Scraps of the LA Fashion district

Most of the time I like to get my fabric from thrift stores, garage sales and other points downstream, but living less than three hours away from the second largest fashion district on the continent, I do sometimes indulge in new fabric.

$1-2 a yard from Fabric Planet

There are surprisingly few shopping guides to the LA fashion district, and none that share my particular aesthetic: I like very high quality natural-fiber fabric, and I like to pay very little for it. It sounds like an unlikely combination, but fortunately as a quilter I don’t need a lot of contiguous square inches to be interested.

Consider this a first draft of a scrappy quilter’s guide to the fashion district. If you know places I should know about, please throw down in the comments!

Fabric scraps

FIDM scholarship store – Thanks to this guide, I found this place the first time I visited the garment district. At the back of the store there’s a nice selection of remnants for $1 a yard. Most pieces are less than a yard. They also have rolls – usually upholstery, stretch, or lace type fabrics – and fabric samples at 3 x $1.

FIDM fabric haul
$4 of fabric, including cheesecloth for non-quilting use.

B. Black and Sons – This guide turned me on to this shop. I was able to buy ~1/2 yard roll ends of wool and linen for $1 apiece. If you’re inspired by old Amish quilts, don’t miss this place. They also throw away sample books (which is what I used to make this quilt-top in progress), so it would be worth asking if they have any old ones to spare.

BBlack fabric haul
Spent $8.75 on this pile.

Michael Levine Loft – Across the street from the main store, upstairs, fabric is sold for $2.50/lb. Most of the loft is full of knits, because they’re heavier, but I usually find a couple of pounds of interesting scraps.

M Levine fabric haul
$3.50

Other sources

Living in Vancouver, I discovered the to-the-trade decorator fabric shops on Alexander Street. After one lucky dumpster experience (I got a couple of books full of 6×6 silk samples, I used to make this), I started going into the shops and asking for their old samples. Some would tell me, “we just threw out a dumpster full” while others would set old books aside for fashion students and were happy to let me go through the stash and take whatever I wanted. Upholstery stores can also be good sources. I’m sure it’s possible to do this in LA, I just haven’t yet. – any recommendations?

Clothing seconds

Clothing Seconds
Summer shirts, a few dollars apiece, from a store I can’t find anymore.

Clothing seconds are factory rejects and usually go for $1 – $10 a piece. Finding a store full of interesting ones is a clothing-modifier’s dream come true. In some cases the damage is a sewing error or small tear, while other times there is an intentional snip out of the garment (I would like to understand more about the industry and why garments are snipped and then donated/sold off). The only source I can point you to so far is the FIDM scholarship store. I did find another store last year, at the edge of the garment district, that sold damaged clothing, but I haven’t been able to find it again!

 

12 thoughts on “Scraps of the LA Fashion district

  1. Hi my name is Carmen and I just stumbled onto you site about quality remnants and I hope you can help with some information. I would like to start making my own clothes again but fabric shops in my area (Joanns, Yardage City etc.) sell extremely low quality fabrics, I grew up making my clothes (from pajamas to wool coats) made from quality remnants. Some fabric shops would purchase left over scraps from the Los Angeles garment district clothes makers. These fabrics were high quality unlike the junk found in most fabric stores today. Do you know if these fabric scraps are sold to fabric shops near the Los Angeles area? I’m in San Diego CA and I hope you can help. Thanks

    1. Hi Carmen,
      I suspect my local fabric store does buy from the garment district. However, the quality doesn’t seem remarkable to me (and a lot of what sells on the street in the garment district is very low quality, actually). It sounds like you’re going to need to investigate the fabric stores in your area to try to get a feel for what they carry. There must be good stuff in san diego! Good luck.

      Reanna

      1. Thanks for your reply. The fabric remants I speak of are actual leftovers from the cutting table that garment makers toss out, sometimes I could make out the outline of a sleeve on some of these pieces. Quite a few times I would find clothing made out of this fabric at high end department stores. Needles to say for a poor college student I dressed very well at the time. The little fabric shop I would frequent here in San Diego closed up because the owner told me that the garment makers wouldn’t sell her remnants anymore because the designers found out that the sweat shops were selling the fabric scraps and put a stop to this practice. Sad because they toss out yards and yards of perfectly good fabric during the cutting process. Would you know if this still enforced? Do the Michael Levine remnants you mention above by any chance fit my escription of the remnants I used to buy? Thank you again for your help.
        Carmen :)

        1. Wow, interesting. I’ve never come across that kind of scraps before. They sound great — if you find some, let me know! Michael Levine loft (across the street from the main store) sells bolt remnants from their main store, mostly knit fabrics. The Fashion Institute Scholarship store sells some remnants which I assume are donated from the garment industry, though not quite like what you describe.

        2. Hello Carmen, you can try OFF THE BOLT in Northridge, CA. They sell end runs of good quality fabrics. Check them out on the internet. XOXO

    2. I’d go to the National City Swap Meet and the Golden West College one (just about a block from the huge Orange County Swap Meet).

      Both have a number of people selling remnants and about 85% of what I’ve gotten have ALL been from places in the Fashion District.

      Some were stores I knew from buying fabric there myself, some are wholesale only (which I can’t do) and others I’ve found that I’d never heard of before because they were so far out that unless we had a ton of time, we’d never get out that far.

      And I’m saying that as typically going up and spending two full days (staying overnight) coming up from the San Diego area because we try to hit so many places (and not just fabrics) and so knowing the area well and kind of having it down to a science, meaning typically trying to explore outward further every time, too…and STILL a bunch were total unknowns – and we’ve not manage to hit all these new ones yet.

      National City is a CRAZY good deal. There are probably 2 dozen or so that sell good fabric and then some is just lousy. Most are remnants but some are on rolls or bolts still.

      The very best seller is along the outer fence of the NCSM – if you go in any of the entrances that are off the street that’s across from the parking lot and go right, you’d find her. She’s got about 3 stalls together and I believe is the only fabric one that’s on that edge – the others are all on the rows going perpendicular from that main entrance side. There are a couple of entrances, and I believe the furthest south one is the closest (and she was maybe a few stalls to the right – if you were walking in from that entrance)

      She had some GREAT stuff. Remnants were I think 2 for $1 initially, but then she was down to 4 for $1 as it got closer to noon or so. And a lot of her pieces were far bigger than others had. Some of the stuff still on rolls or in one of her stall areas were a little bit more, but not most.

      I can’t think of her name at the moment, but if I can get down there soon I’ll come back and comment here (and get her stall #) Fascinating lady! She speaks English more than many others there do, but largely uses Spanish, but I believe she’s actually from the Middle East. I heard both some Farsi and Arabic, as well. (And she lowered her prices even more when I spoke in Arabic!) She also speaks something Slavic – wasn’t Czech or Polish, but I couldn’t figure out what. TOTALLY fascinating lady, really!

      Some of the fabric had flaws, but workable anyway in most cases (and not an issue at all depending on what you were wanting)

      There were some others that were decent, but that is definitely the best deal! For the most part the half of the swap meet closer to that main entrance area is the new stuff, the back half is more what I would think of as a large garage sale but in a swap meet setting. Some will bargain but not most – but most is so cheap there’s not a lot further down to go.

      I’d go down just to the one lady’s to get stuff, truthfully. I think it’s like $1 (maybe just 50 cents and I was thinking $1 since it’s always been two of us?) to get in…things running together in my mind! They won’t let you use the wheelie cart things a lot of people use in LA and other places, but you can bring in other bags (totes, heavier quality ones to make it easier to carry things – plus you can go in and out once getting your hand stamped)

      Oh and depending on what you do, there are others who sell yarn, trims, threads, other crafting supplies, etc.

      I had no idea until about a year ago that the NCSM was worth going to (or any down this way, to be honest) and wish I had known earlier! It’s a great alternative to LA for some things, and far, far closer. And some things are significantly cheaper than in LA, which already is so much cheaper than most places!

      I’m going to post this b/c my computer is acting up and I don’t want to lose it, then I’ll comment about the GWC one and also a few other places you (both) may find interesting if you’ve not been there before!

      Oh, and go to Hans and Harry’s Bakery in the Bonita-ish area nearby afterward! SO, SO good!

    3. One thing I forgot about NCSM – I ::believe:: (and am pretty sure) that the stall I was mentioning as having been really great (at least for me – the one where the price drops halfway through the day or so also) that she was not only the first one you’d come to walking in that southern most entrance and going right, but that she was also the last fabric stall you’d come to before the edge of that southern perimeter fence. Also, there was at least one fabric stall across from her, and it was largely fabric on rolls. She has a white van at the southern end of her 3 stalls (but most do so that’s probably not a huge help…but her location is the only one like it unless someone’s tried to join her in that area since I was last there about 2 months ago so that could make her easier to find)

      There’s apparently a related swap meet in Spring Valley that also has fabric, but I’ve not been there personally to vouch for it, and have heard it’s not as big or with as much fabric.

      Anyway, like I also mentioned, the Golden West College Swap Meet is also great.

      I’ve only been once (actually did it on a 3 day LA overnight about 6 weeks ago) That one we only did part of because we found SO much really, really cool stuff and truly didn’t need more fabric (who ever even says that?! ha ha) especially since we were also going to LA for two days!

      It’s free to get into and free to park.

      It’s pretty big! I think we only did about aisles B-H and seriously had entirely too much! One seller, I believe he was like D 12 or 22 (?) kind of straight from the bathrooms and then on the left down about halfway between the bathrooms and where a bunch of the food places are and then the far end that faces Golden West Rd (Dr? St. whatever!) He had some incredibly unique things!

      There you COULD bring in a rolling cart type thing – both the more typical ones you see overseas, or any assortment of more American knock-off-esque. Or, heck, even rolling suitcases!

      We ended up parking a distance away – we hadn’t realized quite how huge it was or the exact location compared to the various lots. Bummer for hauling fabric, but huge bonus for lots of bathrooms that no one else was trying to use b/c they weren’t by the biggest parking lot OR by the more ‘main routes’ to the shopping areas so NO lines and NO supplies that were lacking! Ha.

      I truthfully can’t even begin to guess how many more fabric places there were, but even in the few aisles we did there were probably as many as at the NCSM total…and like I said, we really didn’t hit much of it!

      In my opinion definitely worth the drive! I’m going to LA again tomorrow and wish it were the weekend to go by it again…though it really almost needs to be a separate day.

      Again, posting this, then will add a few others :)

    4. If you don’t know it, M & L is pretty good as a fabric store option, but it’s up in Anaheim. 3400 Ball Road I believe. (We always tell people to remember that it’s pretty near Beach & Ball – since beach ball is easy to remember. Ha ha)

      They have all sorts of fabric – most newer and good name brands – A LOT of cottons for quilting. A LOT. But it’s got some of almost everything.

      It used to be A LOT cheaper than it is now, especially for flannels and cottons (flannels more than anything seem to have increased price wise)

      There are hordes of bolts, but then there are also flat folds. The flat folds are cheaper across the board…but it also means digging…major, major digging. And not swap meet or garment district type digging. It’s absurdly heavy and the stuff at the bottom requires a team effort to get to…seriously. (Though some of what’s at the bottom has probably been there decades)

      It’s in a huge store that’s also got a back area beyond what you see when you go in. Used to not have a bathroom (or anything even really nearby to use a restroom at – we used to stop at an El Pollo Loco to get a drink and use the restroom both before and after going because you could be there for hours!) They DO now have a restroom (usually available) – not the greatest, but…there is one now :) There’s also a big Walgreens next door on the corner so that’s helpful also since you can leave for a few and grab a drink if needed, etc.

      They have some shopping carts, but VERY narrow aisles, so it’s tricky. Pretty much I park my cart near-ish where I’m at and stick fabric in it and then move to the next area when I’m done. The aisles are so narrow that you typically can’t even WALK past a cart if someone else has one in the aisle – except in the flat folds area.

      They also let you just stack up your bolts or flats at the row nearest the cutting counter wall and that avoids the cart issue also. Nearly everyone that works there is Romanian, notoriously not particularly warm or helpful, and most speak very little English, so it’s not somewhere that’s got a great reputation in that regard since many customers have historically been those that would never go anywhere other than a Joanns or quilt shop or something.

      For any of us who like the adventure of the garment district or don’t mind swap meets, it’s pretty similar (just mostly better organized!) in terms of being some degree of a culture experience mixed in with fabric shopping. So don’t let the reviews of others dissuade you from going. I’ve NEVER found it to be off-putting, but some do.

      Like I said, they used to be great prices wise, in face I’d rarely buy fabric elsewhere. Now, especially depending on what I’m needing, LA or one of the swap meets is too much less to make it as appealing.

      Whereas before I’d go up for a chunk of a day because it was big and even if I went “just for ____” (whatever I needed for a particular project) I’d end up getting stuff for 2 or more projects that weren’t on my radar till I saw fabric there. Ha ha.

      Many of the flannels used to be $1.49 in the flat folds, $1.99 in the bolts, and then the pricer stuff (either the brand new ‘releases’ or, back in the day something like what’s-her-name-Mumm, Debbie?) were more like $3.99. That meant if you hated digging – which I know some very much do – it wasn’t much of a difference, plus it was all still considerably cheaper than almost anything else, even with a coupon.

      The last time I went, I think it was like $2.99 in the flats and $3.99 or more in the rest, and with many closer to $5…meaning it really isn’t all that much cheaper, at least for flannels.

      I actually didn’t buy anything the last time I was there…which has NEVER happened before. Like I said, usually I end up inspired and buying all sorts of things. Of course I had also just been at both the NCSM AND the GWC one (that one literally right before…went from one to the other!) and was going to spend 2 days in LA following it! But I think I was just so shocked at how much pricier things had gotten, that that played into it for me, too.

      BUT, they do have a ton…and I know a lot really is cheaper.

      And unlike many places, they have a pretty good bit of ALL fabrics, which is rare. While they’ve got a ton of cottons (and a lot quilting quality) they’ve got really everything. Velvets, crushed velvets, knits, upholstery (the latter two in the backroom thing, primarily), flannels, fancy things, denims, fleece, a decent area of trims and patterns and threads, etc. Some remnants (on the wall that’s to the right when you walk in the door)

      Worth a trip depending on what type of thing you’re looking for also! And it could be a good thing to combine with going to Golden West if you’re up for an early start and are ambitious.

      I believe it was (maybe still is?) related to a place called Jenny’s, I believe it’s in Huntington Beach area, but the one time I went awhile ago I didn’t find it worth spending any time in really, and haven’t been back since. But it is in the area if you’re looking for more.

      And the Joann’s near Knott’s Berry Farm is a decent one, IMO – though I think the Temecula one is probably the best in a decent distance from San Diego, as far as Joann’s stores go, just FYI if you’ve not hit them all up to survey the various options as far as ‘traditional’ stores go. Oh, and I also think the Temecula one has the advantage of Hobby Lobby nearby. Not great as far as fabric selection, but great for a lot of other things depending on what else you might be into creativity wise. (We’re getting one in San Marcos sometime next year)

      One more reply coming (then I promise I’ll stop with my random tidbits! Ha)

    5. I’ve not been there yet, but if you were heading up to the OC area to hit up Golden West College Swap Meet and/or M & L, but the Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse is something I wish were closer because the hours make it hard for me to hit (especially since I’d probably try to do it in conjunction with something else) but also one of those things I think most creatives wish they had around them.

      While they’ve got a website and all that, their FB site is my favorite b/c they post ideas of things you could do with random stuff! https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Long-Beach-Depot-For-Creative-ReUse/115960447510

      There’s a similar place in SF called Scrap, but this one seems to be much better (and much more organized) Most everything is under 10 cents, and it’s random stuff that especially is handy if you do anything mixed media based at all or anything with jewelry making or anything.

      If you ever get up north, the Berryessa Flea Market in San Jose is a great one for fabric. That’s actually the first swap meet I went to and went fabric hunting. They had A LOT of really interesting textiles, a lot of sari type fabrics or those for abayas (nearly everyone up there vendor wise – in the textile area – was Indian or Middle Eastern) and a lot more silks, etc. In that sense, it reminded me a lot of a souq, but then with the random swap meet stuff around it (and ridiculously good breakfast burritos!)

      I believe it was about $1 entrance wise and I think it was open like Wednesdays to Sundays, with it maybe more on Saturdays and Sundays (but also more being open). To be honest I’ve not been there recently enough to remember prices compared to the SoCal options or Fashion District places, but just figured I’d throw it out there!

      And the Berkeley Flea Market (at the Ashby BART station) was REALLY a cultural experience. There was some fabric, but absolutely no way of predicting what would be there. People would come from overseas and sell stuff for a few weeks, or bring things to family members to sell – and it was like a totally eclectic international market or something. Then there was a junky area, but it was definitely interesting if you like that kind of thing and were in the area. Just not at all predictable as far as if there’d be anyone with fabric even. Truly, truly a cultural experience.

      Oh, and another thought, if you find tailors near you, sometimes you can get some great scraps or remnants, etc. I learned that trick while overseas and got what would have otherwise been extremely expensive fabric for free. It wouldn’t have been enough for a lot of things, but because of what I wanted to do, and so not necessarily needing huge pieces, it became a great source for me.

      It took some doing here, but I’ve found tailors willing to save things for me here now as well. And I suspect if you became friendly with some shop keepers in the Fashion District and asked if they work with anyone up there garment production wise, you might be able to get connections that way, also, and get things saved if you’d come pick them up every so often.

  2. I love to just google and find bloggers who write about going up to LA (or anywhere in SoCal, really!) and going fabric / textile hunting.

    So I’m so happy to have found your blog! It’s fun to see where people like to go, find new places, or get other good tips!

    I’m heading up again tomorrow and was just hunting to see if I’d find anything mentioned I’d not seen before, and for some reason this is the first time I’ve found your blog!

    I’d never thought about actually asking about sample books – what a great idea! I’ve got a few who I asked if they had just some samples they were discarding, as there are a number of shopkeepers I’ve gotten to know quite well over the last many years, but I’d never thought about asking those few, at least, for actual older sample books even! Love that idea!

    Sorry for my (ridiculously) lengthy replies…but thanks for the ‘forum’ to talk about some finds I’ve appreciated happening on!

    Looking forward to actually sitting and reading through your blog more once I get home Thursday!

    1. Hi Leese
      Thanks for the wealth of information! Two of the main reasons I stopped sewing clothes is because
      1) The fabric shop (located in San Ysidro) I used to frequent closed due to not being able to get fabric scraps from the sweat shops in the LA fashion district. Then there was a place in La Jolla called Sew and Sew that had quality fabrics (so expensive I couln’t afford to make a handkerchief), the also closed probably due to the fact sewing lost it’s appeak and seems to be a lost art these days.
      2) AND Yardage City and Joann’s, and I am being kind, sell crap!
      Oh those remnants bring such longing because it was like mining for gold if I found a nice print and quality fabric-and believe me if you are used Yardage City and Joann’s you will never go back once you use fashion district scraps. It felt like I struck gold when I found a nice piece of fabric. I made wool coats, skirts blouses, dresses that looked like I bought them at some high end store and sewn on my mom’s vintage sewing machine that weighed a ton with only one setting single stitch, and a separate attachement for making button holes. Look up Singer model 301 and you’ll know what I mean. I still have that sewing machine I just can’t part with it.
      The National City swap meet is in my ‘hood and I don’t remember seeing the scraps you mention but then again I haven’t made my own clothes since the shop closed and I got to busy working and going to SDSU and since I graduated and started working long hours and travelling I have no time to sew. I am thinking of sewing again because I can’t afford Macy’s let alone Nordstrom clothing and I am tired of the crap I find myself buying at Ross and Marshall’s and in some instances GTM!!!
      Since you will be in LA I hope you come back with news about were the swap meet sellers get their fabric scraps if they confirm that yes they buy from the garment district I will be dusting off my mom’s sewing machine!

      Happy hunting
      Carmen

      1. All the remnants I found with labels and tags on them are DEFINITELY from LA in the garment district or the outskirts of it – both at NCSM and GWCSM.

        Initially we were trying to find pieces that were the ones we wanted WITHOUT them b/c it just seemed like a pain trying to get stickers off or cut tags, etc. then we realized they could be useful and we ought to go for the ones WITH them if there weren’t any flaws or size wasn’t as favorable as the others or something.

        So when I got it home, I saved all the stickers and the various tag type things that were on the ones I bought so when we went to LA we could go see if we could get them directly from them instead! Ha!

        Didn’t end up really doing fabric in the LA the other day b/c we both were also working on jewelry stuff and wanted to fill in our ‘gaps’ to better assess what we need when we go up again in another week or two to do an overnight in LA.

        So other than the (ML) Loft, we didn’t even hit our favorite regulars who know us by name (buying really random stuff apparently does that – we usually only go a couple of times a year! Ha) to say hi since we decided not to focus on fabric since we didn’t have even a full day with needing to get up there.

        Not everything at both swap meets had stickers / tags / labels but enough did that it was very clear at least a HUGE percentage of what they had was definitely from LA.

        The seller at NC that I mentioned specifically was one that had a lot of pieces with labels on them, and the one I liked best up at GWCSM also did.

        Hoping to at least do drive bys of some of the ones we had the most labels from from our swap meet finds when we go back up in a couple of weeks and actually hit fabric places along with other stuff.

        Let me know if you go!

        I’d like to get down to NC again soon as well because even with the prices at ML Loft, some things are still definitely cheaper at the swap meets since it’s heavier, so hopefully I also get there again soon too!

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