Oooo, let’s go to fabric heaven, shall we?
I know, it’s pretty tough to beat Janssens et Janssens in Paris, (Fabric Shopping in Paris and…Steampunk Chanel?) but the sticker shock of getting there and buying there can only be pulled off once in awhile. I’m still in awe of Mary from the Cloning Couture blog, who took her husband to browse at Chanel first, and then over to Janssens after she’d convinced him how much money she’d save making her own. (Mary, yours is made better anyway.)
One morning in L.A., I announced to the boys that I was going to the fabric store, and not hearing any response, I grabbed my purse and ran. I drove south on LaBrea to Wilshire to hit the new giganto outpost of Mood Fabrics (645 S. LaBrea Ave.). (Mood Fabrics Website) I had been to this location a year ago soon after they’d opened, so I knew it was huge, but now they had twice as much stuff.
Fashion fabrics on one side, leather and home dec on the other.
Pretty much anything you’re looking for, they’ve got it. Knits, suiting wools, tweeds…
Designer roll-ends, particularly printed silks…
And gorgeous fancy stuff…
I had almost convinced myself to get some of that blue and black tweed with sequins (at the bottom), even though I know sequins are a bitch to sew with. But when I came back to get it, it was gone! (I was secretly relieved.)
Here’s what really made me jealous…
A bunch of women sitting around in muslins enjoying one of Mood’s FREE sewing classes. (Sewing classes at Mood Fabrics L.A.) Behind that wall of fabric rolls is another class of cute grade-school age kids learning to sew. The L.A. Mood location offers a mind-boggling array of sewing/draping/patternmaking/designing classes for free, often taught by professional designers and costumers. Every time I get one of their emails, I want to immediately decamp for L.A. and make up a little bed for myself among the linens and raw silks.
You know what they say, give someone a fast-fashion T-shirt, they have clothes for three washes…but teach someone to sew, and… (they soon have an overwhelming pile of fabric stash?)
As much great stuff as they had at Mood, the size of my stash was on my mind, so I decided to drive up LaBrea a few blocks to The Fabric Store, which is in a stretch of high-end hipster vintage and home dec stores around 2nd St (136 S. LaBrea Ave.). I’d read that this New Zealand company had opened their first U.S. location, and wanted to check it out. (The Fabric Store’s U.S. website)
In complete contrast to the “packed to the rafters” feel of Mood, the Fabric Store is in an open-plan store front with wooden tables and shelves, and sedate zen-y music playing.
I chatted briefly with the young, hip, soft-spoken manager, who told me that the New Zealand owners source the fabrics from their home office and ship them to L.A. What I found was a beautifully curated selection of mostly natural fabrics, including gorgeous silks and cottons…
and tempting linen tweeds…
But The Fabric Store’s claim to fame is their high-quality New Zealand merino wool jersey, which come in a range of weights, colors, and designs.
They were really something, and most were under $20 a yard for a hugely wide swath of jersey (up to 62″ width), all of it smooth, itch-free stuff.
I’m a Claire McCardell freak, and in the past year I’ve managed to track down, outbid, and over-pay for about 12 of her original sewing patterns. So I’m now starting to make them up. McCardell and Chanel were basically the original proponents of using wool jersey for sportswear, so I knew that quality merino jersey like this would work well for my McCardell “makes.”
I ended up buying some lightweight black New Zealand 100% merino jersey, a periwinkle/royal blue Italian wool/viscose jersey and some “tie” silk, all pictured above, and believe me, I could have gone home with more. I have since machine washed and air-dried swatches of both wool jerseys and they came out perfectly. I’ll definitely be stopping by The Fabric Store on my next trip to L.A.
The one L.A. store I didn’t get to this time, but highly recommend, is International Silks and Woolens at 8347 Beverly Boulevard, less than a mile from The Fabric Store and Mood. (International Silks and Woolens Website) When I visit, I go straight to the little room on the 3rd floor where they have authentic vintage fabrics that look like they go from the 30s to the 80s. They’re not cheap (usually around $40/yard), but you can find unique retro fabrics like the one I used to make this Madeleine Vionnet bias scarf. If you do buy any vintage fabrics, inspect them carefully as they may be faded at the fold, so you’ll need more yardage.
Here’s the post about how I made that scarf: (How To Make The 30s Madeleine Vionnet Scarf)
There are a number of other great fabric/sewing/costuming stores in L.A., and if you have been to any of them, let us know what you think!
Now to make a dent in my stash so I can go fabric shopping again.
24 thoughts on “In The Mood: L.A. Fabric Stores”
Well, that was fun and didn’t cost me a penny!
Seriously, places like Mood just confuse me. Maybe if I had all day and a shopping list I’d be more successful there.
Glad you enjoyed the tour! It’s true that Mood is pretty overwhelming now. The best bet would be to walk in with some projects in mind and ask someone to point you to the right aisle, or just go searching through the designer roll-ends to see what you find. It’s a good place to go looking for trims and buttons as well.
As for the vintage room at International Silks and Woolens, I’ve found that the pre-60s fabrics are mostly on the shelves along the walls, while the center table has more modern printed silks. It’s a very small selection of pre-60s fabric, but you can find some cool mid-century designs if you poke around.
A bunch of sewing ladies are getting together this coming Saturday, the 22nd, in LA. Have you heard about it? Will you be there? I will be, so let me know if you want any details!
Hi Laura, how I wish I could join you! I’m actually East Coast-based so I was only in L.A. for a few days. Will you be blogging about your meet-up?
There was an article in Threads a year or so ago about L.A. fabric shopping, which is how I found out about International Silks and Woolens. Maybe you can find it online. Also, I’ve always wanted to visit “Richard The Thread,” which has notions and corset-making supplies. I order huge pieces of tracing paper from them online.
I was there a few weeks ago, just for a day, and met up with 2 ladies. That was a lot of fun. We went to Richard the Thread that day. I got some wax tracing paper in every color. It is a smaller space than I imagined, but that is because most of their items are tiny (snaps, grommets, etc.). They are very friendly! Maybe we will stop at International Silks and Woolens this time. We did make it to Mood and The Fabric Store. I should really blog that trip, too. I will probably blog both in one post. I wasn’t sure where you lived, but I’m glad you were able to make it to the shops in LA to see what they have!
I’ll be checking out your blog because I do make it to L.A. once or twice a year. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface, since there’s a big fashion/costuming world out there. For the sake of my growing stash, though, I’m glad I’m not closer.
I have this distant, dropjawed look on my face. Must go get towel to wipe up drool. Thanks!
It is pretty awe-inspiring for a certain type of person (and you know who you are). By the way, got my Kai clippers in the mail and they’re the most. I’m all Kai shears all the time now.
Mmmmm fabric shopping . My mid brain is releasing feel good signals just contemplating it. We have The Fabric Store here in Melbourne too . I love the place . I have bought some wonderful cloth there . Glad you ha d some fun
Hi Marianne, yes, I think The Fabric Store is rapidly becoming my favorite place since their quality/price ratio is very good, and the fabrics are very tasteful. I can’t wait to get going on that beautiful merino.
Fabulous pics of Mood LA. I wonder if it’s bigger than the NY store; I do get to go there frequently but have never visited the one in LA. I’m waiting now for The Fabric Store to do mail order from the LA location. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of that merino wool jersey you described. Janssens et Janssens is definitely a big-time splurge so we’ll have to be satisfied with more reasonable fabrics for awhile. Love following your blog.
Hi Mary, just looked at your blog, and wow, what a beautiful version of that Marfy jacket you made with your some of your Janssens haul. Since Chanel haute couture suits now cost upward of $50,000, I think you can give your husband an idea of the savings. (Enough for a couple of tickets to L.A.?)
I haven’t been to the NYC Mood, so I can’t compare, but the L.A. Mood is a big as a suburban grocery store. I’ve always been pleased with what I’ve gotten from them online as well, and their swatch service is very fast.
I was just reading a book about Chanel and saw that her original Cardigan jackets in the 50s were made from wool jersey, and some of the early 2.55 bags were as well. How do you think they made a jersey jacket; just lined and quilted it?
I could find only one reference to quilted jersey jackets and it mentioned silk jersey. I found, as you did also, that Chanel started making her jackets from wool jersey because it draped well and was cheap. Love Melanie of Poppykettle’s tips for working with the merino jersey. I’ll get some at the very next opportunity.
I think you’re right; I was reading about Chanel using wool jersey in Amy de la Haye’s book about her, and in the photo of the 50s jersey jacket, it looks more like a blazer and not a quilted jacket. It’s a nice book by the way; well-researched, lots of photos, and not overly sentimental.
I was looking at The Fabric Store’s U.S. website, and it sounds to me like they are willing to work with phone orders, so you may want to give them a call. The manager was very nice and accommodating.
Lovely stuff! I rather adore The Fabric Store outlet we have in Melbourne – it’s such a pleasant environment to browse in, too. And I do love merino wool knits! They’re incredibly durable and lovely to wear, even when it’s warm (or cold) outside. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what McCardell makes you sew up 🙂
I’m a little like the Vintage Traveller – Mood (in NYC, anyway) just confused me. Even still – that sewing class would be so much fun!
Hi, thanks for stopping by! I am looking forward to sewing up that merino jersey, which is a fabric that just seems to get rediscovered every 20 years or so. There’s a set of Claire McCardell jersey separates from the 1930’s in the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute online collection that I would wear now (go to metmuseum.org and input “Claire McCardell” under “Search The Collections”). She had a very difficult time talking the U.S. retailers into accepting women’s garments made of jersey. Such a maverick and so far ahead of her time.
Do you have any tips for sewing NZ merino?
Oh cool! I will most certainly check those links out. No tips around sewing specifically – but a lot of people seem to be of the misconception that merino knits can’t be washed – they respond well to a cold handwash,(I even cold machine wash my basic tshirts sewn from merino) and I would recommend a prewash before sewing if you want to wash it that way once sewn.
The most amazing thing about merino knit is it doesn’t absorb body odours and sweat like cotton/silk – I made a merino knit tee (a renfrew actually) for when I went hiking in Peru and I wore that tee three days straight with only basic washing facilities (no showers!) and sweated buckets in it. After making it down from Machu Picchu I took it off – and after drying off it still smelt like it hadn’t even been worn!! That survived being washed in commercial laundromats whilst backpacking and still looks great 🙂
Thanks for those tips! The outdoor manufacturers like Patagonia are definitely touting merino as the “new” miracle fabric for that reason. But back in the day, people were making swimwear out of it. Coco Chanel even created 20s bathing suit ballet costumes out of hand-knit wool for “Le Train Bleu,” by Le Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Google it; the costumes are really fab!
Certainly a case of what’s old is suddenly new again! I’ve been scoping out some pictures from Le Train Bleu – it looks like it would have been incredibly avant guard at the time – and very comfortable!
Ohhhh, that’s heaven!
I know, and it’s a good thing I don’t live closer as I’m running out of space in my fabric stash closet!
Ahhh – you went to two of my favourite stores. I went from never going to Mood because it was too pricey, to going there every other weekend just to look. Sometimes I make a purchase. I bought some lovely wool for my first coat. And the Fabric Store is just so calm – I like that.
Hey, thanks for stopping by! I was just checking out your blog and looking at the fab Albion coat you made that won the contest: http://www.peppermintandpaisley.com/2014/03/24/blessings-albion-contest-travel-etc/. I like the way you fitted it so it’s not too boxy.
Wow, are you having fun with that Bernina you won? I bought a Bernette on eBay last year and like it a lot. I do like the fabric shopping in L.A. and wish I could take some of those classes at Mood.
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