Fabric shopping & Me-mades in Mexico

Mexico sewing stuff

Yup, it’s time for another instalment of my increasingly random global fabric shopping guides – this time in Mexico City and Oaxaca, where we’ve just got back from. (See also in this series: Ecuador, Tel Aviv, NYC.) Given its rich weaving and embroidering heritage, Mexico is a feast for pretty textiles so there was plenty to see, both to buy in the shops/markets and to admire in museums. I was also really pleased to find I rather effortlessly packed and wore probably about 80% me-mades on this trip, so thought I’d share a few photos of all those things.

Mexico sewing stuff

Mexico City was admittedly not brilliant for fabric shopping, either modern stuff or more local and traditional woven cloths. I didn’t buy anything until we moved on to Oaxaca. The main modern fabric shops are all part of a chain called La Parisina, branches of which can be found just south of the Zocalo in the historic centre, and a couple more slightly north from there at Lagunilla (which is an utterly bizarre area full of tacky bridal shops, though apparently hosts a good flea market on Sundays).

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

I don’t know if was because it was October specifically, but all the shops had large, prominent displays of fun and festive Day of the Dead/Hallowe’en themed fabrics. Pretty cute, but I’m not sure how I’d use them!

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Other than that, all the Parisina branches had similar stuff and prices. There’s a large contingent of gaudy novelty fleeces, lots of very bright poly prints, some more tasteful plaids, and often a smaller selection of wool and cashmere suiting and coating along with a large range of solid coloured poplins, lycras etc. Prices generally range from $20-80 MXN per metre, which is a cheapy cheap £1-4.

Mexico sewing stuff

These super cheerful florals reminded me of Rachel! They felt rather like a starchy waxed cotton, I bet they’d soften up nicely in the wash but too bright for me.

Mexico sewing stuff

Oaxaca also had two Parisina branches a couple of blocks south of the Zolaco. One of them – on the north corner of Aldama and Flores Magon streets – was pretty great; I’m not sure if it actually had nicer stuff or was laid out a bit better or I was just feeling spendy, but I bought a few bits here: some autumnal plaids and a wool mix trousering.

Mexico sewing stuff

There’s also another fabric shop right on Oaxaca’s Zocalo called El Palacio de las Telas, which is set behind a restaurant called El Importador (or they have the same name? it was a bit confusing).

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

This one had classier stuff: a whole wall of cashmere suitings behind the counter, some very pretty floral chambrays and lawns, and lots of dress weight prints. I think some of the fabrics are Japanese imports, like the intricate black/grey prints and Liberty style florals. They also had a wall of laces including some very pricey guipure lace behind glass at nearly $800/m. Prices were a little higher overall, starting at around $85 and up, but I think it was much nicer quality than Parisina. I bought some silk-mix dress prints and some gorgeous floral chambray.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Another place worth a mention is the town of Tlacolula, about a 30-minute drive from Oaxaca city. It has a massive – I mean MASSIVE – market every Sunday, when people from all the nearby towns descend to trade, shop and socialise. It was a highlight of the trip, though slightly crazy and disorientating at the same time! A few of the thousands of market stalls sold haberdashery, lace trimmings, and the checked cotton used to make the traditional Zapotec embroidered aprons that the ladies wear to run errands and cook in. (I brought a ready-made one home, you can see it below). I really should have stocked up on lace and zips as they were ridiculously cheap. There was also, bizarrely, a regular little grocery corner shop that we popped into for bottled water which had several bolts of fabric at the back. Take note Waitrose.

Mexico sewing stuff

Onto museums. First and most obviously the Textile Museum in Oaxaca, which is a lovely free little museum housing Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson’s collection of rare and precious handwoven historical textiles. She spent most of her life travelling to villages in Oaxaca state, collecting and cataloguing a vast variety of indigenous textiles.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

I especially loved how most exhibits had a typed description of the techniques used and often even a diagram and instructions. You can buy mostly readymade garments and smallish shawls in the attached shop.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

The Museo de Arte Popular near the Zocalo in DF is a sweet folk art museum housed in a gorgeous whitewashed art deco townhouse. There were some charming embroideries and more examples of richly textural traditional clothing amongst the exhibits.

Mexico sewing stuff

All the huipils reminded me of Marilla’s Maya top pattern!

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Frida Kahlo’s old house Casa Azul in Coyoacan was another trip highlight. I was pleased to find that the Vogue-sponsored exhibition of her clothing (most of it unearthed from storage after the death of Diego Rivera) was still running, and provided a fascinating insight into the ways Kahlo portrayed her thoughts and feelings through clothing.

Mexico sewing stuff

Check that for embellishment…

Mexico sewing stuff

Finally, here are some me-mades that got an airing on the trip. I love taking dresses on holiday, they roll right down to nothing and work for both heat and cooler weather with leggings/tights. My patchwork dress unpacked admirably non-creasy considering it’s mostly linen, and was great for a hot day in Coyoacan.

Mexico sewing stuff

My Liberty zippy dress, which also packed very well..

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

…I wore it take a cooking class in the weaving town of Teotitlan, and the apron I bought.

Mexico sewing stuff

The recent wax Holly dress, worn to the ancient archaeological site at Monte Alban.

Mexico sewing stuff

This is as yet unblogged, it’s a Pattern Runway Gathered Sundress in a dreamy ikat from Cloth House that I made near the end of the summer. I’ll write it up if anyone wants more details on it? I really love it, especially the directional pattern placements.

Mexico sewing stuff

My swimsuit got a real outing in some water, yay! It held up totally great, dried out extremely well and felt great to swim in. (I’m still tinkering with the pattern and also attempted some multi-size grading to make one for my sister, which is proving challenging yet fun to mess around with.) I also wore my other Holly, shibori silk tee and new jeans – I’ve run out of photos though! Phew, back to your regular scheduled sewing soon, and my to-sew list is looking distinctly autumnal – coats, cardis and more jeans here we come.

30 thoughts on “Fabric shopping & Me-mades in Mexico

  1. SewSouthLondon

    Fabulous post – I feel like I’ve had a mini-break! A feast of vicarious fabric shopping & gorgeous textiles in the museum. I love the ikat fabric sundress. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Katie Post author

      Definitely! The shift toward me-mades over rtw being my most favourite items to wear is a v encouraging one.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thank you! Hope I can wear it through the winter with cardi and tights, even though it’s a ‘sundress’.

  2. Suzie

    Great post. I am so jealous of all the lovely trips you have had! Loved your ‘me-made’ travel wardrobe too, dresses are a perfect traveling companion.

    1. Katie Post author

      They are lovely aren’t they? I brought two home – one to line a coat and one for a dress. Rare to find such a large range of colourways.

  3. lisa g.

    looks like you had a great time! as it happens, my husband is traveling to that area for work in a few weeks… been tempted to ask him to check out the fabric scene!

    1. Katie Post author

      Cool! There wasn’t much in the way of yardage of traditional type fabrics, but you could ask for some huipils or very cheap modern plaids ;)

  4. KAREN MCCONNACHIE

    Hi Katie, I love the fabrics you have photographed in Mexico! I have just started teaching myself to sew and as we now live on secondment in Gabon, West Africa. I have access to some lovely African fabrics in the local village . We are off to Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta in February so am hoping to pick up some Mexican fabrics then. I was a bit disappointed to see nothing brilliant in MC though so I will have to see what I can find! Was it really that poor for fabric shopping :-( ? Love your page – it’s an inspiration! Thanks, Karen

    1. Katie Post author

      Hi Karen! Lucky you, I love African fabrics. Have a fab trip to Mexico, you may have better luck than me with the shopping!

  5. Donna

    I am trying, in vain here in S. Calif., to find the fabric that is used in the casual clothing at Mexican retail stores. It is a rough cotton material — dyed mostly–but I am interested in white. Do you know where I could order some of this? Do you know what I mean by the rough cotton?

  6. Joey

    Thanks so much for sharing. I live in San Miguel de Allende and headed next week to CDMX (formerly DF) to fabric shop for small biz. It may all be for naught but hopefully, La Parisina has larger supply than here and we will visit El Junco too. Wish I had had more time to visit fabric shops in Oaxaca (and read your blog first). Went to El Bayon in Queretaro last week and that helped our supply needed to restock products. I am wondering if Guadalajara has more fabric shops too. Quality 100% cotton a rare find here.

    Any leads appreciated

    Saludos

    Joey

  7. Marlene

    Going to mexico for fabric shopping. Looking for large amounts, natural fibers, and some knits as well as wovens. Any suggestions
    Is oaxaca close to mexico city

    1. Katie Post author

      I struggled to find natural fibres anywhere, though there must be some! No, they are about 7-8 hours apart by road or a short plane ride.

  8. Vicky

    Hi Katie, my sister and I were recently in Oaxaca. We love beautiful textiles but weren’t sure where to find any. Your blog came up on Google and brought us to the fabric stores mentioned here! BTW, I think the second fabric store is called “El Importador”, as captured in one of your photos. We got a lovely thick cotton woven there. Any idea what the name of the yarn hats in the museum photo is? If you are ever in LA, I think you would love Michael Levine fabrics. We have a Mood fabrics here too. Thank you for this post!

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