8 Tips to shop the LA Fabric District

Situated in the bustling heart of the City of Angels, the Fabric Shopping District of Los Angeles, colloquially known as the LA Fabric District, is a vibrant tapestry of culture, creativity, and commerce. The area is known for exceptional diversity and renowned for its extensive array of textiles that run the gamut from the conventional to the exotic, vintage to avant-garde, humble cotton to luxurious silk, attracting both locals and enthusiastic Irish male quilters alike.

This is a bit of a labyrinthine neighbourhood where designers, artisans and buyers coalesce with craft and industry. There’s a sense of the utilitarian intertwining with the aesthetic, a juxtaposition of the jute and the silk. If you’re a knowledgeable traveler, you’ll hotfoot it here, as I did, to catch value and variety in equal measure. My Uber showed up early and I spent my first jet-lagged morning in LA searching for quilting cottons to replenish my stash.

Before I share my experience, let me share my tips for managing your trip to the LA Fabric District.

8 Tips to Get the Best from the LA Fabric District

  1. Plan Your Visit: The LA Fabric District is vast, spanning over 200 stores. Before you embark on your textile treasure hunt, familiarize yourself with the district’s layout starting around 8th Street to Olympic from Maple Avenue to San Julian Street. Think about what you want to buy and target specific stores.
  2. Dress Comfortably: Seriously. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Exploring the district will involve a fair bit of walking, and restrooms and places to chill can be few and far between.
  3. Arrive Early: Getting there early means you’ll have an easier time finding a store associate to cut your fabrics or trims. Plus there can be lines at the cash register if you show up at peak times.
  4. Bring Cash: While most stores do accept cards, some smaller establishments and street vendors might deal only in cash. Having cash can also help with haggling.
  5. Negotiate: Speaking of which, haggling is a common practice in certain stores. Don’t shy away from negotiating prices, particularly if you are buying in bulk.
  6. Look for Hidden Gems: Venture beyond the main stores into lesser-seen alleyways where there are smaller boutiques, some offering unique fabrics at bargain prices.
  7. Know Your Fabrics: Before you set out, research the types of fabrics you want and know typical prices elsewhere. Building up your knowledge will really help with discerning value and quality.
  8. Patience is Key: The sheer variety and volume of textiles can be overwhelming. Be patient, sift through the stacks of fabric, remember your original shopping list, and you’ll likely find something worth your time and money.

Shopping at Michael Levine

My search started at Michael Levine and the sale they were running meant the most I spent per yard was $6. Astonishing value compared to European or Australian prices. I just wished that my skill level were up to sewing the crisp shirtings that I couldn’t but admire.

The variety is startling and perhaps I’d have found some better consistency for future quilts if I’d been more with it. All of these madly different yard-cuts will find a home in upcoming designs. The aisles can seem overwhelming to the new fabric shopper. My advice is to arrive with a written list of what you need and get familiar with the ways of the store by finding those materials first. Staff are friendly but madly busy. A friendly ‘hi’ will go a long way to getting your cuts done!

US Fabric Chain Stores vs LA Fabric District

A lot of American crafters use stores like Joann’s or Michael’s, which can offer great value, particularly if you collect coupons! The issue with the chain stores has been, in my experience, an inconsistency of quality. The cheaper and discount fabrics don’t wash well, as you might imagine. However, I found the quality of the cottons across the board at Levines to cut, sew and wash well.

The Pink Wall on Melrose Avenue

I set out across town with my shopping bag (and my heart) full. With little time to spare before a post-LA Fabric District hair appointment, I made my way to Melrose Avenue to Harper Salon, where my friend James works. He’d told me about this really cool pink wall on the adjacent block at the Paul Smith building which people flock to grab Instagram pictures as the pink makes lots of skin tones pop. I think the pink and blue sky contrast is fantastic all on its own!

There’s something so relaxing about getting your hair cut, at least for me and James is the master at work! What a fun way to spend a day in Los Angeles!

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