Buying Yarn In Peru [PORTABLE]
Nasca / Yarn Store: This was my first stop out of Lima. After flying over the Nasca Lines in the morning, I walked around the city & was pleasantly surprised by this little yarn booth amidst the convenience & clothing stores. The owner doesn't speak a word of English & my Spanish is atrocious. But I showed her the socks I was working on & we were instant buddies! :)
buying yarn in peru
Nasca / Yarn Store: I bought a dip-dyed hanging skein. I have no idea what type of yarn this is, but I suspect it's a wool blend because of the way its dyed and the "sticky" factor when I wound it into a ball. I tried felting a sample, which felted partway. I asked, "Alpaca?" and she said "No". Then, she brought out a bag of natural colored commercially processed alpaca yarn. She told me the price of the dyed skein: three-five. So, I thought it was 35 nuevo soles, about $12 at the current exchange rate. That's actually a decent price for hand dyed sock weight yarn. Turns out, it was only 3.5 soles or about $1.25. Wow, that is unbelievably cheap!! I couldn't buy any more because I was backpacking...maybe that's a good thing or I would have bought out the store! :) Arequipa / Colca Canyon: These little beasties are the rare vicuna, a smaller relative of the alpaca and llamas. This picture was taken at a national reserve, on the way to the Canyon del Colca. Vicunas live in high altitudes and are not domesticated. They are rounded up and shorn every few years. Arequipa / Colca Canyon: This lady was peddling her wares, ubiquitous chullo hats, scarves, sweaters made of varying amounts of alpaca. She is a native Andean lady and she wears a black hat to identify the group she belongs to. She's spinning some alpaca with a bottom-whorl drop spindle. Chivay / Colca Canyon: This little girl was hanging out with her family and her adorable baby llama, right outside of the town of Chivay. Her mom was selling the usual stuff. I almost bought a scarf from her. It was made of handspun llama yarn, then knit in a very simple lace pattern. I didn't like any of the colors though and it was a little expensive. Non-knitters wouldn't appreciate the amount of work that went into making something like that, and I was only buying stuff for gifts. Chivay / Colca Canyon: Yes, this guy is wearing a knitted mask. He was participating in a native dance routine at a restaurant we went to, in the town of Chivay. Kinda freaky, huh? Check out the knitted moustache and eyebrows! There were some shops in other Andean towns that were also selling these knitted masks. His hat is also like the ones I saw later on Taquile Island, on Lake Titicaca. Arequipa / Alpaca Store: We took a city tour of Arequipa on a double-decker bus. One of the stops was an alpaca store in the city. They had a small corral with some friendly real life alpacas! Don't get near unhappy alpacas because they DO spit, like their llama cousins. These alpacas were very dusty, which is normal, because they like to roll around on the ground. Arequipa / Alpaca Store: Must be seen to be believed. It's an ENTIRE TABLE covered in vicuna fiber. *drool* It's enough to make a law-abiding citizen like myself think about snatching a handful. I didn't, though. Heard Peruvian prison is no fun. ;) Arequipa / Alpaca Store: Brilliantly colored yarn from natural dyes. From left to right: cochineal (red), indigo (blue), chapi (orange), kinsa kucho (light teal), ttire (bright yellow), mote mote (brown), sacha sunka (mustard yellow), ahuaypili (dark brownish maroon) Arequipa / Alpaca Store: More natural dyes. I'm amazed at the richness of the colors. From left to right: Ttire (bright yellow), cochineal (red), kinsa kucho (light teal), ahuaypili (looks more purplish in this one), yanali (mustard yellow) Arequipa / Alpaca Store: Giant piles of naturally colored alpaca fiber. C'mon, I know you want to jump in and roll around! Mmmmm...alpaca. In case you're wondering, this store only sells finished alpaca products and a few vicuna products like sweaters. Unfortunately, no vicuna/alpaca fiber or naturally dyed yarn. They did have a small display of commercially processed alpaca yarn in small rolls, much like the stuff you'd find at any local yarn store. This store's name is Mundo Alpaca, located in downtown Arequipa. There is no charge for going in & visiting. Arequipa / Alpaca Store: A large floor loom and some hanging looms. I'm not a weaver, but I'm impressed they can make such beautiful weavings with such primitive equipment. Puno: This high-altitude city near Lake Titicaca is full of knitters, but they use mostly acrylics. Not a great place for yarn snobs. I stayed at the Inka's Rest hostel and the owner knit these mini chullo hat souvenirs as advertisements. It looks like acrylic, knit in the round, but not jogless. Other non-knitting tourists got them too and were perplexed. I was absolutely delighted! I think you can use them as keychains. There's a small yarn shack on Cahuide Street, near Ugarte Street, filled with garishly colored neon acrylics. I didn't get anything there. There's plenty of garish acrylic I can get at Wal*Mart back home! :) Lake Titicaca / Amantani Island: This picture shows some friendly natives, wearing heavily embroidered clothing, and knitting of course! As soon as our boat landed, there were a bunch of women on the docks, hanging out and knitting hats with their metal double-pointed needles. These two ladies were relaxing near a school and small shop, on the path up the hill. I think they're also knitting hats. The colorwork is quite impressive! They loop the different colors behind their necks to keep them separated. Pretty much every little kid wears one of those hats with the characteristic ear flaps.
FYI, the Peruvians (and probably other Spanish speakers) call the llamas "Yah-mahs". The double "l" is pronounced like a "y" sound. No one calls them "Lah-mahs". Alpacas are called "Al-pac-ahs", like the rapper and Incan revolutionary "Tu-pac". Not "Al-pack-ahs". You wouldn't call Tupac "Tu-pack". ;) Ollantaytambo: The Andean town of Ollantaytambo has a tiny cultural museum. There's a pretty battered loom on display, with some figures dressed in traditional clothing Ollantaytambo: There is another museum called the BioMuseo at Calle La Convencion. Ollantaytambo is so tiny that you'll find it by just walking around. They have fantastic food-related cultural displays, but they do have some handwoven products in their store. They even have a replica Andean kitchen complete with live guinea pigs! I got this tiny bottom-whorl drop spindle with some coarse cochineal dyed handspun. It measures only about 4" tall. Ollantaytambo: I bought this little coin purse at the Hearts Cafe, which is located in the Plaza de Armas. The prices are very reasonable and the profits benefit childrens projects in the Sacred Valley. The yarn looks like it was dyed using natural dyes. The food and coffee is great too! :) Ollantaytambo: There is a very small shop on the main street leading to the ruins which sells handwoven goods. They have small displays explaining natural dyes and the Andean backstrap loom, which is totally portable! They also had a very small selection of handspun, hand dyed yarn. It was very coarse, probably meant for use in rugs or bags. My backpack was out of space, otherwise I'd have bought some. Machu Picchu: The fabled city is filled with alpacas who are totally used to having a ton of tourists around. They'll graze right over you!
Sadly, most of the stuff at the market does look mass produced. And I couldn't find any yarn for sale there! They did have several bead/jewelry making stores. Cusco / Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco: My new friends and I spent a long time at the Center, browsing through their woven goods. It is located at Avenida El Sol No 603. There were two weavers inside the store, demonstrating their craft. I wish I took a picture, but you have to leave them a little tip. They have great displays about spinning and weaving, but not a lot about knitting. No pics allowed of their displays, otherwise, I would have taken a ton of them! I heard they also offer weaving classes. Careful now...visiting this store makes you want to learn weaving! Cusco / Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco: I caved and ended up purchasing a woven bag for myself. It came with a little card, listing the name of the weaver and her date of birth. This bag is made of wool and alpaca. The detail on this bag is amazing. It has matching cording along the sides and top. The strap is also woven in matching colors. Southern Amazon: Near the town of Puerto Maldonado, we visited a local family. The mom of the family was spinning cotton with a very long spindle. They also made clothing from peeling and softening bark from certain trees. I didn't see any products made from the spun cotton, though. They sold a bunch of trinkets like bracelets made from seeds.
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