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Nov 08

Textile Travel With A Natural Dye Highlight

Over the past few weeks, we have journeyed on textile travels along two very different cloth roads : Linda Stark, along with Linda Ligon and Karen Brock of Thrums Books, were traveling in Morocco visiting with artisans from the Thrums Books, Women Artisans of Morocco. And I was in the Peruvian Highlands with the Andean Textile Arts annual textile tour visiting weaving communities who are association members of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. Here’s a highlight from a day of natural dyeing in Chinchero, Peru.

A Day Spent at the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco in Chinchero
A few days into the tour and somewhat acclimated to the 12,000 ft. elevation, our group of seventeen was ready to learn about the natural dyes used in the weaving of the artisans’ textiles. We left Cusco city with the sun shining and promises of a lovely warmish day. About 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Chinchero community of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC). The weavers were waiting for us, having prepared our skeins of alpaca yarn and heated water in very large dye pots. Now it was time for our work to begin in earnest. Our dye teacher for the day was none other than Nilda Callañaupa, founder and director of CTTC. Wasting no time, we were stripping leaves and flowers from branches, adding yarns to already prepared dye pots, and lifting dyed yarn from the pots. With rain threatening, we were determined to get the dyeing done in a half day.

Natural Dyes Colors
We dyed eight colors in all–a deep red from cochineal, the small parasitic insect that infests the surface of the prickly pear cactus; a golden yellow from q’olle, a small flowering shrub that grows throughout the Cusco region; a luscious turquoise color from the black fungus which grows on the leaf of the k’ucha plant from the Amazon jungle; and green from the fresh leaves of the chilka shrub. The other colors were achieved by overdyeing of one color with another. Of course, the weavers took full advantage of the dyes too adding their skeins into the pot once we had finished ours.

Just as we were preparing ourselves for the final group photograph, the sky let loose and we scrambled undercover into the tienda to buy some of the rich textiles produced with natural dyes and woven by the various weaving communities who comprise CTTC.

The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco
The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) was established as a Peruvian non-profit organization in 1996. The objectives of the Center are to revive and continue the cultural heritage of textile creation, educate people to its tradition, and stimulate the production of traditional-based textiles as well as provide support and assistance to the communities of weavers with which the Center works. By researching and documenting techniques, styles, and designs, the Center works to preserve weaving traditions for future generations. The Center currently works with over 600 weavers and their families from ten highland communities.

If you want to learn more about the Textile Traditions of Chinchero, this book authored by Chinchero native Nilda Callañaupa, offers an indepth view of the weavers at work, from shearing wool to dyeing and spinning to weaving; pattern motifs representing flora, fauna, geographical features, farm tools, and more; natural dye information; and the role of special textiles in the rituals and festivals of the community.

If you’re interested in traveling to the Peruvian Highlands with Andean Textile Arts Email: pam.art@icloud.com for upcoming journeys.

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