I Buy Thread Too…

Like Carolyn and Shannon, I do tend to stock up on thread. I hate looking for thread mid-project and think it looks cheap when my thread doesn’t match my fabric. I don’t order online, instead, I wait until I visit my parents.

In Panama City, I can buy a 500 meter / 547 yard roll of Gutermann thread for $1. That’s just 1.8 cents a yard. I can buy the smallest Gutterman for 45 cents. So, when I visit, I write down the colors I have and fill in what I don’t.

Yeah. . . . LOL. If my Spanish were good enough I would ask to find out where the cleaners and tailors puchase big rolls. But, that is beyond my abilities.

What I totally don’t understand is why the same thread is twice as much in the States. I’m *thinking* that since it’s made in Mexico — shipping costs are less? Trade agreements?

I also picked up a vary form curve (I think — it’s regla curva de corte) and an L square.  Both are made in Mexico, wooden and $5.

They are both marked in metric, which I find FAR easier when dealing with BWOF and sewing. I have never liked fractions🙂

I tend to stock up on hand sewing and machine needles here. The hand sewing needles are Japanese sharps and 85 cents for a pack of 10.  The sewing machine needles are 25 cents each — so 10 needles for less than $3. They are Singer made and come in wing, lycra, knit, woven (cotton) and polyester. If there is a ‘universal’, I haven’t seen it.

Oh, this time I got these HUGE marking chalks which are 5 cm on each side. These are 50 cents each.

I’m leaving on Friday and I think I’m going to stop by a local furniture maker and see if he can make the curves out of teak (sastsre, variable, francesca, gota de modisto). I figure it can’t be as much as Atlas Levy sells them for at $95🙂 Yes, totally inspired by Els’ post at the Sewing Divas.

Kuna Indians and Mola Art

I’m still on vacation with my parents until Friday. You would think on my fourth visit, there wouldn’t be much new to see in Panama. But, there is!  I spent the first couple of days locally at Playa Serena in Gorgona. I love, love, love the water. I want to say it’s in my Carribbean blood. But, neither of my parents swim🙂

I also showed Jess  the local artisan markets (hence the hat above). Over the weekend, we drove out to the Colon Province on the Carribean side of Panama.  We were ready for some white sand beaches! This is the area that my great-grandfather lived when he worked on the Panama Canal. It’s still mostly of African descent (a good descendent mix of slaves and West Indian Canal workers) and has a couple of old Spanish forts built in in the 1700s.

While in the town of Portebelo (originally Puerta Bella — ‘Beautiful Port’ ) I picked up a molas.  These appilqued fabrics remind me of quilting. They are made by the women of the indigenous tribes, the Kuna. Don’t worry about my exploiting the woman  below for the photo. She charged me $2.

I want to frame the piece below. The colors aren’t quite right for my house, but I thought the workmanship was excellent.

This one tells the story of a young woman in the tribe reaching puberty. At that time, her head is shaved and she starts to wear the traditional clothing. From that day on, she cannot grow her hair past her ears / mid neck.

On the right, you can see them making cane juice (pronounced Kanye in Spanish. I giggle everytime) for the party celebrating her entering adult hood.

Jess, who speaks fluent Spanish, did all my bargaining (love that girl).

The posted price was $100, I paid $60, my mom says she would have paid $40. I think that means we did ok.

From Portebello, we went on to La Isla Grande.

You have to take a speedboat to the Island. Please note that this hustler charged us $10 and his boat is named ‘Terror’. Did not instill confidence. We stayed at an awesome resort which has just 28 of these adorable cabanas. I swear, you paint something pastel and I fall in love.

The water was crystal clear and the snorkling was amazing and fun. Can I also say that Rafters are the GREATEST shoes for travel.

We’re back in Panama City on Monday and Tuesday where I will be stocking on the $2 a yard knit linings I found last year!

That Home Dec Thing…

This weekend I finally got around to starting a three-part  curtain project for friends. What, you may ask, would it take for me to sew for someone else? Well, they gave me their vintage Pottery Barn style bedroom furniture and I offered to make curtains for their new home. No fitting required and straight lines! Boring, true. Foolproof? Double true. When I come back, sheers and a box pleat valance need to be completed.

Sewing them got me thinking. I know people like Deepika (with the aptly named blog ‘Curtains to Coats’)  Leslie started sewing to make curtains and their love affair with fashion sewing began. I think I kind of started because I always liked quilts. What about you? What was the project that made you buy a sewing machine?

RSS readers, please click through to cast your vote


A few asked for the recipes from the Jamaican Independence Day Party

Jerk Chicken.I think the recipes are generally all the same: scallions, peppers, dried thyme, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and garlic.  But, please. Try and buy ‘Scotch Bonnet Peppers’. Or ‘Jamaican Peppers’ as the Thai-Philippine store by my house calls them.  They have a nice kick and leave out the seeds if you’re worried about the heat. Oh, and I use fresh thyme because it grows in my sidewalk garden.

Everyday Food. I am STILL mad about Blueprint magazine Martha!

Plantain Chips. Traditionally, you just fry plantains. But, these were even better. And pretty much worked on the first batch. It just takes a LOT of plantains.


Mango Salsa.I made this one up.  Three mangoes (two firm, one ripe), cubed. One cucumber, cubed. 1/4 of a red onion, juice of one lime, salt and pepper. This was not a spicy one at all. I let it sit in the fridge all day and it was great.  Really light and fresh.

Lime Chili Butter.Hmm, I adapted this. I used butter instead of mayo and no cheese.

Everyday Food

Sweat Tea.Ummm, another bootleg recipe. For every two cups of tea, I added four cups of limeade, zest of one lime and a lot of simple syrup.

Watermelon Basil Feta Tomato Salad. I saw this forever ago on Two Hot Tamales.  One whole seedless watermelon, juice from one lemon, a splash of rum, 1/4 cup of chopped basil, a small container of the pear shaped tomatoes, and a 1/2 cup of crumbled feta. Although, in retrospect, I think I should go with goat cheese next time.

This weekend I am making curtains for friends. We bartered for my new-to-me bedroom furniture. And Tuesday of next week, I am finally, blessedly on my 10-day vacation. I’ll be heading to Panama with a girlfriend to visit my parents. And hopefully, when I come back, I’ll head to the sewing room🙂

Jamaican Independence Day or rather How I found religion

Dinner Party Guests

Last Thursday was Jamaican Independence Day. To celebrate, I decided to have a party Saturday night and make the few Jamaican dishes (and Jamaican inspired)  from my father’s country that I know. This year: Jerk chicken, grilled corn with lime-chili butter, mango salsa with deep fried plantain chips, watermelon-feta-basil salad and pigeon peas with coconut milk rice. And Red Stripe. Copius amounts of Red Stripe  — the greatest beer in the world😉.

Now, I don’t throw parties for one reason: my place is not clean enough. So this year, I finally — yes *finally* got religion and hired a cleaning woman. And let me tell you folks, I understand now why people tell me their favorite day of the week is the one which the cleaning lady comes!

Walking into my house today I felt like my living room was jumping up to hug me!  I had ALL kinds of guilt about a cleaning lady upfront. I had never had one and my parents certainly never had one. It just wierded me out (kind of the same way that the cleaning woman at work 20 years my senior INSISTS on calling me Miss Cidell even though I’ve spent the last year asking her not to).  Some of the weirded out is because I’m black, some of it because I’m just one person, a lot of it that I’m cheap, and most of it because my mom kept a house of five *sparkling* with a full time job.  All I can tell you is that when I saw my  bathroom bathroom floor so clean I could eat from it —  all that guilt went away.

A lesser miracle of sorts also happened Saturday night. For my 30th birthday my parents gave me a painting of myself. It’s based on a photo of the GREATEST hair day of my life when I was 21 and visiting them in Tennessee (Memphis to be exact). It’s about three feet by four, a good 20 pounds and hung in my living room. In the middle of Saturday’s dinner party I heard it come crashing down from the wall hitting my hardwood floors! It was so loud it sounded like someone had kicked the door in!

The hooks holding it the last three years all snapped! And, beleive it or not — it was totally undamaged! Not a single piece of broken glass, not a HAIR out of place and still a reminder of the best hair day ever.

Things Calm Down

It’s been a crazy busy month on this side of the world.  But, my reward came early! Remember when I bought the Singer 221 Featherweight? Well, one came without a case. The woman selling said her mom had the case and accessories and she’d let me know when she got it from her mom.

Well, this morning I went and picked up the case. It was in perfect condition. I noticed it was crazy heavy and I figured there must be a buttonholer inside.

Which there was….

And this zig zagger!

And this great book!

And these singer sewing lessons! Complete with samples from the class!

And a complete box of accessories!

And a random tucker!

An instruction manual, two keys and a can of oil!


If I owe you an email, package or phone call — I’m working on it this week. Thanks for your patience! I slept a full 12 hours Monday and Tuesday after three solid weeks of work. I’ve never appreciated a day off so much🙂 I’m having a party this weekend — and you know how much time that takes! I have hopes (ha!) of making something for the party. But, I doubt it’ll happen🙂