Michael Levine: Urban Fabric Safari

Where do I go when I need special fabric, a lot of fabric, or when I just need some inspiration?  I head past Downtown L.A. to the Fashion District and into the welcoming doors of Michael Levine.

Michael Levine
920 Maple Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 622-6259

The first time I visited Michael Levine I was on the hunt for taffeta.  A lot of taffeta.  I was sewing not just one, but two, Victorian Steam Punk costumes and I needed 26 yards of taffeta.  That’s a tall order and not something that can be filled at the neighborhood JoAnn Fabrics.  While inspecting the bolt of green taffeta, I found an irregularity in the weave and the manager cut me a great deal at $3 per yard.  He asked me, “Do you think you can work with this for $3 a yard?”  My answer:  “I can work with anything for $3 a yard!  I’ll take it!”

Here are the two costumes that resulted from this fruitful visit (click on each picture to visit the project page on my Craftsy.com profile):

On the same trip I found some beautiful Japanese cotton that turned into my Easter dress, the Lisette Passport Dress:

More recently, I also finally found the Tangerine Tango color that I’ve been hunting for since Pantone announced the Color of the Year.  Along with TWO Tangerine Tango fabrics, I found a gorgeous purple cotton and a striped chambray.  For kicks and giggles, I also picked up a festive polka dot (not pictured).  Let’s just say, I never have trouble finding fabric in this store!

Here is what I like about Michael Levine and why I recommend them for your fabric shopping needs:

  • The selection is truly amazing… if you cannot find what you are looking for here, then I don’t know if you can be helped!
  • Not everything in this store is “low price” but the prices are better than some of the other independent L.A. retailers.
  • You can negotiate deals!  When you have fabric with a true anomaly, they will work with you on the price.
  • There is vintage Pucci silk in the cabinets (among other vintage designer bolts) and it’s truly inspiring — I could stare at those textiles for hours.
  • They provide validated parking in the designated lot next to the store (trust me, you’ll need it!).
  • You can also find a lot of notions, trims, buttons, and other supplies.
  • There a lot of sales people on the floor–just flag one of them down and they will help you.

Here is what I don’t like about Michael Levine, but I wouldn’t let it stop you from visiting the store:

  • It can be overwhelming… just breathe and let the inspiration take you!
  • Navigating your way to the cut table can be confusing to novice shoppers–best thing is to commandeer a sales clerk and keep them with you until you’re done shopping.
  • I don’t like their zippers here, I find them too industrial so I shop for zippers at JoAnn Fabrics or F&S Fabrics instead.
  • The area of town is an “experience” — personally, I like it over there but a lot of people get nervous so go in the afternoon and head back to The Hills before dark if you’re afraid of more down-home culture.
  • Not all fabrics here are a fabulous price.  I can often get comparably great cotton prints at JoAnn Fabrics and use a coupon there, which I cannot do at Michael Levine.
  • My experience has been limited with their selection of interfacing and I prefer other sources (including online independent retailers).
  • Two hours for parking isn’t always enough time, so go there with a game plan to maximize your time in the store.

Items at Michael Levine I have yet to investigate fully:

  • Patterns:  they sell the major commercial patterns here, too.  (Again, I prefer to hit the big 5 for $5 sales at JoAnn Fabrics.)
  • Boning:  I started to purchase some a while back for a class I’m taking on Craftsy.com but I recently found a local retailer that specializes in corset making supplies (I’ll highlight them soon!).
  • Trims:  I purchased some for one of the steam punk dresses but there is so much  more, including a nice ribbon supply.
  • Buttons:  I was so exhausted from fabric browsing the last time I looked at buttons I just didn’t find what I wanted but I would be willing to look more in the future.
  • I’m sure there are things I have not uncovered here… it’s a lot stuff in a large space!
  • And THEN there’s the entire home fabrics store across the street.  Yes, you read the right… an entirely separate store dedicated to home fabrics!  Must. Go. There.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for their mailing list at the check-out counter and pick up a flyer for their monthly store calendar.  It will give you dates of various events, promotions, and sales.  I know I’ll be back to this store in the future, so stay tuned for future updates!

Back from my fabric safari,


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