Friday, August 15, 2014

Burning Man and The Los Angeles Garment District

Taken from the parking lot (yes that's right) at Home Depot in LA

This past weekend I flew to Los Angeles to visit my son and help him out with some costuming for the upcoming Burning Man festivities which will be held in the Black Rock Desert the end of August.  He also wanted some help picking out a sewing machine that would accommodate a pretty broad range of fabrics and threads.

It was sunset in Sacramento when boarded my plane and started the short trek to LA after working all day in the office.  Got to Andrew's house and pretty much hit the sack right away so we would be ready to make it a productive weekend.  Lot's on the agenda!  Number one on the list was a drive to North Hills to pick out a sewing machine.   Traffic wasn't too bad driving out.  It was the coming back part that was slow.  

We tried out several machines and he landed on the Bernina 530.  What a delightful machine.  Everything you need and then some without getting crazy.  He could hardly wait to get it home and get cracking.  Yes, that is my son sewing!  Last Christmas I bought him a Singer to start out on.  Learn to sew, see if you like it, you can always upgrade.  He did, He did and He did.  

I don't want to be a bragging mother but he has tackled things that I would not have dreamed of as someone learning to sew.  He doesn't know any different so he's just going along, asking questions or reading a book or watching a youtube tutorial...and he's got the hang of it.  Sewing on fur, silks, velvets, metallic knits, stretch fabrics, slippery name it, he is going for it.  I'm impressed with his results.

After a day of shopping for machines and getting some trial runs in on it, we planned our next morning at the Los Angeles Garment District to find some unusual fabrics for his costumes and basically just look around and have fun. (you know I'm scouting quilt fabric)

We are on our way!  I can see the high rises of downtown LA
and we are not far from the garment district now!  It's early, we have time to find a good parking spot and start scouting.  My suggestion is to park in one of the lots for $8.00 all day, rather than feed a meter at $4.00/hour.

This place will start to come alive shortly.  The stalls will open their doors and start putting out their fabrics.  Everything from Silks, bejewelled brocades, satins, the finest dressmaking materials, to fake furs, home dec fabrics, drapery fabrics, battings, notions, leathers, vinyls, you name it, it's all here.  They even have basic cotton quilting fabrics.  

Prices vary, bring cash if you want to haggle price, many of the shops will do that.  Most will take debit or credit cards.  There is little or no air conditioning so wear cool clothing, bring a bottle of water and a snack in your bag and VERY comfortable shoes, you will be doing a lot of walking.  The garment district stretches out over several blocks in all directions.

If you are looking for a glamorous shopping experience, this is not for you.  More like shopping stalls in Mexico or Thailand or Hong Kong.  There are people of all ethnicities, it's a melting pot of humanity and textiles from all over the world.   If shopping at the bazaar and digging for bargains floats your boat, then this is a must for you. 

I did find a shop that had a large selection of current quilt shop grade fabrics.  Michael Levine's located at 920 Maple Avenue, just off East 9th Street.  

Nice Selection of Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs at good prices

Amy Butler

Moda French General

Designer vinyls

Every major designer was represented, along with an extensive selection of batiks and notions.

I did not find their notions to be any cheaper than any of the major chain outlets.  But the fabric was about $2-5/ yard cheaper.  And they have several sales tables that are real bargains!

We took a walk a couple blocks over to Ace Sewing Machine to get our notions.  They are located 214 East 8th Street.  Grab a basket when you walk in, you're gonna get something!

Serger thread, specialty thread, zippers, rulers, markers, special reinforcing paper for embroidery, pins, needles, chalk, it's all here. Great prices!

So after a couple hours of traipsing around the garment district, it was off to sew!

Several fittings on the mannequin.

Some parts from the auto store and home depot...

There will be more spray paint, some dremel work, more fittings and elastic, a belt creation, some lighting and of course the shoulder pads.  This should be fun, can't wait to see the photos.

After a weekend of much back and forth on the freeways of Los Angeles, on Sunday we enjoyed our day and took a walk around the lake at Echo Park.  The water lilies were beautiful.

Sadly it was time for me to get back on the plane and head for home, work tomorrow.  It was enjoyable to see my son, fun to spend the weekend puzzling out the costume and great fun for me watching him sew on his new Bernina!

Who knew you could jam so many people into one area?  Nice to be heading back to the forest!


  1. That was fun!! I wish i could follow you around there. We must have something similar in Houston but I never get there either LOL

  2. My adult son has taken up sewing as well. Mostly he sews up huge kites that actually do fly, and he's made drapes for his apartment.