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How my Alpaca sweater came to be

The demonstration of making textiles for handicrafts was the highlight of our visit in Chinchero, a small town in Sacred Valley. Unfortunately, I lost most of the photos and all the videos I took when my memory card got left behind in France. Here is some information that I could remember. Sadly, these are merely vague tidbits and I would appreciate it if someone gives me additional information.

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Our demonstrator was one of the local women who makes the textiles and sweaters. She started off by showing different kinds of wool: baby alpaca, vicuna and sheep. Baby alpaca has the softest quality amongst the three for me. Then, she grated a special kind of plant to make a shampoo like paste to wash the fiber. According to her, this plant cleans very well and does not degrade the quality of the fiber. In addition, it could also be used as a natural shampoo for human consumption.

Chinchero3After the fiber is cleaned and dried, it was spun using a drop spindle (or at least a tool that looks like one). Everyone in the family partakes in spinning as it becomes a part of their daily routine. They spin while walking, cooking or even dancing.

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She proceeded in explaining the origin of the dyes used to color the strings. The colors of the strings were derived from plants grown abundantly in the area. For instance, the purple color comes from chicha morada (purple corn), the green dye from chica, yellow from the flowers and red from cochineal. Cochineal is an insect that feeds on cactus who also produce different shades of red dye.

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The strings were dipped in dye twice. For the second coloring, salt and sulfur are added in the dye. The strings are dipped for at least an hour to ensure that the dye will last. The strings are dried again and spun.

The strings are arrange in two sides of the loom. The women spent at least 45 days in weaving the textile wherein they play with the colors depending on their mood. Llama bones serve as one of the tools they used in weaving.

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“Loraypo” is the main traditional design of Chinchero and can be found in most of their products. The design is characterized by an “S” shaped pattern and details such as the Incan calendar, pumas and zigzags which depict the mountains.

The locals put much effort in making their products that I felt bad haggling. I reckoned that $30 for the sweater was a good price and to be honest, I’ll pay even more. Chinchero has that quaint and rustic feel that I wanted to spend more time there instead of it being just one of our stops for the tour.

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Wouldn’t it be nice to feel time pass you by, slowly?

I would have love to stay behind and fawn some alpacas.

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