I've lived in LA for about 10 years and while I haven't been to every store (there are too many!) I've done my fair share of hunting and I have a lot of favorites. Los Angeles is a big, spread out city with a lot of different neighborhoods so if you are visiting for a short time and have your heart set on fabric shopping, I recommend doing a bit of planning. Fortunately, most of the fabric shopping is located downtown in the garment district, known as the LA Fashion District. I've created a handy-dandy google map for you to use with all my favorite fabric and notions shops, plus a few sights and eats to keep you inspired and nourished on your journey. Read on for more details.
I organized my map into three sections: Downtown, Mid-City and the Westside. It's also coded by color and symbol! The blue pin drops indicate the shops, the green spoon and knife are food, the purple icons are sights and the orange books are bookstores. Click here to explore the map in more detail. Click the icons to get more details on each location. But first, scroll down for more info. :)
The LA Fashion District is a stunner. I’ve never seen anything like it. Nestled between the Flower District and Santee Alley (where you will find myriad cheap goods from clothing to makeup to DVDs), it's a colorful and slightly gritty area (skid row is not far away). And, it's a lot of fun. You can find almost anything there but it can take a bit of searching. Thankfully I've done a lot of the leg work for you. :) When I have time, I love to explore the neighborhood and soak in the energy of this vibrant area. If you're feeling peckish, try fresh cut fruit sprinkled with spices or a popsicle from one of the many street vendors. If you're extra hungry, follow your nose to a cart selling bacon wrapped hot dogs for a classic LA street food experience.
On the weekends especially, this area is very crowded and can be overwhelming. If possible, I recommend visiting on a weekday as the crowds are lighter and all the stores will be open (many close on at least one of the weekend days). Some stores are wholesale only but all of the ones I list also sell to the public.
FIDM Scholarship Store
The FIDM Scholarship Store is about a 10-15 minute walk from the heart of the fashion district. The store is part clothing and accessories and part fabric and notions. The stock is all donated and proceeds go towards scholarships. The prices are super low ($1-$5 per yard) and the stock changes frequently. I never know what I’m going to find there but it’s worth popping in to check.
Michael Levine, Inc.
Michael Levine is the biggest store in the fashion district. The store is well organized and has a wide variety of fabrics and notions plus an impressive yarn selection. If you've every ordered from Low Price Fabric, this is their physical store.
Michael Levine Loft Directly across the street from the main building is the upholstery store and the “Loft”. The Loft carries all the cast offs and is sold by the pound. It used to located upstairs but is now in the back of the upholstery store. It’s now a little more organized and thankfully air conditioned. This is one of my favorite stops downtown. It's really fun hunting for fabric and I've found a lot of great stuff here.
LA Alex Inc This store might be a bit confusing because it has a lot of table clothes in the front but as soon as you walk past those you’ll find lots of fabric (I always check out their denim section) and in the back they have one of the best selections of zippers in the area. If I’m looking for a specific zipper, I always stop in here. Oh and they're super affordable too so it's a great place to stock up on zips.
Ashanti Fabrics specializes in fabrics from Africa. A must see for lovers of African fabrics.
Golden Cutting & Sewing Supplies has a great selection of tools and notions that I’ve had a hard time finding elsewhere, like jeans buttons and bra findings.
Trim 2000 has a little bit of everything, notions, zippers, buttons and elastic. I often buy basic lingerie elastic here and zippers.
Button & Trim Expo has a fantastic selection of ribbons and my personal favorite, fold over elastic. It’s very affordable and available in about 30 colors.
Lingerie Plus looks like just a bra store but if you look in the glass counter case you might luck out and find bra supplies like underwire and hook and eye closures.
Bead Factory Inc Lots and lots of beads plus things like key chains and clasps that sewists occasionally need.
Target Trim Corporation Good selection of trims and notions.
Near the fashion district in downtown is Little Tokyo. It's a compact neighborhood with tons of great restaurants. For sewing supplies, I like to stop by Daiso which is essentially a Japanese dollar store for cheap elastic and occasionally other notions. The selection can be variable but it’s always fun to stop in. Pick up some washi tape for marking the seam allowance on your sewing machine while you’re there. If you’re a fan of Japanese sewing books make time for Kinokuniya. They have a great selection and if you’re lucky you might find one in English. (If you don't make it downtown, both Daiso and Kinokuniya have west side locations that are on the map.)
The mid-city area of Los Angeles is home to two fantastic fabric stores, Mood Fabrics and The Fabric Store. If you’ve ever watched Project Runway, then you have heard of Mood. This store is the LA outpost of the one so frequently seen on tv. It moved to this location about 5 years ago and is bigger than ever, featuring row upon row of fabric bolts. I’ve been known to get a little overwhelmed by all the selection. Just down the street from Mood is The Fabric Store. Originally from New Zealand, this lovely boutique specializes in merino wool and a collection of carefully curated fashion fabrics. I’ve written about The Fabric Store a number of times before and have an ongoing partnership with them. The store is always a delight to visit with just the right amount of options.
While you’re in the mid-city area, consider visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It’s one of my favorite museums and I always love checking out what they have on display in the very small section dedicated to fashion in the Building of the Americas. Next door are the burbling, stinky tar pits. They are a must-see in my book. Even though it's a little far away from the La Brea corridor, I also included the Griffith Park Observatory on my map. I love to take out of town guests to this site for a great view of LA and a little bit of nature and sometimes a hike in the large, adjacent park. Speaking of hikes, if you like to combine physical activity with your sightseeing, try one of the secret staircase walks. You'll get a great workout and see parts of LA that are off the beaten path. I've done a few of these and they are super cool.
When I’m on the west side of town and hankering for some fabric shopping, I stop by Fabric Planet. They offer a wide selection of fashion fabrics and bins full of notions. If you’re not able to make it to downtown, consider visiting the Daiso store in Little Osaka. (I haven’t visited this location as often as the downtown one so I can’t say for sure if they frequently have sewing supplies. Regardless, you can find some excellent Japanese food.)
Whether you're an LA resident or visiting for the first time, I hope that this guide is helpful and that you enjoy this diverse city. I also recommend reading Christine Haynes' guide published in Seamwork Magazine. We have some overlap but she also has a few places that I have not been to before and did not include. Happy sewing and shopping!