Peruvian Textiles

Kristen feeds a llama at the  Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary.
(The mesh behind her holds Andean condors.)

With alpacas and llamas  native to the Andes, it is no surprise to find that Peruvians are textile artists par excellence. The girls in my family also loves textile - one daughter spins, two weave, and all of us sew and knit. So one of the things Kristen and I were looking forward to was seeing (and bringing home) from Peru were some beautiful textile products. We weren't disappointed!

First off, a note about alpacas vs. llamas. To be honest, Kristen and I weren't always sure which we were looking at. But here's the skinny on how to differentiate these two camelids:

Alpacas: They are significantly smaller than llamas. (This is no help when you are looking at babies, though, as we often were.) Unlike llamas, alpacas aren't bred to be beasts of burden, but they have wonderfully lush coats which can be sheared once every year or two to make the most luxurious yarn ever. OK, here are a couple of visual clues besides size: alpaca ears are spear-shaped and their faces are kind of squashed.

Baby Alpacas (I think)

Llamas at Machu Picchu
Llamas: They can weigh up to 440 pounds, and they are used as pack animals. (One of Tim's friends uses them to carry hunting equipment on treks in the western U.S.) Their wool is also nice, but coarser than alpaca. Their ears are banana-shaped and they tend to have longer faces than alpacas.

The animal sanctuary, which is located between Pisac and Ollantaytambo in "The Sacred Valley," also had a display of natural dyes

and wool dyed in the various colors. Clearly, the Peruvian pallete is bright and bold!

Bright like this:
Ollantaytambo market
I want to make a quilt with these colors some day

And this:

Besides woven fabrics, knit items could be found all over the place, both homemade and factory made. Our favorite restaurant, Blue Magic in Ollantaytambo, used iconic Andean knit hats for part of their decor.

So what'd we bring home?

We chose a number of lovely scarves like these:

And thick fabric...

Andean women use square thick cotton cloths to carry babies on their backs, and both men and women carry all sorts of other bundles tied into their cloths. Restaurants use the fabric as tablecloths, and we even saw it used for window coverings. Kristen and I found several baby-carrying sized fabrics for ourselves and for my daughter, Kara. I went with subdued colors, but we found a bright, happy piece for Kara. (And Kristen learned the secret of folding the square into a baby sling.)

Lima hotel blankets - SO thick!
It's winter in Peru, and no place we stayed (two Air BNB apartments and one small hotel) had central heat. But it didn't seem necessary. Instead, each place (except the hotel) had space heaters and incredibly soft, thick alpaca blankets.

Though we saw blankets like those, we had no room in our bags, but Kristen and I did each find a baby alpaca throw blanket.

And we brought home a couple of alpaca sweaters as well.

The ladies at the markets were terrific at sizing customers at a glance

Finally, my textile purchases wouldn't have been complete without some yarn. (Actually, finding yarn is not easy!) With space in my carry-on only luggage completely gone, I purchased one skein of this luxurious baby alpaca and silk yarn which I have in mind to use for a couple of Peruvian baby hats.


Salamander said…
I LOVE ALL THE THINGS. I can't wait to see and feel these in person, but they look amazing. I'm super excited about that blanket, it looks insanely fabulously soft and warm.

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