Fabric shopping in Ecuador

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Do you love my completely random fabric shopping guides? New York, London, Tel Aviv and now Ecuador. I was honestly half-joking about being able to fabric shop on my recent trip: I know the country is renowned for textiles and yarns, but I wasn’t expecting modern fabric shops. And definitely not a five-minute stroll from my Quito hotel! I think I’m developing fabric-whispering powers, which is excellent news.

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First shopping stop was in Quito’s old town, just south of Plaza San Francisco where my hotel was. I spied at least 8-10 fabric and notion stores in the couple of blocks flanked by Venezuela and Bolivar streets. I tried to drag my tour guide into them but he wasn’t having any of it, so luckily I managed to navigate myself back there later in the day.

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Some have higher-end suiting and cashmeres (which are reasonably priced here due to the native alpaca). Some, interestingly, combine a RTW clothing section with fabrics and yarns which I haven’t seen before.

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The stock and prices of most shops are similar, and quite low – $4-8 a metre for most fabrics (the dollar here is the same as $USD so that’s £2.50-4.50). There seemed to be an especially great range of two things I struggle to find at home: interesting cross-woven solids and delicious dress-weight prints.

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Just look at them all! Heart-eye-emoji overboard. Luckily my very poor Spanish at least amounted to ‘how much is this’ and ‘two metres please’ so I was able to make some purchases.

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I’m really pleased with what I brought home:
– two chiffon prints that are dead ringers for the gorgeous fabrics I’ve been drooling over at Anna Ka Bazaar. It’s so hard to find these kinds of subtle graphic prints, and the same shop had a crapload more lovely ones. I was very restrained, especially at only $4.50/m.
– a wine-coloured floral gauzy knit that I bought specifically to recreate a favourite RTW tee (the one I’m wearing here). I’ve made this already!
– two lovely solids for more trousers: a poly crepe with lighter strands woven in so it looks like denim – I’m picturing slouchy boyfriend jean type things; and some grey/brown stretchy denim for another pair of jeans. Both around $8/m.

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My second fabric shop stop was the market in the town of Otavalo, about 50 miles north of Quito where we stopped on my last full day. The market was huuuge: it sprawled over 5 or 6 square blocks, centred around a packed plaza.

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Amongst the spices, fruit and veg, tourist tat and wood and leather goods are tons of Andean textile stalls…

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… piles of beautiful brightly-coloured alpaca yarn…

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…and these plain fabrics edged with pretty border embroidery, which the indigenous women use as a wrap skirt. There were also a couple of fabric stores which spilled their remnant pieces onto the street to rummage through.

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From Otavalo I bought:
– a piece of border-embroidered cotton: this was a bit steep at $11 (haggled down from 15) but it feels like a very nice quality heavy cotton twill, so I think it’ll make a great pair of shorts.
– a remnant piece of gauzy printed cotton for $1. This has blocks of lots of patterns giving a quilting-type effect, so I might make a no-effort bed quilt from it.
– two woven Andean blankets/throws, $12 for both. I’d really like some shorts or a skirt from one of these but they’re a little thick and narrow – perhaps combined with another fabric.
– a woven trimming/ribbon: the indigenous women use these to wrap around their hair. I saw the ladies making these in the market with tiny looms, so it’s nice to know it’s a genuine handcraft. It may become an edging for a top.

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I also had to buy this bag to bring all my loot home!

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If you’re interested in the non-fabric shop parts of Quito too by the way, you can have a read on my other blog.

30 thoughts on “Fabric shopping in Ecuador

    1. Princess Angle Amy

      I saw the Black fabric your talking about and it DOES look like pac man characters! LOL. But it would sooo cute to wear!

      1. Marilla

        Oh wow, I would love to travel further down and see some more, but alas this is not the right time. Mum’s from Belize and my parents and brother live there now. Been there a few times and to Mexico, but not further south than that. Beautiful country, but very different lifestyle to the Western world. Not sure if it would ever suit me on a permanent basis, I need to be near civilisation!

  1. Jenny @ Cashmerette

    Exotic fabric shopping twinsies! It’s funny, I also thought “ok this is weird writing a guide to Saigon because no-one’s ever going to go there”* but then I realized that I actually *found* half the stores from a now-defunct blogpost, so it just goes to show. I shall keep this in mind for the next time I’m in Quito :) And I”m very envious of your buys….

    *if anyone IS actually about to go to Saigon…. here are my recommendations:
    http://cashmerette.blogspot.com/2014/06/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know.html

    1. Katie Post author

      Oh definitely, I found some old blog post about Tel Aviv too which helped me on my visit earlier this year! So we’re definitely doing a service ;)

  2. Scruffy badger

    Great fabric choices!! I’m a keen fabric tourist, thinking it’s such a great way to create a special memento. But Ecuador? Who’d have thought it would be on your doorstep ! And I love the expression, ‘fabric whisperer’ !

  3. Elena

    Wow, you really can sniff out a fabric shop! Gorgeous fabrics, I can’t wait to see what you make from them! By the way, I don’t suppose you’ve ever been to Istanbul, have you?

  4. Laura

    These are all absolutely gorgeous! It’ll be so cool to be able to tell people that you got the fabric for your awesome new clothes in the Andes *smug face*

  5. Megan @ TheGreenViolet

    Oh, man! These photos make me wish we had spent some time in Quito on my recent trip to Ecuador. We avoided it altogether (except for bus exchanges), we heard that it would be especially crazy during Holy Week. I didn’t see ANY fabric vendors at the market at Otavalo, but we weren’t there on the main market day so maybe that was the problem, and a lot of the fabric stores in town sold mostly fleece! I did find a lovely little shop on the outskirts of Otavalo that sold all sorts of handmade goodies, so I managed to buy some handwoven, traditional fabric there. I LOVED otavalo!

  6. Sally K.

    I am very jealous of your beautiful fabrics. Where I live in southern California, I do not have access to a wide variety of quality cloth. I hesitate to buy online too, because the feel and color can be so different once you see it in person. Enjoy your sewing projects!

  7. Katy

    Who’d have thought it? I love fabric shopping as a way of taking home a momento, I can’t wait to see what you make from your finds

  8. Becky

    Hi Katie
    I read both your blogs about Quito and Ecuador. Thanks for sharing. Loved reading them both!
    Do you know of any antique textile or vintage textile shops in Quito? I’ll be there in March and when I travel the world I focus my free time studying (and collecting) historic textiles.

    1. Katie Post author

      Hi Becky. I didn’t see or hear of any specifically I’m afraid, but I’m sure if you asked in the tourism office they’d be able to help. The markets might throw up some things too. Happy travels!

  9. Maria

    I live in Florida in the United States. I would love to buy some woven strong fabric or cotton gauze . Is there a to have it shipped here?

  10. Enya Joseph

    Hi Katie,
    I am currently doing a project on Ecuador but I am having some issues with finding popular patters and colours that come up in Ecuador’s clothing/other textiles objects such as blankets etc as I am grounded on the other side of the world. I was wondering considering you are currently in Ecuador that you would be able to assist me in my research.
    Also, any advice or ideas of landmarks/locations/artists that I would be able to use for inspiration for my product would be welcome as well as I will be drawing my inspiration from the Ecuadorian culture as a whole.
    Thank you for your time,
    Enya

  11. Princess Angle Amy

    This is a really good resource for my project! i have to find material that Ecuadorians wear. this is very helpful thank you Katie!

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