Advice needed on fabric shopping in San Francisco

What advice can you give me? Apart from ‘take large bags and a credit card, and don’t exceed your luggage limit’?

(image source)


I’ll be in San Francisco next week for an American Chemical Society Meeting. I have some time free on the last day before I start the long and boring plane flight back to Australia. Thanks, Qantas, for scheduling flights out of the West Coast at midnight!

Last time I was in San Francisco I stumbled on a vintage fabric shop (Urban Burp) by accident. This was an awesome store, and I have a skirt to remember it by but the shop has moved since and is temporarily closed.

So, where should I go?

My googling tells me I could try these spots:

What do you think? Have I missed something? I’m staying close to Union Square, I’ll be relying on public transport and have about 5 hours to shop…

And if you’re in San Francisco next Thursday, would you like to meet up?


30 thoughts on “Advice needed on fabric shopping in San Francisco

  1. Hi I can’t tell you where to shop but I will remind you that your luggage limit is huge to the US. Check but it used to be 2 pieces @ 32kg max each. So make sure the credit card can cope because the luggage limit can!

  2. Definitely Britex! Stonemountain & Daughter are also worth your while, but I don’t think you’ll have enough time to get there. Can’t speak for the other ones, but I would have no trouble spending a good chunk of the allotted five hours in Britex!

  3. I think you should make the time to go to Berkeley. Britex is lovely, but extremely pricey due to its high-rent location. You get similar quality fabric (sometimes the exact same thing!) at Stone Mountain for 1/2 to 1/4 the price at Britex. Furthermore, Stone Mtn is on Shattuck, about a mile from Chez Panisse and the Gourmet Ghetto. Surely He Who Cooks deserves that pilgrimage while you shop Stone Mtn?

    If you can’t get to Berkeley, you must visit Fabrix, my second most favorite fabric store in the SFBA (San Francisco Bay Area). Prices there are about 1/10 of Britex (no exaggeration). They get designer overstocks all the time. Marcy Tilton shops wholesale there and posts them on her website for 5x what Fabrix charges.

    I grew up in SFBA and went to college at Berkeley. Email me for more insider tips or search my blog for Berkeley and San Francisco.

    1. I wish He Who Cooks was coming too. Chez Panisse would definitely be on the agenda!

      I went there over twenty years ago when I visited an eminent professor at Berkeley, as a very lowly post doc. The whole experience (Berkeley, eminent professor deigning to see me, and Chez Panisse) was amazing.

      1. I loved the enology module of bio. We gleaned grapes after the professionals had already been through the vineyard. Then we made our own wine!

  4. From Union Square, it will probably take you as much time to catch a bus to Clement St as it will to Bart to Berkeley. Stone Mountain for sure if you actually want to buy anything. Britex is more for window-shopping, I find their stuff too pricey but can occasionally find some good remnants if I’m lucky. Definitely easy to visit, though, it’s right by Union Square and always worth a look even if you don’t end up buying anything.

  5. Stone Mountain! Does not take long on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). I’d be happy to meet you there! Heather from Fremont, CA, in the south bay area. Every comment is correct – Britex is extremely pricey, but does have lovely Italian wool and silk. Stone Mountain is where serious sewists in the Bay Area actually buy fabric. Good quality at fair prices. Fabrix is great, and yes, Marci shops there, but the selection can be iffy and it’s hard to reach by public transportation in SF. It really is easier to go to Stone Mountain from Union Square via BART than by MUNI (bus) to Fabrix.

    Contact me at [edited to remove] if you want a lunch and fabric spree. I think there might be others in my sewing group who might be interested.

    1. Oh yes please. A meet up would be awesome. Email coming your way! (I’ve taken your address out of your comment to try and minimise phishing and annoying spam to you).

      Now I need to rethink what I pack. Meeting sewists requires a higher standard than conference attendance with chemists!

      1. I sent a response – Thursday works for me, and I’ve sent a separate message through my sewing group as it looks like Glenda and Wendy might also want to join in the fun. We can probably move this to e-mail now and stop cluttering your comments!

  6. Elle, I hope our calendars can coincide. I would love to meet. I lived 3 years in The Alice, and had a marvelous PR weekend in Melbourne with Mel, MsChris and the gang. Anything I can do to facilitate fabric shopping for an Aussie is only fair payback! Which date has free time?

  7. P.S. I am also in the group Heather referred to, so will coordinate through her, so you don’t have to keep track of too many different threads.

  8. Hi Elle, I’m friends with Heather and Glenda- bonus, I live in San Francisco. So, let us know when your free time starts and stops. Hoping I can join in and help with driving- either around SF or to Berkeley. Depends on date and timing. Also, when do you need to be at the airport. BTW, which 1- SF or Oakland? I live 15 minutes from SFO, but Oakland is no problem. PS, my hubby is a PhD chemist.

  9. Please don’t let the comments about Britex being “pricey” keep you from going there. They have incredible fabrics and extremely knowledgeable sales staff (most of whom have been there “forever”). For me, no trip to San Francisco is complete without at least a couple of hours at Britex. It’s good to go with a general idea of what you want (such as boucles), as the offerings are extensive! Keep in mind that sales tax in CA is very high. Sometimes when I buy a lot at Britex, it is cheaper to have it sent home – the tax and luggage fee savings more than pay for the postage. Just a thought! I won’t be out there (from my home on the East Coast) until September, but wish we COULD meet up for some shopping fun! Have a great trip!

  10. Hi Elle ~ I’m another member of the Heather/Glenda/Wendy et. al. group of sewists & bloggers, and hope to join y’all next thursday! My two bits – as awesome as Britex is to visit, it is indeed pricey, but the real issue is that the only other fabric-related activity nearby is to snoop shop at all the boutiques in downtown SF. Parking for a couple of hours costs as much as several yards of fabric at Fabrix, and if you’re not driving, it will bite way too big a chunk out of your day to travel there by public transportation. So the East Bay (Stonemountain, Piedmont Fabrics, and Lacis top the list) is a great choice, imho 🙂

    Hopefully I’ll know soon if I can get away to meet. I do have to warn you that I drool & swoon over an Aussie accent. Seriously. I have stories lol!

  11. Oh, man, I’m missing all the fun. I’m going up to SFBA this weekend to deal with aging parent stuff. But it’s just up on Sat and back to LA on Sunday. Text me your fabric photos so I can live vicariously.

  12. It looks like the SF Bay Area Sewing Community is welcoming you with open arms. I’m sure you’ll find some lovely fabric in the stores you visit, especially if you get a minute to visit Stonemountain, Piedmont Fabrics (in the East Bay) and Satin Moon and Fabrix in SF. Have wonderful time in our neck of the woods!

  13. I am really happy that I was able to meet with you and the Sewing posse in Berkeley. I hope that this was the perfect end to a conference in SF.

    1. Jennifer, it was. I’ve had an awesome day, met some wonderful people and my suitcase now has some special fabrics packed in it. You are truly a lovely bunch!

    2. Liz, so LOVELY to meet you! It was a truly FAB day! I will email you and the group on the Style Arc/Vogue exchange. Need to bounce it off a few people as to how to organise it. Since my background is in retail operation, specialty spreadsheets, I am sure we can figure something out.

      Safe journey home!

      PS – post some photos of the fabric swag. Especially the cotton with the wool embroidery on it. That one is DELICIOUS! The photos will NOT do it justice, this is one Gorgeous! fabric.

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