So now that I've been here a week, I think I've gotten used to the area and am able to start buying things to make. Turns out that shipping my sewing machine from home would be just as much as buying a new one from Amazon, so I decided to get this baby based on some online review guide: http://www.amazon.com/7258-Stylist-Award-Winning-100-Stitch-Computerized/dp/B003KK807M/ref=cm_rdp_product.
After reading several reviews on Amazon as well, this looks like a good product for the summer. It has enough stitching types that I can decorate buttonholes and hems without wasting time by hand, but it isn't complicated enough that I will need to be personally tutored for just threading the machine.
I've also checked out various stores in the area and so far my favorite is a wholesale shop on Pico Blvd,(Rimmon Imported Fabrics) about a 30 minute walk south of me in Westwood, LA. I'll be heading to the fashion district in downtown LA soon, to check out shops there, but for now I have a couple ideas for my autism dress design, which I hope to start soon. The design of the dress at this point will consist of various fabrics that overstimulate the viewer/wearer, in a tactile, visual, and auditory sense. I hope that my design will reflect the actual experience of someone with autism, based on the prevailing theory in neuroscience that autism is a result of overstimulation in the brain. I'll be talking with kids who have autism next week hopefully, to learn more of the details of what it is like.