Saturday, April 21, 2012

PANAMA HAT BUYING FORAY

History lesson.. Panama hats are not made in Panama.. thats just where they got famous. They were imports from Ecuador. These hats were first made on the coast and then Cuenca in the early 1930's starting making them as a major export. (ok, so if I got it abit wrong...sue me.. I got the part about the hats not being made in Panama right!)

Our latest visitors to the condo, Susan and Rein, wanted to go hat shopping so we took them on a bus adventure. The first place we went, K.Dorfman. It was closed for the weekend, but they were nice enough to point us to another hat manufacturer just one block down the road..Homer Ortiz, Museum, Hats and Bags. We found out in the tour that this is still a family run business.. 4 generations later.

We squeezed between a bunch of buses (These stores are behind the bus terminal), that were crowded onto the sidewalk to make room for other buses trying to drive by. As we squeezed by this one bus, there was a driver saying Buenos Dias! from the door of the bus.. as I passed by I looked up into a smiling face filled with a toothbrush and toothpaste! I nodded and smiled and just cracked up after I passed him. I guess I am getting used to it, 'cause I immediately thought; glad that water on the ground was from him brushing his teeth and not going to the bathroom!
We were given a guided tour through the museum. Our guide explained about the way the palms were dried, and hand split. the finer the splitting, the better the quality of the weave. And the higher the price. She told us that the hats that are the least expensive only take about 3 days to make. The finer woven ones take up to 3 months to make. The feel of the weave is just like a fabric, so soft. It is very obvious how painstaking the process is.
These are hats that have been woven, bleached, washed and now air drying. Randy is my point of reference.. All of the hats are made by employees who work from their homes. Each week the ladies bring in the hats that they have made.
This piece of machinery is over 100 yrs old, and still being used to this day. I really liked the heavy ball weights on the end.

This is an actual Wedding Dress. You can have one made.. it is all done out of the same palm as the hats.. that is how fine they can make this weave. This picture does not do this justice. Even the flowers are woven. We asked the price. The guide thought it would be at least $1,500-$2000.

Susan and Rein found hats and other goodies for their families back home. I got so wrapped up in trying on hats .. I forgot to take pictures of what they finally decided on!

Here is a video  that I took of our guide explaining about the dying process.
video
 After all of that, we all agreed lunch was in order, then a nap!

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