FAQs: Fabric Shopping

by Dana on March 20, 2010

Shopping in Downtown L.A.

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:

First, I stop at the FIDM Scholarship Store (FIDM is the well-known design school: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, also the filming location of Project Runway Season 6).

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 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:

JoAnn Fabrics
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.

Hobby Lobby
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.

For my ONLINE shopping needs I recommend:
General Fabric:
Harts Fabric

Designer Cotton Prints:
A Fabric Outlet
Whipstitch Fabrics

Vintage Reproduction Fabrics:

Nylon Chiffon:
AFC Express

REAL Wool Felt:
Wool Felt Central.com

Oilcloth Addict

Spandex/Swimsuit fabrics:
Spandex World

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)

Happy Fabric shopping to you all! If you have a GO-TO shop, let me know about it!

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 debbie January 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm

yeah! thanks so much for sharing this.
i’m just getting into sewing so going to the fabric district is still on the overwhelming side!


2 Andrea Howe January 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I was just downtown today! Ha! I went to a few jewelry finding stores on Maple and then hit up Michael Levine before I left. Always find something good there!. Thanks for the online resources too. Excellent list!


3 Tara February 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Oooooo:) I miss LA toooooo!! Moved to Houston and I totally hear ya on missing the fabric.. And taking it for granted.. Siigh.. I am actually thinking of moving back just for that reason!:) thank u for reminding me how wonderful it is and also the online shops !! Ima check those out!!


4 Sam February 7, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I live 20 minutes from m and l! Been to all the places you mentioned, but there is a place called Fabric Outlet and Crafts on beach and cerritos. Always worth a trip before you got to m&l since you can find some of the same things (solid color silks) for half the price. It is about 1/5 the size but the do have jersey for I think $2/pound. They don’t really have anything for craft except some ribbon. And for anyone going downtown, watch as they measure your fabric, especially something with stretch. I got cheater half a yard on ruffled fabric!


5 Kelly February 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Thank you so much for your online resources! Im a follower from ‘down under’ Australia so cant visit downtown L.A but boy, have you made me want to fly over just so i can visit!!

From your online resources i have found a lot of fabric that i have already purchased from contacts here in Aus, problem being, here they charge me $7 for 1/2 yard and its $7 for 1 yard on the sites i just visited!! Thanks for saving me a fortune :-)


6 sharon March 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm

i’m in Pasadena and still have yet to venture out to fashion district. would love to go out there with you when you come back home to visit! i’m a bit nervous about downtown and it’s hard to get away from the kids long enough to go. another online fabric store i love is drygoodsdesign.com. free shipping for orders $35 and up. not as overwhelming as some online shops because the owner narrows it down to the most popular and well rounded prints out there.

love your site!! thanks for all the tips!


7 Andie S. March 31, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Its been a while since I was in LA for their fabrics and was wondering if you have a source for custom pillow forms from that area. I am looking for 9 x12 pillows. I’ve found a source back east but the shipping is really high. Any thoughts would be great. :)


8 Zoe August 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Ronco (Valley) for pillow forms. I think they sell to the public. Love going downtown also for colored sheers for parties – cheaper than the net.


9 JUDY April 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Dana Thanks for having this on your blog. I live in HB Jennys is my home away from home. But you’ve inspired me to gather my sewing buddies and head to LA. Great pictures and info.. I love your blog!! Thanks for all the wonderful inspiration..Jude in Sunny So California


10 Linda April 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Enjoy you blog, filled with info.
We will be in L.A. next week and shopping Home textiles.
Are all the outlets on the street level or are there any locations
where we will need to venture upper floors of buildings.
Also, do you know of any Wholesale outlets in the district
Thank you


11 Bonnie May 11, 2012 at 2:14 am

Hi Dana. If you’re near Austin, take a trip through Fredericksburg to Kerrville. There’s a fabulous fabric store called Creations on Main Street. Turn left off of Hwy 16 onto Main and its several blocks down on the right.


12 M July 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Thanks so much for posting this! I’ve been to the fashion district a couple of times and it is kinda overwhelming, but your info about knits is exactly what I needed. I’ve been baffled by my difficulty in finding cotton knits, especially with any sort of pattern or spandex! You listed a few places I haven’t made it to yet (I always go by public transportation, so it’s limiting in some ways), but now I know it’s worth the effort in seeking them out!


13 Stephanie July 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Wow, I’m usually not the envious type of person and I usually try to be content with what I’ve got but I’m downright drooling!

I just moved from VA to FL and had to leave a lot of my fabric stash behind because the post office was stealing it when I mailed it.

Down here, the prices are outrageously horrible! I’ve never been to CA in my life but it almost makes me want to take a trek there to scrounge around in the fabric bins. It’s a shame you don’t sell some of those $1 a yard fabrics online. I’ll be some ladies would really like some of those bargains at twice the price. Fabric by the pound sounds super too.


14 Angelique July 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Thanks for the info. Love the pictures and the parking info oh and the bathroom location. Have a mission to go to Blue Moon fabrics and was checking out other stores on line when I found your blog. Great work.


15 Bertha August 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Hi, I live in Los Angeles and I was wondering if you know of a place in Anaheim that was owned by Asians and sold beautiful serger threads. I use to work in Anaheim and my friend and i one lunch hour was looking for embroideries threads in the area that we were told and found tihs place. For the life of me, I can’t remember where is located. My friend still works there and she can’t remember. I would love to find it. It was in small area close to the Knitting store. I thought maybe you knew.
I haven’t been to downtown in years. Is an experience and no one wants to go with me. LOL


16 Pamela October 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm

OH my gosh! I loveed this! I’m from San Antonio and we use to have a store called Solo Serve. When you first walked in it looked like a slightly seedy department store…….BUT in reality it was a wonderland of stuff you never saw anywhere else. The best part where the big bins full of clothes,shoes,linens,and…(drum roll please!!!) FABRIC!!! All the moms would give clear instructions on what they were looking for and sent us kids into the bins to find that perfect gem….like looking for gold! I sure do miss Solo nothing like that around here anymore…poor poor pityful me!


17 Rebecca October 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Thanks Dana this is magic. Yes I am from little New Zealand and I just love your web and blog. I have just booked a trip to LA and I am fabric mad! Love to sew new projects! I am so going to all these places. Thank you so much for all the info.


18 Larik November 7, 2012 at 2:46 am

This is such a great check list! I am planning a trip to LA this weekend in search for red and white fur, specifically for a holiday hat. The material here in San Diego just isn’t as soft or up to par for what I’m looking for. Any recommendations on first places to check?


19 mindy November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

What kind of fabric would you recommend for draping a ceiling for a wedding that would be soft and flowy but as cheap as possible. Where should I look for this fabric? I would want at least 200 yards.


20 Nathalie December 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I’m from LA and I’ve been down to the fabric district, but a long time ago. I’ve been meaning to go again soon. Your guide will sure help. I must say I like Walmart too for fabrics. I have found some fabulous things there. Thanks! Love your blog!


21 Kayren December 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Thank you so much for this! I’ve been browing the internet for days trying to find good fabric shops and have been a bit overwhelmed.

Your tutorials and informations have been wonderful for me. I am brand new at sewing and used your pants tutorial to make my very first item – shorts for my 5 month old daughter’s Wonder Woman costume for Halloween! They came out great. :)


22 Kathy April 14, 2013 at 1:49 am

I’ve been downtown LA lots of times. When your their you can go to the flower Mart a block over. You can also go to Boheoman crystal on Maple. Lots of things to see. It is safe…but like anywhere you just need to be aware of your surroundings. You can park at Moskatel’s and buy a little something and they’ll valid your parking….so it’s free. Last time we were there Michael Jordan was in the car in front of us.


23 Stephanie C April 17, 2013 at 10:21 am

Oh my gosh, I didn’t see one of my FAVORITE websites on your list, so I had to share. http://www.warehousefabricsinc.com. Check it out. Lightweight drapery fabrics from $7/yard. It’s awesome! I even bought the cutest pink/white striped knit on clearance for $1/yard!! :) You’ll love it.


24 J April 21, 2013 at 5:34 am

So glad I continued to google different phrases of the type of fabric I’m looking for “Bubbled cotton gauze for swaddle blankets.” Thank you for sharing your finds with us.
As a teenager I was taken down there, we shopped til we dropped. I had forgotton all about this area. Could you please tell me where you found the “Bubbled cotton gauze”. I checked at JoAnn’s today, the fabric cutter had not seen this in the store. They had just regular gauze. I showed her a store bought printed pattern bubbled cotton gauze swaddle, she had never seen these. Where would I buy that in downtown L.A. or do they carry that there? I wanted to make several, shopping at Target would be to expensive that way. I want to purchase by the yard.
Thank you again for your very informative site.


25 vivian August 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Can you tell me where I could find baby swaddle cloth online?


26 Amanda January 2, 2014 at 8:27 pm

How does LA compare to NYC. If you had to choose, which one would you visit? I’m trying to line up an outing with a sewing friend. Right now, NYC sounds easier – no need for rental car.


27 Sasha July 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Thanks for sharing! I am soooooo excited to have my first trip to LA and the Fabric District later this year I am busting at the seams…no pun intended lol I think I will have to buy an extra suitcase while I am there, don’t you think? :) Sasha


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29 Natalie November 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Hi I have followed you for awhile and love your patterns. I was looking at where you get your fabrics and saw that you love in Texas now. I’m not sure where you live in Texas ,but my husband and I have a fabric wharehouse that we love thought if you lived close you might want to check it out. It’s in dallas called Golden D’Or Fabrics 10797 Harry Hines blvd Dallas tx 75220. Website is http://www.goldendoroutlet.com. They have all seeing supplies at cheap prices. I’d love to read what you think about it.


30 Yvonne July 16, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Thanks a lot for your sharing!
I just getting interest in sawing, so this is a valuable info for me.
I am living more than 15 years in LA and I didn’t know about all the staff that I can find just around the corner. Thanks again :)


31 Caitlyn August 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Do you have any other fabric store suggestions for those making fabric trips to LA? I’m going to find cotton knit fabric for baby swaddles.


32 Sandy September 13, 2015 at 10:56 pm

I live in Newport Beach and I love Jennys!


33 北京整形美容 December 30, 2015 at 9:40 pm

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