You would think that buying sewing notions would be a no-brainer, but let me tell you, it isn’t.
We live in an area where the main source of revenue is textile. Other areas might not have the same variety that we have here, but I expect will have the same hassle.
Suppose you want to buy a spool of thread. You can’t just waltz into Parisina (a fabric store) and pick one up. NOOOOO. That would be too easy. First, you have to get the attention of one of the attendants. Then you indicate what spool of thread you wish to purchase (or length of fabric or ribbon). The attendant will take your purchases and write up a purchase order, giving you a copy. Then he or she will take your things to the bagging area. You will take the copy of the purchase order to the cashier hidden somewhere behind the rolls of fabrics who will take your money and give you a different receipt which you will then take to the area where your things have been bagged for pickup. You hand the receipt to the attendant there who will check it against the items in the bag and then and only then will you be able to take possession of your purchase. The only difference I’ve seen with smaller fabric stores is the number of the employees. There is still this whole purchase order before payment process, like back in the old days at the dry goods store.
The lengthy fabric shopping experience has put me off buying new material for projects. Instead, I have been slicing and dicing our old clothes into squares which I turn into patchwork pillows or tablecloths, nothing fancy mind you. I just LOVE my treadle sewing machine!
You can’t just buy a pattern envelope like at Joanne’s fabrics. That would be too easy. You can, however, have a pattern made from a particular clothing item where you see a sign that reads “se hacen moldes de ropa.”
You can have your clothes tailored at the sastre (tailor) or the sastería (tailors’ shop). A seamstress is a costurera. If your scissors are dull, you can take them to places that advertise “se aflilan tijeras”. In our town, we also have a scissor sharpener that roams the streets periodically with his pan flute. Places that advertise “se bordan nombres” will embroider your child’s name on his or her school uniforms, which I highly recommend because it will save having to buy a new sweater or jacket every few months when your kid leaves it at school. With an embroidered name you can just waltz in the school office and rummage through the “lost” sweater pile and reclaim in.Fabric and ribbons and lace are sold by the meter rather than yard, which isn’t a hard conversion. If you need beading, zippers, buttons and such not, you will need to go to a mercería although larger stores like the above mentioned Parisina have a small inventory of these items. At either location, you can buy just one or by weight or count, depending on the item.If you need parts for your sewing machine, there are parts stores. You might even find a stand at the weekly tianguis (market). Some only carry parts for certain companies, like Singer, Brother, and so on, while others have a little bit of everything. There are also sewing machine repair shops as well, at least in our area. Like I said, 80% of the town work at some sort of clothing manufacturing. We took my treadle sewing machine to one recently. (See Getting some repairs done.)
If you are looking for something that the store doesn’t have, you might be told “Se me acabo” (I just ran out) or “Viene manana” (The shipment comes tomorrow). Most of the time, this isn’t true and you should look for the item in another store rather than wasting your time returning tomorrow when the shipment is “supposedly” coming in. You could leave your phone number and have the store call you when that item does come in though if you are willing to wait.Knitting (tejido de dos agujas or tejido de punto) isn’t very popular here, although most older ladies know how to crochet (tejido de un aguja or de ganchillo). If you need yarn, be aware that it’s pricey and not as easy to find as you might think. There are however, stores, that only sell yarn, so not all hope is lost. Don’t even try to find organic and natural yarn. Everything is mass produced importation. There are a few stores that sell crocheted baby clothes, which are just adorable.
Embroidery (bordado) is very popular and you should be able to find patterns and embroidery floss at the market. The women who run these stands also sell their finished products like embroidered tortillas servilletas (napkins) and crocheted doilies if you aren’t inclined to make them yourself.
So, now I hope you are a little more informed when heading out in search of sewing notions in Mexico.
2 responses to “Buying Sewing Notions in Mexico”
Thank you for this, another wonderfully informative post! Is there a different word for a (female) seamstress who alters or creates women’s clothing? After selling two sewing machines in prior moves, I’d like to see if I can have someone else do the work!
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Seamstress would be costurera and I’m going to add that to the post!