I've been wanting to spend some time in Cusco for a while, I needed a change of scenery to reconnect with myself and I also wanted to investigate traditional medicinal practices and learn more about weaving from Andean textile artists. A couple of weeks ago I spent a week (such little time but it´s all I could afford) in the Sacred Valley and Cusco City. On my way to my hotel in Ollantaytambo my guide and driver Ronny, who during our conversation had learned about my reasons for visiting, suggested we stop in Chinchero, a town rich in textile making traditions. We stopped at a textile demonstration center where they gave us an overview of the weaving process from the cleaning of the wool to the actual weaving of a textile.
Upon entering the space we encountered this beautiful table where you could see the materials used in the yarn dyeing process; I fell in love!
The colours of the sheep and alpaca yarn were so bright and earthy at the same time! I coudn't wait to learn all about the process and buy some for my own projects too!
Unfortunately I don´t remember the name of the lady that was our guide at the center, she very kindly allowed me take pictures of her explaining the dyeing process. The first thing she showed us is how dirty the wool is when the animal is sheared and how it is cleaned with a natural shampoo that you can see in the lower left part of the photo below.
She then showed us how the yarn is dyed using different materials such as flowers, moss, leafs, corn and cochineal bugs.
The colour obtained from cochineal was particularly impressive for its intensity!
We then proceeded to observe how the yarn is dipped in clay containers over wood fires containing boiling hot water and different substances for dyeing the yarn. We saw the red cochineal bugs obtain and then the earthy green that comes from eucalyptus leafs.
The colours obtained are gorgeous and so different to yarns that are coloured with synthetic dyes, I lusted over these and splurged in a few balls!
The next part of the process is the actual weaving of the yarn into textiles, something the ladies from this community excel at and that I was so interested in learning for my own work.
We left the demonstration space, with new acquired knowledge on traditional methods of dyeing yarn and with a few beautiful balls of material. By then I was already feeling the altitude sickness and needed some coca tea, we continued our journey to the hotel and to some more weaving experiences the following days. I´ll share these in Part III of this post.