The first step entails to shear the fibre or cut the fleece, respecting the shearing cycles of the alpacas and being grateful for what nature gives us. After shearing, we select the best parts of the fleece and obtain the thread through a handmade process in which the fibre, passed little by little between the fingers of one hand, is wound around the spindle (q. P’ushka), a tool whose use has been widespread in Peru since pre-Inca cultures. We dye using plants or animal dyes: cochineal to obtain the reds (traditional colour of the district of Pitumarca), Kiko flowers for the yellows and chill’ka for the greens.
In order to give the yarn the strength needed to be manipulated it with the traditional weaving techniques, we twist two threads with the spindle before proceeding to use them to assemble the loom. It is possible to carry out both the spinning and twisting processes with a clockwise or counterclockwise direction of rotation (q. lloq’e). Among Quechua artisans, it is believed that not only the left-hand spinning is finer and more resistant, but also that the weaving obtained can provide a special protection to whoever wears it, protecting her or him from the wind, from curses or witchcraft; bringing prosperity.
My speciality is weaving with a backstrap loom or horizontal four-stake loom – traditional tools that have been used in Peru for more than a millennium and are part of the cultural heritage of our Quechua community. I weave the warp by counting the threads according to the colours and designs to be reproduced. With the backstrap loom, I weave by tying one end to a tree and securing the other around my waist. Flat-weaving requires a lot of concentration. To achieve a quality textile you have to be persistent, precise and weave finely.
Another traditional technique common in our area is knitting with five double pointed needles. It is used to knit in a circular way, distributing the stitches between four of the needles and using the fifth one to knit. We use the 5 needles technique especially for knitting chullos, the hats with earflaps typical of our areas.
In recent years, pedal looms have also become part of my workshop, as my sons are specialising in this technique. With the pedal loom, they weave pieces to be used for creating as accessories and larger textiles.