I promised I would write about my trip to Peru and what I have learned there. Of course knitting and textiles were my main purpose of sight seeing, but I have learned so much more. People are so humble and friendly and in every contact with a Peruvian, it reminded me I should be like that.
Knitting was not present as a technique in South America before colonization, but was introduced by the Portuguese and Spanish that colonized South America. Even though it is a new craft in this ancient society, hand knitting is now everywhere you travel in Peru. Like their ancestors, they are immersed in ancient textile traditions. Peruvian knitters continue to be inspired by techniques and designs from other textiles (especially weaving) into knitting. It does vary according to the village they belong to and what they have learned as children. Mostly of the knitted articles we saw in Lima where made by a machine with very fine quality of alpaca for commercial use.
Once we arrived in Cuzco we could see more hand knitting everywhere, but articles made for “turistas” (foreigners). Only when we visit Chinchero we finally saw the real art of hand knitting and weaving by the locals. They showed us the skills everybody needs to learn before they knit or weave: how they clean and wash all the fiber they collect (wool or alpaca), how they spin and then make it into two ply yarn, and how they dye the yarn using all natural dyes (flowers, leafs and the insect Cochineal). It is an amazing hard work that requires both skill and love.
In these pictures you can see from left to right: dried flowers that give the color yellow, the dark red corn that dyes the fiber dark purple (morada) and some lichen that gives the color rust. In the small plate with the red yarn we have Cochineal, an insect that is a parasite of the cactus plant. It dyes wool and alpaca red color. From Cochineal they actually extract more than 25 shades of red, by adding lemon juice. They use baby’s urine to fix the color. Once the yarn is spun and dyed, they are ready to be knitted or woven. On the picture bellow you see the spinner/knitter/weaver that gave us the demonstrations. Her name is Rosana. At the bottom picture she is showing us her hand woven and hand knitted items of sale and caring her baby on her back inside her “manta”. Amazing women!