Home PageKnittingRiffing on a Traditional Peruvian Alpaca Hat

Nov 05

Riffing on a Traditional Peruvian Alpaca Hat

One handknit alpaca hat, traditional Peruvian, worn by children in the Accha Alta community in the Andean highlands. One slouch shaped, paying homage to the traditional one while offering a modern interpretation. Both are loaded with colorful bumpy textures, called grutas, making distinctive patterns.

Accha Alta Knitters
The technique which produces grutas (lumps) is one of the most distinctive styles used in Andean handknit hats. Knit by both women and men of the Accha Alta community, located above the Sacred Valley at 11,750 feet, these artisans learn this nimble finger movement when young, their speed increasing with age.

Finger Movement
My hands have stroked this braille-like texture but I couldn’t figure out how the hats were knit until I was attending a weaving gathering in Cusco, sponsored by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. I noticed a woman chatting with friends while her hands worked in rapid motion. She wasn’t knitting or spinning so I looked closely and saw a colorful string of knotted yarn trailing from her hand forming a pile in her lap. She was making grutas, a form of finger crocheting or looping with yarn, to knit into a hat. Each string was a solid color of very consistent size and evenly spaced bumps. It was shortly after seeing this, that I turned a hat inside out and started unraveling it.

A How-To on Grutas
When knitting, the strings of grutas are carried along like intarsia (a method used to knit isolated areas of color), the knitter inserting one gruta between stitches according to the pattern. This creates a very tidy interior, no long pieces of yarn floating inside, and an intricate textural pattern on the outside. Just one baby hat alone has almost a thousand grutas. The slouch-shaped hats we have in the ClothRoads shop have at least triple that number. Imagine.

The slouched-shaped hats are designed by Colorado designer Bonie Shupe. Two years ago, she spent a three-month internship with the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.  She was a recent graduate from the design and apparel program at CSU and former ClothRoads intern, and was pursuing her dream of gaining one-on-one experience working directly with artisans and NGO’s. Read about her travels in these blogs. In a few weeks, Bonie will share more insights about collaborating with artisans in product development. These hats, available in four colorways, and other fine products from the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco are ready for you in the ClothRoads shop.

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