Chinchero Weavers – Magical Peru

January 18, 2013, 10:11 pm

The third day of my Peruvian exploration found my party walking into the high mountain town of Chinchero.  This small red tiled roof town was once the country estate for Tupa Inca, one of the early Incan rulers. We were led down streets where llamas and alpacas roamed freely, until we found one of the most reputable weaving collectives. Chinchero today is known for continuing to honor their weaving traditions, passing skill and technique from generation to generation, men and women.  Most townspeople we saw were dressed in traditional Quechua clothing.

We were given a tutorial in the Quechua natural dyeing technique. The Alpaca fiber is first washed with ground marshmallow root, which creates soft suds when mixed with water.  The sources of all color used in Chinchero are completely natural; plants, corn, flowers, as well as the Cochineal beetle, which supplies all carmine colors.  We were shown how dyes were fixed and and fiber spun and then moved on to weaving. Advised by reliable sources to resist spending our money in towns like Cusco, I splurged on an amazing runner that took the woman I bought it from 2 months to make. I also bought a purse and scarf. They are absolutely lovely.

We continued to the town of Maras and began a two hour decent down Andean slopes to the ancient salt mines of Pichincoto. The locals still continue to harvest the light pink salt that flowers from a spring of about 70% salinity.  You can stand at the top and look down dozens of tiers, women collecting and draining the salt and sorting it into fine and industrial grade.  It is quite a beautiful sight, resembling a quilt in whites and neutrals, cascading down hills.

Peruvian Dye Materials

Peruvian Yarn Dye Lesson

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