Peruvian Fibre Fabulousness

I’ll admit, I’m an absolute novice when it comes to all things knitting/crocheting/weaving related. I’ve signed up to ravelry with good intentions, but I just can’t get kick started on learning beyond the knit and purl stitch in a rectangle (I generally tend to knit a scarf each year for myself).

I was hoping that being in Peru and surrounded by the indomitable knitting/weaving skills of the Quechuan women might awaken some kind of dormant knitting talent – nup. 

Looks like I’ll just have to do it the hard way and practice until I get it right.

Check out this incredible hand woven (and hand dyed) tapestry we picked up:

Everywhere we go the skills of these women – and men!! are on display. Weaving, knitting, embroidery – you name it, they can do it with incredible skill. Check out this website for more info – Threads of Peru – a social and non-profit enterprise that is making moves to preserve the traditional weaving of the Quechua women, and improving their economic lot.

In the mean time, I’m moderately obsessed with buying beautiful and incredibly soft wool. I always thought Alpaca hair (not actually a wool!) was the ultimate fibre – not so according to the Peruvians. They’re more likely to use the stuff for making our equivalent of a hessian sack. 

From L-R – Vicuna, Guanaco, Alpaca and Llama

There are 4 grades of fibre, each more exquisite than the last:

Llama – likely to spit on you if you get too close (unless, as one guide with comically stilted english explained, they are ‘Llamas with education’), these fellas were and still are today used as meat and for carrying products.

Alpaca – known for having the longest fibre of all the camelids and with the broadest natural colour range, alpaca’s can be long or short haired. Their fibres are known for extraordinary warmth and are the main supplier for the Andean textile industry. 

Guanaco – large, gorgeously cinnamon coloured and known for it’s enormous strength, this species is protected by International Law. It was domesticated and genetically engineered to produce the Llama.

Vicuna – the smallest and most beautiful of the camelid family producing the finest quality of fibre, used exclusively for making clothes for the Inca (the King) and Quechuan noble families. The poor dears were nearly hunted to extinction – today they’re also a protected species.

Most commonly available in Peru are gorgeous garments made from Alpaca and Vicuna, the former being really very affordable and the latter a tad exxy.

Just as we crossed the border into Peru, I saw Zoe from ZoSews knitted cable beret and fell in lust. A few days later I walked into an alpaca product shop and the instance purchase reflex was activated – I walked back out with this gorgeous pop corn beanie:

I also bought some baby alpaca wool in a cool blue and oatmeal colour – for this years obligatory knitted scarf. But this time I’m going to try a something that may require a bit of skill – this gorgeous raspberry stitch perhaps?

If anyone has any tips or handy websites for ambitious beginner knitters I’d be most grateful!! 

And thanks a million for your love from my Sweet Shorts :)

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15 thoughts on “Peruvian Fibre Fabulousness

  1. Thanks for the education about the South American camelids. I, like you thought that Alpacas had the best hair/wool of the South American beasts 8-). If you ever have the chance to feel some muskox wool/hair aka Qiviut or qiviuq (Inuit words), take it, the stuff feels incredible. Of course the price is incredible as well. I am very glad that I have no desire to knit, because of course I would want the expensive stuff. check out this link.http://www.folknits.com/q_yarn_page.htmlI am enjoying your trip!

  2. Oh, wow, this is lovely! I have gotten lots of knitting tips from the forums on Ravelry– I usually read up on the project before I start it to see if other folks have any helpful info. Youtube is really great, too– there are many knitting videos available and you can pause and rewind as many times as you need to!

  3. I love your new headwear! And the education about fibers is fascinating! I can't help you much on the knitting front I am afraid… It was never my particular talent and I never had much interest in actually putting in the effort to acquire that particular skill. But I am sure whatever you make will be lovely! I think if I had access to such beautiful yarns I might have more of an interest in knitting as well ;-)

  4. So I'm reading your post, and then, BAM – my big head pops up hahaha! Your popcorn beanie is delightful, and so is that yarn you've purchased! I look forward to seeing it become something!

  5. I so totally need to spend some more time on that site – i literally just created an account then got distracted with something (probably sewing related). I can totally see how Youtube would be a great resource – especially as I find pictures of knitting steps a wee bit confusing!

  6. Hey "Maneater" that photo made me laugh, very, very, very, clever!! Must have taken you ages to get right. I normally keep my blog reading as a personal thing. I am sharing this picture with my family, my daughters 11 and 12 will love it. Just like magic. F A N T A S T I C.

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