great tips Justine! I actually go to FIDM now and I work for the FIDM Scholarship Store! How crazy to come across my store on BurdaStyle! I’m one of the girls in the back who calls vendors for donations. Anyway, thanks for the tip, I haven’t been to L.A. Alex yet!

    1 Reply
  • Dsc02652_large

    Oct 6, 2011, 12.15 PMby suribabe

    Oh oh, my goodness. I get excited just looking at the pictures.. My husband thinks I’m sad and a (fabric)geek. :) I cant help it. I’ve got so much fabric at home.. If I was in The US, it be in serious trouble. I’ll be camping out in the street.. There is nothing like this in the UK well not that I’m aware of.. So if anyone knows please tell me..

    I might have to visit LA and New York one day.. You sewers are so spoilt. Thanx for the article. I enjoyed reading it.

    4 Replies
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 05.57 PMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      Yes, Sewaholism is a frequently misunderstood disease!

    • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

      Oct 9, 2011, 08.58 AMby loulourosa

      HIHIHI we suffer from the same disease! Aren’t there fabric markets in the UK?

    • Dsc02652_large

      Oct 10, 2011, 09.15 PMby suribabe

      I’m not aware of any fabric markets in the UK.. Maybe in London ?!.. There are some market with a very small collection of fabric :o(

    • Img_2196_large

      Oct 15, 2011, 05.07 PMby Rosemarysclothes

      I am developing a bit of a fabric habit, i usually go to the rag market in Birmingham, loads of fabric stalls and haberdashery stalls there. There’s also a few good fabric shops close by such as the fancy silk store which has three floors of really good fabrics, however often very expensive.

      i did a really good shop last Saturday and bought 6 lots of fabric, mostly for just a £1 a meter. But the quality at this price is questionable and you have to check what you are buying, or you could end up with big lines or water stains running through it.

  • Me5_large

    Oct 5, 2011, 11.08 PMby krystleskloset

    I wish I lived in an area that has a garment district. I live in Kansas City and we used to have one but it just disappeared. We are stuck with places like Joanns and Hancocks :(

    5 Replies
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 12.03 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      But you do have a really cool song from the fifties named about Kansas City!

    • Me5_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 12.53 PMby krystleskloset

      LOL Your hilarious!! Im in a fabric depression and you thought about a song? I guess there is a silver lining to everything. I know there is a fabric place in St. Louis but it would have to be worth the weekend trip LOL. i guess I will be ok as long as gas keeps dropping :)

    • Me5_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 12.55 PMby krystleskloset

      Sometimes its just sad that they can charge us 10.00 a yard for fabric that i know I can get cheaper somewhere else.

    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 05.56 PMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      Well, I do great great deals on the fabric.com sales. The quality is really good too!

    • Me5_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 06.33 PMby krystleskloset

      Thats true. I shop between there and fashionfabricsclub.com.

  • Me_large

    Oct 5, 2011, 09.13 PMby CationDesigns

    Thanks for the tour! I just moved to LA a month ago and was super excited to be so close to the Fashion District, but I also was super-overwhelmed at the thought of visiting. Good to know what places to check out.

    1 Reply
    • Meprofilebarn_large

      Oct 6, 2011, 12.02 AMby Justine of Sew Country Chick

      Because LA is so big and doesn’t really have a true center it can be so confusing to navigate. The garment district is also in a sketchy area so it helps to know where to go!

  • Photo4_large

    Oct 5, 2011, 07.48 PMby cyndi-de-crafti

    Thank you Justine. I just learned about such sewer’s haven not too long ago on someone’s blog and I absolutely regret that I didn’t find out earlier. I visited LA twice this year and I would totally have stop by there! My parents who are also sewers found out about city germ years ago, yet they didn’t tell me until recently my mom gave me some of her fabrics she got from this LA fabric district. (Maybe I wasn’t much of a sewer until now…..I feel like misssing out on the fun). Your article is great. Now that I know what to look for next time I go….which I am hoping to be soon. I heart LA! :)

    1 Reply
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