Warp and Weft

Plaid imprinted with moose and bears may not appeal to everybody, but you can find it in the endless rolls of unusual and exotic textiles at Michael Levine Inc. in Los Angeles’ Fashion District. Arguably the largest independent fabric store in Southern California, the fiber free-for-all co-purchased by owner Larry Freidin in 1982 fills three buildings, two retail showrooms and a three-story warehouse. Customers range from professional seamstresses and costume designers to Susie Homemakers and wholesale manufacturers searching for the perfect cloth. We needled some shoppers.


Jill Jordan

Tattoo artist


Leimert Park

What are you buying today?

Quilting fabric for my mother-in-law in New Zealand. She’s Scottish, so I thought Celtic fabrics might be nice. A lot of tattoo designs are kind of like that.

What material would you like to see fabric made from?


Yak fur. Wouldn’t you like a yak fur jacket?

What’s the fabric of your life?

Denim. It’s hearty and it lasts. You can’t beat it. Well, you can, actually.

Prints versus solids: your vote.

I’m a solid person. If you’re covered with tattoos you don’t clash.

What fabric should be outlawed?

Laura Ashley. The hideous little pink flowers. It makes your skin crawl.

Most famous fabric?


The tapestries in France that have the unicorns.

What would an extraterrestrial’s baby blanket be made of?

Kevlar is bulletproof. If you’re an ET you could be nailed as soon as you land, even if you’re a baby.


Pete Menefee

Costume designer


What are you buying today?


Fabric for costumes for Princess Cruises, for the shows. I’m looking for 1950s stuff, black- and-white stuff and linings. They have specialty things like the funny blue fur over there.

How did you start being creative?

I started out as a sketch artist and worked with Bob Mackie and Ray Aghayan and Ret Turner.

What was your first fabric creation?

Puppets when I was a kid. I know one was a clown.

Your favorite fabric?

Polyester. It lasts for so long. People can sweat in it. You can dry clean it.

Most sensuous fabric?

Cashmere. It’s very big on the “Oooh” factor when people touch it.

Most famous piece of fabric?

The Shroud of Turin.

What would an extraterrestrial’s baby blanket be made of?

It would be a 60-flannel/40-poly combination. They have got to do the same stuff Earth babies do.


Ayanna Listenbee

Clothing designer

Los Angeles

What are you buying today?

Trims, buttons and cording for samples for my clothing line. I’m using hand-dyed brocade from Africa.

What material would you like to see fabric made of?

Dryer lint. If we had something to make it stick together, it could work because it feels so good. I like when you scoop it out of the tray. It comes out in a long piece, like fabric.

Most sensuous fabric?

Angora. It feels so good against your skin.

What fabric should be outlawed?

The huge floral grandma prints with the animal-print background. Look, you don’t put a flower with a lizard-skin background.

Most famous piece of material?

The Shroud of Turin, just because there’s so much mystery around it. What would an extraterrestrial’s baby blanket be made of?

Plastic would hold the slime. I think they’re slimy until they’re 3 years old, and then they outgrow the slime.


Alda Donohue

Retired kindergarten teacher

Westlake Village

What are you buying?

I bought an Asian dress at a museum. It doesn’t have sleeves, so I need some kind of shawl to go with it.

What’s the fabric of your life?

Silk. It’s made by silkworms. It’s a natural fiber. The Chinese have been making it, my guess would be, 5,000 years. It sways. It has a rhythm to it.

How did you start to sew?

My mom taught me when I was 6.

I caught the bug. I’ve ended up making maybe 10 or 12 wedding gowns, for a hobby and for my friends.

Your first fabric creation?

Potholders from leftover cotton. They were probably ugly but my mom said they were beautiful.

What material should be outlawed?

Camouflage. I think it glorifies war and violence. I hate to see little The Kids’ Reading Room dressed in camouflage fabric.

What would an extraterrestrial’s baby blanket be made of?

Cloud. If it came from outer space it would have to take material from space. It would be soft and fluffy.