Thursday, September 20, 2012

A material adventure

I said the other day that I’d write a post about the retacerías where I went fabric shopping in Mexico. A few months back, we travelled to Mexico with our kids to visit my husband’s side of the family and our friends there. They live in the border area of Baja California, and one of the upsides of living that close to the US is the amount of stuff you can buy there that you don’t necessarily find further inside the country. That goes for all kinds of things, not just fabric, but for the purpose of this blog, my focus are the fabric stores. 

I had been looking forward to going out to buy fabric as I remember from my days of living in Mexico how cheap fabric was and how many people actually made their own clothing or had it tailored for them. At the same time, I also remembered that most of the fabrics I’d seen were made of synthetic fibers, so I was a little wary that I wouldn’t find a good selection of cottons to buy. Since I have been living under the  African sun, all I ever buy are natural fibers, as I prefer clothes that breathe and allow humidity to escape.   

I had no clue where to begin shopping, and just told the taxi drive to take me to a big fabric store. My expectations were mostly met there. It was enormous and had an awe inspiring notions section, but most of the apparel fabric was synthetic, and while beautiful to behold, not anything I’d venture into wearing for now. I still bought heaps of fabric, of course, and probably miles of ribbons and buttons in all the colors of the rainbow. For several days, I lived in the deception that this was all I was going to get out of my Mexican fabric shopping experience. Until. I. found. The. Retacerías. 

Oh. My. ! Turns out there are a whole bunch of stores, all conveniently located next to each other, that specialize in selling leftover fabrics. I never asked, but I presume they come from clothing factories either in the industrial frontier zone of Mexico or the south of the USA. There’s nothing wrong with the fabric, but since it’s end of bolt and leftovers, you don’t get the very long, continuous yardage. But boy, do you get your money’s worth!  Per meter price runs from 20-35 pesos, or 1.50-3 dollars. Once I got bitten by the bug, I never wanted to leave! 

There were mostly knits, single jersey as well as thicker sweater-kinds of knits. I also found lace knit fabrics and awesome stretchy denim. It was a fabric shoppers paradise! Of course, in retrospect , I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures of this glorious place, but the reason was that I didn’t want to carry my big DSLR camera around, as that would have been one more weight to carry… I preferred carrying fabrics home!  If you are ever going to travel to the northern cities of Baja California, check out the retacerías!

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