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Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Guide To Fabric Shopping in LA's Garment District

I have been shopping for fabric in downtown Los Angeles since I was a student it FIDM years ago. Unlike most neighborhoods in LA which are always being revamped, this little slice of the downtown area hasn't changed much. It's bordered bordered by "Skid Row, a rundown area on the north, which has been cleaned up a bit by the new loft boom , industrial warehouses to the east, the Staples Center to the west, and the low budget knock off shopping district known as "The Alley" on it's southwest side.
You can find the fabric district on South 9th Street between Wall and Maple streets. Small shops spill of into the surrounding streets that fall in between Maple and Wall.
Now I digress...
They have the best hot dogs in the world there.
Street vendors wrap them with bacon, grill them, and top them with grilled onions and peppers, adding a flourish of avocado salsa mixture topped with mayonnaise and ketchup. It alone almost makes the drive there worth it, AND the hot dogs are only three dollars.
Most of the shops are small mom and pop operations run by Middle Eastern folks. Bargaining is fine, especially if you are buying more than two yards of fabric. If you find something you like at a good price you should buy it because usually once it it gone, often that's it. Most shops are jobbers which mean they buy up extra fabric from manufacturing houses. I have seen expensive top designer fabrics in the same shop as cheap polyesters. Many of the shops have really low quality fabrics and you have to look carefully. Here are a few places I would recommend for you to look:
Micheal Levine.
919 Maple Street
 If you have never been downtown you should start here. It's more expensive than the small shops but it is huge and has an exhaustive selection of fabrics, trims, notions, and knitting supplies. There is also a well stocked home decorating branch across the street. Although more expensive than most shops downtown, you can find top quality dress and home decorating fabrics at Micheal Levine and it is still less expensive than the pricier fabric stores like Mood and International House Of Silks and woolens on the pricier westside of LA.

A little further South on 9th Street are some amazingly well stocked trim shops. If you don't shop with a list it can be overwhelming and your head can start spinning while taking in all the beautiful and exciting trims.

L.A. Alex, 416 9th Street
A giant bargain basement with dress, home fabrics, notions, and trims.

I can remember getting home once from a trip downtown and realizing I had forgotten to buy an item I had gone for, having instead been seduced and sidetracked by other more colorful and interesting prospects. Zippers, flowers, studded trims, feathered trims, jeweled trims, laces, beads, velvets, colored hooks and eyes, grommeted trims. It's like being a kid in a candy store!
I would advise you bring your list.

Another place to stop when you are in the area is the Scholarship store of FIDM. Some beautiful fabrics and trims can be found there for one to two dollars a yard. I bought about 25 yards of some beautiful delicate lace trim for only six dollars once. Like most bargain fabric stores in the downtown area, shopping there is hit or miss. Manufacturers in the area donate their unused fabrics to FIDM and the sales go to support the Scholarship fund there. 
At FIDM, there is also a wonderful bookstore,and a small but interesting fashion museum on the premises. Some of their displays in the past have been costumes from Mad Men, and Tim Burtons' Alice in Wonderland. On my last visit, there was an exhibit titled "Breakfast At Tiffany's and The Little Black Dress".
FIDM Scholarship Store
919 South grand Avenue

All stocked up on fabric and we also bought a balloon gun! Don't forget to buy a fruit paleta when you visit. I bought Sandia this time, or watermelon.
Muy sabroso!
These country chicks had a great day.
To be honest I grew up ten minutes away from downtown. But it's an exciting day for the mini country chicks who don't go to the city very often.
Usually we go to Little Tokyo or Olvera Street nearby after I am done shopping to eat even more ethnic goodies or to buy much coveted Japanese school supplies.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Burlap Lampshade Tutorial

I am having a party for some friends who are sadly moving back to Chile in a couple of weeks. As you can imagine, with all my sewing projects and four kids at home for the summer, my house is starting to look more shabby than chic. Id love to do this burlap ruffled lampshade tutorial from Just A Girl. I just have to buy some burlap and glue sticks. But first I should clean my house!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Burdastyle 102 June 2010

We have been loving all the white creations lately. Isabelle wanted something summery to wear to the beach. I know we will be sharing this this summer! This is pretty much a total knock off from Burdastyle magazine from last June. If you would like to make one the pattern is available at Burdastyle as a very inexpensive download. That girl of mine has some ATTITUDE, doesn't she? 

Pattern Used:
Burdastyle 102 June / 2010

Original inspiration:
Modcloth dress

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Congratulations to:
Alicia who was number 1!
True Random Number Generator  1Powered by RANDOM.ORG


Friday, June 24, 2011

A Forties Six Gore Skirt Shirtwaist Dress Made From a Frumpy 90's Frock

I have been participating in some of the weekly challenges at The Sew Weekly. This weeks challenge was to refashion an old and neglected garment.This dress above started out as a shirtdress from the 90's. It was really long and boring looking before I refashioned it  We went to the old Fillmore train station near our home to take these photos.

The above two photos are what the dress looked like when I brought it home. I liked the fabric and the fit was good so I removed the top bodice, cut a new skirt from the old skirt fabric, and drafted an under bust waist band. I also shortened the sleeves and added some vintage rick- rack trim.

My Design Inspiration:
A forties six gore shirtwaist dress.
Source: via

I drafted a basic skirt pattern. For a basic skirt drafting tutorial click here.

I slashed the skirt were I wanted the gore seam to be.

I traced the pieces to another larger paper and added the flare starting just below my hip line. Then I added my seam allowances.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Using Burdastyle Magazine Patterns, A Primer

Last year when I visited France I brought back a couple of Burdastyle magazines. They had some great summer fashions and I decided to make a beach tunic this week.When I opened up the large folded section which contained all the patterns, I was confronted with about a 3 yard square of what looked like so many random diagrams and lines that my head started to spin! It probably didn't help that all the directions were in French. Although I like to think I can carry on an OK conversation in French, reading sewing directions is another story.
Burdastyle Magazine Pattern 102, June 2010.
I examined the small drawing of the tunic I wanted to make for the pattern numbers so I could look for them on the sheet. The numbers were 21 and 22. "Easy enough." I thought, until I found several diagrams repeated with the same numbers all over the big paper. "Well why would they use the same numbers on  different patterns?" I thought, "Just to confuse me more? That is so French!"
Actually the magazine is written in Germany and it was just a French translation...
It turns out that in the sewing directions there is a tiny box next to each pattern drawing that tells you where on the pattern map you can find your pattern. It's exactly like reading a map. Each square section of the big, two sided paper has a letter, and the box tells you what letter to find your pattern in and what color your pattern will be outlined in.

My pattern pieces could be found in section A and would be outlined in green. ( vert )
So that was the method to the madness!
But it wasn't done  yet!

You have to trace the pattern. I used butcher block paper with a self healing mat underneath it and  traced the patterns with my spiked pattern wheel. I then sketched over the little dots left by the wheel with my pencil.
But wait, there is still more! You didn't think they would make it that easy, did you?
I still had to add seam allowances. They do make you work for these patterns, don't they?
This project had better turn out well! I thought. You will have to tune back in a couple days to see the photos...

 In conclusion, I decided there had to be an easier way to trace the patterns and found some pattern tracing fabric pictured below at Nancys Notions. It's non woven, like interfacing. You place it on top of your pattern and trace it with this little pen wheel sold with it. You can baste the material to check for fit before you cut your main fabric. Then you can take out the basting thread, iron it and use it as a pattern.
Neat, isn't it? it's washable and reusable.
This is also perfect for tracing my vintage patterns which I don't want to cut into.

Pattern tracing material from Nancy's Notions


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Past Week: Garage Sale Finds

 Don't get mad at me because I'm about to boast about the incredible prices I paid at a yard sale last week. Mind you, I brought home a lot more, but below was all I took pictures of. 
A set of canisters $1.00

Skirt marker 1.00$, redwork tablecloth 10 cents, several yards of vintage lace, 1.00$, several blue mason jars of which only one is shown, 75 cents each. In the backgound is a shabby chic style mirror I paid a dollar for, and old fruit wire basket for a dollar and some vintage aprons which were fifty cents each. I really should have taken more pictures .

An antique feed sack quilt cover for 3.00$ and a chenille peacock bedspread, 5.00$The bedspread fits perfectly on my king size bed.
A 1943 mens pattern, 75 cents.

May I introduce you to my new dress form bought off of Craigslist? She doesn't have a name yet but she's a childs size six. She came with two free boxes of vintage patterns. My son thinks it looks like an effigy hanging in the dining room. Isn't it something when your kids' vocabulary starts to surpass your own!

Some of the patterns that came with my dress form.
Note the sizes on the patterns above. The skirt is a waist 24 and the shorts are a waist 25. Women were so small back then! I wonder if its because they always wore girdles? Speaking of which, does anyone wear a girdle with their vintage dress creations? If you ever make a wiggle dress, it would probably be a good idea. I wore a special girdle after my last baby and I swear it helped bring everything back in faster. An old Mexican woman told me about it and I started doing research and learned girdles are worn after childbirth in Asia, Mexico, and some other countries to bring the tummy back down!
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