When we lived in Los Angeles, I usually made a trip to the Downtown L.A. Fashion District every few months. I never took it for granted. I knew it was great and fabulous and that I could find (almost) anything I needed. But now that we’re in Texas…..I realize how very much I miss it.
So when we were home for Christmas, I made a solo visit there (the best way to go; just running around, finding what you need, watching your parking meter from time to time). And I totally stocked up. In fact, we had to take an extra duffle bag home on the plane to fit everything. But, worth it.
If you’re ever in the L.A. area, or if you live anywhere within a few hours you must try it out.
So, here’s what my normal routine is like:
The scholarship store is a gem. It’s full of trendy stuff from Forever 21 type stores.
Half of the clothing is normal/fine condition but there’s an entire section of clothing with small holes, tears, mis-manufactured, etc. and most of it costs only $1. For a refashioner, it’s a dream! I have a drawer full of “projects” that have come from the FIDM store.
Along with the clothing, there’s a fabric wall in the back and most it costs $1/yard. SCORE. When you ask, where do you find cute knits? It’s often from there. Check out the pile below. Swimsuit lycra, 3 different knits, some embellishments and zippers….all for $12! I love this place.
Plus, it’s a non-profit store that provides grants and scholarships to students. So by shopping there, everyone wins. And to finish off your visit, take a walk around campus. It’s just gorgeous, with this view of L.A.
(Apparently, however, I have a “press camera”. Since as I tried to take the photo below, Security walked over, sized up my lens, asked what my photos were for and said I had to speak with their Press Office if I was going to take pictures. So, this photo was taken a year ago with my little point and shoot (and a 2 year old Lucy running around). Makes me miss L.A.):
Okay, after the FIDM store, I continue heading East on 9th street to the Fashion/Fabric District. The key here is parking. You can find parking in lots but I think they’re annoying and hard to get in/out of. So I go for the meters.
Drive like you live in L.A. Make quick turns if you need to. Snag a meter when you see it!
Though I haven’t confirmed if you can be ticketed or not for it, the best find is a broken meter because then you don’t even need to feed it!
If you park a few blocks off the main streets (closer to San Pedro) you can easily find a meter. But then you also find homeless dudes who say they’ll “feed” your meter for you (by rigging it with a paper clip) in hopes that you’ll give them money instead. To me that also sounds like they’re “watching my car” and that kinda freaks me out. So I just tell them no. Don’t be afraid of the downtown experience though! It’s safe, it’s fun, it’s an adventure.
I prefer going in the morning. Most shops open at 10am and it just feels a little “cleaner” then (and not as busy).
If you’ve never been in downtown L.A. it looks like this:
And there are plenty of these, with onions and bacon-wrapped hot dogs cooking. I can smell that aroma right now. It’s not all that bad, it’s just “downtown”:
So, the way it works in these shops is to bargain with the owners. Don’t take the first price they tell you. They only sell fabrics by the yard and the more yards you buy, the more you can talk them down on the price. But since many of the shops carry similar fabrics, you can talk them down a few bucks. Some of the shops are cheap with $1-$2 fabrics. And some have higher quality stuff. You can tell the finer shop owners from the slimier ones. If you don’t want something, just say no thank you and walk away. Don’t feel bad as they try to reel you back in, while you walk away.
I usually browse the little shops, just watching for something random that might “catch my eye”.
Then I make two stops:
1. Carmel Fabrics: 432 E. 9th street (#1)
This is one of my favorite shops on the street. This is where I buy all my linen fabrics. The shop owner is such a sweet, nice man. And he carries linen in every color imaginable for a very reasonable $7/yard (appx). The prettier stuff is inside the shop; solids and cool prints:
And if you’ve ever asked me what kind of batting I use for my infant carseat covers?….well, it’s nothing fancy! I buy yards and yards of that stuff on the big white roll, from some random shop owner on the street:
Stop #2: Michael Levine, 920 Maple Ave.
This is THE Go-To Shop. Everyone knows about it. Everyone goes there. And that’s because it’s fabulous! You can not bargain with them in here. All the prices are set.
It’s much cleaner than the other shops on the street. So I usually go there last, feels more relaxing. They also have a bathroom (and a parking lot which I’ve never tried).
You can find most designer fabrics in here (Michael Miller, Amy Butler, Alexander Henry, etc). along with any kind of textiles….netting, denim, spandex, terry cloth, knits, chiffon, oilcloth. You name it, they usually have it. I get many of my knits here as well. The inventory changes from time to time so it’s always worth a stop. You can also buy notions, ribbons, and all sorts of thread. I usually grab a few new colors of serger thread since they’re 4 spools for $1. What?? (Another reason for the extra bag on our flight home to Texas.)
And across the street is their upholstery shop AND the Michael Levine Loft, which is very fun.
The Loft is a huge room full of cardboard boxes and fabric remnants. Everything in these boxes cost $2/POUND. So, you grab everything you like and place it on the scale. If you’re in the market for light-weight chiffon, score! Who knows how much you can get for 1 pound??
And lastly, I rarely stop here because it makes me a little cuckoo. But it’s a very interesting visit: Santee Alley. It’s one of the most popular shopping spots in the downtown area and usually very crowded. I never go here with kids. In fact, I never go downtown shopping at all with my kids.
In the Alley you’ll find all sorts of knock-off designer purses and bags, cheap/cool sunglasses, clothing, and anything trendy you can think of. It’s kind of like a permanent Swap Meet. You can bargain with shop owners here too. You gotta try it at least once:
And that’s my Downtown L.A. shopping trip! But my fabric doesn’t stop there….
If you live in the Orange County, California area my shops are:
M&L Fabrics: 3430 W. Ball Road
It’s in Anaheim near Beach and Ball (does it more California than that? Beach Ball?). It’s a funny store in a cheesy strip mall and it looks like this:
Inside you’ll also find tons of designer fabrics, along with piles and PILES of fabric. When their inventory turns over, they take the older stuff and fold it into stacks at a discounted price. You can purchase from these stacks, it just takes a while to browse through it all (and to pull the fabrics out). I can easily stay here for over an hour.
That green/brown houndstooth fabric from The Hobo Sack that many of you have asked about? I got it here, in their discount bin for $3/yard! The crazy thing is, I’d seen it earlier that month at Michael Levine for $12/yard. DEAL! Sorry I can’t remember who the designer is. I’ve searched and searched and can’t find that info anywhere.
If you live further south, near Huntington Beach, CA check out their sister store called:
Jenny’s Fabrics: 8984 Warner Ave, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
It’s the same deal, the same stuff. But the store is half the size of M&L.
For my day-to-day fabric needs I shop at:
I go here probably once or twice a week. Their mailing list coupons keep me coming back. Depending on where you live, your store could be great or super crappy. Here in Texas our JoAnns is wonderful and the shopping carts actually roll! In L.A?…..grrrr……don’t even get me started. I have a Top Ten list of why I hate that local shop. And yes, it starts with carts that you have to drag around the store because there’s too much junk in the wheels for them to turn.
I’d never been to one since coming to Texas. But I’ve enjoyed it so far. The fabric selection is small. But their craft area is huge. You can find most things here. Sign-up for weekly emails and they’ll send you coupons! Lame that they close at 8pm though. What tha?
I know what you’re thinking. Walmart.
But when I need a quick find I know I can go there and buy it for pretty cheap. AND they’re open 24 hours, so you know…when you’re sewing at 2am and realize you need buttons? You can head on over! Okay, I’ve never done that. But it’s reassuring.
Vintage Reproduction Fabrics:
REAL Wool Felt:
Wool Felt Central.com
And that sums it all up! I’ll be adding this to my FAQ questions section….which I plan to have up-and-running sometime soon. (sheepish grin)