San Diego, CA is not generally very well known as a destination spot for fabric shopping, but there is a well kept secret amongst the locals … the National City Swap Meet.

Located at the intersection of I-5 and CA-56, there is a tiny swap meet every Saturday and Sunday.  It’s nothing like the big swap meets in this county, where the booths are full of boutique craft items and “antiques” … no, this is your old school massive yard sale of toasters and 1970’s art.

However, it’s hidden gem for the hobbyist sewer … there you will find stalls of discount fabric remnants, trim, zippers, lace, thread.  Most of this stuff is samples from the factories up in Los Angeles, and they sell it all at ROCK BOTTOM prices.

The picture at the top of the page shows the fabrics I purchased, laid out on my couch in sections according to price.  On the far left are the “free” fabrics.  They were all irregularly shaped, or scraps under 1 yd (poly georgette, rayon lycra, slinky, etc).  The middle is the $2/yd pile.  This is mostly rayon/poly/lycra sweater knits.  Some were bamboo rayon.  The far right is the $1/yd pile.  This is mostly jerseys (I was stocking up on the modern solids this time) … these are all rayon jersey.  Some bamboo/lycra (like the right photo, below).

The picture above is my favorite stall.  It’s adjoined to another stall with amazing trims.  As you can see, it’s a treasure hunt! Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and break a sweat!  All of these fabrics are designer samples.  Some are tagged by the factory with content & style.  Some are custom dye lots, but they are all straight from the mills.  These are the fabrics that you will see in the fabric stores and online in about 3-6 months.

They are all kinds of fabrics, but the selection is mostly dictated by the current fashion.  The fabric above is a bamboo/lycra jersey in royal blue.  It was $1/yd.

Which brings me to prices … These range from FREE (scraps), to $10/yd for high end designer fabric.  Most of the fabric is in the $2/yd – $3/yd.  There is a stall with silks, those are $5/yd.

In general, most of the lengths are approximately 2 yds.  Occassionally, there will be 3+ yds.  I once scored some amazing quality black RPL bottom weight for $1/yd – I bought all 8 yds.

There isn’t just fabric!  There is so much more!  I didn’t get a chance to get photos of everything, but above you can see stalls with fold-over-elastic (FOE) in every color ($1/yd), zippers to match the fabric dye lots ($.50-$1.50 each), wide stretch lace ($1/yd), elastic straps for bras/camisoles ($.25-$50 ea), guipure lace ($1.50/yd), buttons, overlock cones to match (not pictured) … and so, so much more.

Below are some close-up detail shots of the items I purchased.

I spent $80 for everything laid out on the couch.  I estimate that I bought over 40 yards of fabric.