First, sewing is alive and well in Oaxaca. Indeed, throughout Mexico women are sewing everything imaginable, from clothing to draperies to furniture coverings. People here are resourceful and talented. Sewing is an art and skill we are losing in the U.S.A. as we lack time and seek convenience. It is difficult to find quality fabric stores in most cities and mid-size towns. Only in rural America and among immigrant populations is sewing considered a valued skill. In Oaxaca on the street called Aldama, just a few blocks from the Zocalo, there is an abundance of stores selling all sorts of sewing supplies and fabrics. I didn’t even need to bring the dense upholstery foam with me for needle felting. It is available here!
The premier shop is Parisina, the supermarket of sewing. But, tucked away into small spaces are little notions shops that are family owned and operated, where you can buy thread, needles, lace trims, seam binding, hooks and elastic, zippers, and anything you can imagine that would capture the heart of a seamstress.
My quest today was to decide upon which sewing machine to buy for our Felted Fashion Workshop that starts on February 2. And, in the process I learned a new phrase: Buscando por una maquina de coser. We will be using the sewing machine to stitch seams and make optional embellishments. What to buy? That was my dilemma. At home, I’ve been sewing with an Elna portable that I bought in San Francisco in 1970. It is all metal, heavy, durable, needing repair only once over all those years. Today’s machines are plastic and most are made in China.
Should it be Singer or Brother? Janome or Bernina? After doing my internet research using Consumer Reports, not knowing what was available to buy here in Oaxaca, or the assurances of warranty and repair service, and after demonstrations at Parisina and Sears (yes, there is a Sears in Oaxaca) I decided the best strategy was to go into small women-operated shops to ask their opinion. My favorite is a tienda on Calle Mina just off the corner of J.P. Garcia.
The shopkeeper sent me several more blocks away from the center of town, deep into the working class, industrial part of the city closer to Abastos Market to find Moscer, the distributor for Singer and Brother, the two most popular brands of sewing machines in Oaxaca.
Here I met Jorge (left) and Alejandro (right), who both sell and repair sewing machines — heavy duty Brother commercial and lighter weight models for home use. When I asked Jorge which machine had a better repair history, he said both Singer and Brother were equal but he hinted at preferring the Brother. Both of these machines are made in and imported from Brasil, and the price is about twice as much as in the U.S. I’m going back to Sears where they are now running a big sale on sewing machines. They are also available at Parisina and Fabricas de Francia (Liverpool department store). There is no shopping deprivation here!
Moscer and Casa Diaz, sales and service for sewing machines, J.P. Garcia #702a, Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico (past Mina, then past Zaragosa toward the Periferico).