Wednesday, November 23, 2011

cloud forest natural dye workshop!

A few (okay, a great many) photos from a four day excursion into the cloud forest two weeks ago, to learn how to use natural dyes with expert weaver Daniel and his lovely family. 

We left Ollanta at 4 AM and caught a fruit truck in nearby Calca - minus the fruit, fortunately, but plus about twenty people, a box of baby chickens, and some furniture.

Parobamba itself is a small town with amazing views. Our first day there, we went for a hike down to Daniel's family chakra (farmland), collected some dye supplies and met his bees: 

... and hung out with his awesome sons, Acknar (8) and Nilson (12). 

Once the supplies were collected, we went back to their and spent the next 48 hours boiling vats of yarn with cochineal, leaves, other leaves, tree bark and fungus:

... with help from (or at least the company of) Nilson and Acknar, of course... 

Daniel's wife Leonarda still managed to get quite a lot of weaving in as well. Their collaborative works are some of the most beautiful things sold in the Awamaki store, and we were able to buy a few things from them directly, which was exciting (actually, I was even able to commission a gorgeous, half-woven piece with the tools still in it - hard to describe but so, so pretty) 

By the time we were done, we had a staggering array of colors in an even more staggering amount of three kilos of yarn per person, which, even for me, is quite a lot of yarn. Fortunately, I was able to find a home for most of it back in Ollantaytambo - the rest is sitting next to me in a flour sack here in our hotel in Cusco, waiting to be taken to the post office, because there is no way I can carry it all with me throughout South America! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


One of my favorite aspects of working in close proximity to Andean textiles over the last two months has been getting to spend so much time staring at the iconography, or pallay, that's worked into most designs. Pallay, a Quechua word meaning "to pick up" (in reference to the actual act of weaving), generally take the forms of aspects of daily life - animals, lakes, flowers and celestial figures. 

Maybe it's because I stare at pallay for hours while working in the Fair Trade shop, but I really like them: 

Some are easy to identify, like this bird.

Others... not so much. 

This guy's confused too. (Actually, this guy is probably Incan hero Tupac Aymaru?) 

One of the weavers I photographed said that frogs were among her least favorite pallay, but I think they're kind of cute. 

And of course, llamas! So many llamas. 

Like I said, maybe it's because I stare at these for hours on end, but I find pallay to be kind of amazing -  Many of these designs have been around for hundreds of years, and often different regions have their own distinct pallay. Though I can really only identify the most basic and literal pallay myself (I *think* those diamonds in the photo below are lakes, flowers, or possibly stars - but I wouldn't put money on it), I love the way the iconography has transformed the way I look at textiles here, from something that's merely decorative to something that tells a story. 

above: a band of hummingbirds along the green tapestry in the top of this photo symbolize reciprocity. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

KIPing in Ollantaytambo

One of the things I love about Peru is how there are women knitting in public everywhere

Friday, November 4, 2011

two (more) wips

Two current WIPs are this Mara Shawl in madelinetosh DK (sugar plum), and Acer Cardigan, in madtosh vintage (some discontinued wren), the shawl for when I'm knitting late at night by the light of TV shows on my laptop, and the cardigan for other times. I didn't bring the Mr. Darcy sweater I'm theoretically making for Iain (eleven balls of yarn in a suitcase was a bit unrealistic, even for me), though I do have the Marilinda socks with me, usually for my long and uneventful shifts in the fair trade shop. So that's what's going on here, knitting-wise. 

I'm not making a lot of progress on either at the moment, though, because things have been insane in town lately: in honor of our town's anniversary, there have been parades, dances, street parties, bullfights (of the non-killing variety, thankfully!) and pig-eating festivals: 

How awesome are the flowers in the girl's hat? 

So that's here. Things are finally a bit calm in town, though I'm actually heading up further into the mountains to take a four day long natural dye workshop in the cloud forest. I have no idea what to expect, but it seemed like too amazing of an opportunity to pass up - so, more later when I get back! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

new pattern : naiya

Hooray, a new (free) pattern! I made Naiya with a single skein of super-soft bulky alpaca weight yarn that I bought in Cuzco and which doesn't appear to be available anywhere else; I think any bulky alpaca yarn (or a similarly drapey fiber) should work just as well. The minute we left Cusco, I found myself wishing I'd bought enough of the yarn to make something much bigger, so my goal with this cowl was to squeeze as much as possible out of a small amount of yarn, so that I could at least pretend I was wearing something big and opulent. Because the yarn is so floppy (especially when blocked!), you can make the circle relatively small and still have something that doesn't look too tight - it took a few frogged false starts, but I'm very happy with the way it scrunches around my neck. 

If you're interested in making this cowl yourself, I think any bulky weight yarn with a good drape should work nicely. If your yarn is a bit stiffer, it might be worth knitting a slightly shorter cowl, and if your gauge is a bit off, you can always easily add or subtract 4 stitches from the stitch count to adjust.