Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A trip to the fabric store always holds a new adventure or discovery. The four that I know of in Mazatlan are all located within 2 blocks of each other, and are about a half mile from my house. I am a frequent visitor, usually on a quest for thread, but always on the lookout for new and interesting things.
The thread here is horrible, at the price of about 30 cents a spool, and leaves piles of fluff and lint in the workings of my machine. It didn't take me long to find the Guterman rack, and that now is my thread of choice, at about 50 cents a spool.
Fabric is typically of poor quality, but I always look anyway to see what's available. There are lots of poly options and the cotton is stiff and thin. I use a local linen for making sets of hand-dyed napkins, but the quality varies, and now seems to be hard to find. The linen price ranges from $1.50 to $3.50 per meter (60" wide).
A local seamstress I know says Mazatlan is the city of "no hay"....which is Spanish for "it's not there" or "there isn't any". She says the best option for finding what you want is to leave... Guadalajara or Mexico City, or better yet, traveling to the states will provide you with good options for supplies. Yes, my suitcases are usually packed to the brim with white cotton, Warm and Natural batting, my dyes, and a few miscellaneous notions. For everything else, I take on the challenge of finding it in the land of "no hay".
The whole system in these stores leaves me amazed. First of all, there are two sections - the fabric and the notions. To buy buttons or zippers or any of the other thousands of things in the notions department, you go the counter (which can be jam-packed with women) and wait for a sales person to take your order. If buttons are your desire, you would select them from a book and then the sales girl would carefully count them out for you. The same goes for safety pins. There is very little packaging (which I personally like), but gone are the days of having the freedom to browse through racks of options, picking them up, contemplating, thinking about how this item will work in your next project, etc.. When you go to the notions desk, you know what you want, put in your order, and move on, especially if you are a struggling Spanish speaker like myself. The sales person then meticulously writes up your order, tallies it up (twice!) and sends you off with your bill to pay for it at the "caja" (the cash box) while she takes your items to the pick-up window. Once you have paid, you then present your receipt at another station for your purchases. If you want fabric, a young man or woman will cut your piece and follow the same procedure where you pay first, then pick it up. All of this requires a multitude of personnel, but hey, this is Mexico and there certainly are a lot of people who need work.
There is one of the four fabrics store that holds a special treat. When I meet a fellow fiber lover, I always tell them to take the opportunity to search out this store and head upstairs to the second floor. There, lining the walls, are the best of the best fabrics that are used in the fabulous dresses seen at weddings, quinceneras, and at the upcoming Carnaval festival (mardi gras). The other stores have similar fabrics but definitely not of the same quality, and certainly not of the same price. Some of these fabrics are up to $50 per meter which is quite noteable here.

I have been going to the Guadalajara area on my annual women's trip, so have experienced the fabric stores there. I like to buy a good quality manta (cotton/muslin type) I discovered there and it comes in a variety of solid colors. I also like to pick up a 25 meter bundle of a gauze/cheesecloth type fabric that I have dyed and used as an overhead shadecloth.
Next month, I head to Oaxaca City, where I'll be searching out the fabric options there. It is the land of textiles and weaving and incredible handwork. I am dreaming of the land of "HAY" (in contrast to my current land of "no hay") and hope to be filling my suitcases with new textile treasures.


Ruth Gillaspie said...

Mary, I wish I had known of you last week. A friend and I were there on Norwegian Cruise Line and followed a map which led us to 5 shops that sold quilted bedding and lots of thin polyester which was beautiful, but not for making quilts. They also had a fair supply of drapery fabric. Ruth @ trgillaspie@gmail.com

Jane's In Stitches said...

Hi! I am Jane and love fabric, thread and quilting! I have been Longarm quilting for 17 years and sell Handiquilter and Babylock Machines. Fiber Arts is a struggle for me and I admire those with the vision. Fascinating.
I will be vacationing In your area Dec. 26 until Jan.2. It would be a pleasure to bring you supplies that you are in need of. Just let me know and we can make it happen. I order from most suppliers. Superior and Glide thread are my favourite.
Crazy quilters help one another and this would be a fun adventure. Let me know!

Jane Berry