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Peruvian Alpaca Textiles: Threads of Peru Breathes New Life into an Ancient Tradition.

Photo: Lizz Giordano

The tradition of weaving in Peru stretches back through 5,000 years of history, from the coastal cities of Paracas and Nazca to the high Andean communities of Cusco and Ayacucho. Backstrap loom weaving has always been an incredibly important part of Peruvian culture, and continues to be integral to Andean identity today, as much as alpaca herding and the native Quechua language.

Like so many traditional cultures the world over, however, Andean communities in Peru face the dual pressures of cultural degradation and lack of economic opportunities. Threads of Peru was founded to alleviate poverty and revitalize cultural traditions in rural indigenous communities around Cusco in the Southern Andes of Peru. Their business model brings needed income to rural families without diminishing the fabric of the traditional Andean lifestyle, breathing new life into this centuries-old culture.

Supporting Traditional Craft in Peru

“With appropriate support, the artisan sector provides an opportunity to transform the international economic landscape.” – The Artisan Alliance (formerly the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise)

The artisan sector represents a market of $34 billion globally. It is the second largest employer in the developing world, after agriculture, and has the potential to not only strengthen unique cultural traditions but also “create jobs, increase incomes, and foster sustainable community development.”

Items produced by Threads of Peru represent the work and the heritage of over 120 artisans
in seven communities and four regions of Cusco. Each region has its own distinct textile traditions, colours, symbols and techniques. Everything is made by hand using traditional weaving and spinning techniques that date back thousands of years to pre-Incan cultures.

One of the weaving associations that Threads of Peru works with is Saya Ccocha. The members of the Saya Ccocha weaving cooperative have been invaluable members of the Threads of Peru team since 2012. Saya Ccocha (formerly called “Awaq Mayki,” meaning handwoven in Quechua), boasts over 20 talented and motivated members. The majority reside in the community of Upis, situated quite literally at the foot of the great Ausangate mountain, the highest mountain in Southern Peru, and an important apu (mountain deity) in Quechua culture.

Alpacas graze in front a backdrop of stunning mountain peaks in Upis. Photo: Alexa Jones

At an astonishing altitude of 4,400 meters above sea level (14,435 feet) and with looming, frequently snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance, Upis is well-known for breathtaking trekking routes, impeccable artisanship, and free-ranging alpaca herds. Typical of most rural Andean communities, Upis is characterized by an extreme climate, very basic living conditions, and limited economic opportunities.

The Upis weavers have been proudly making our Senkapa and Wato bracelets as well as our Tika pompoms for years. In 2018, we launched a line of pillows and rugs that make use of a chunky style of alpaca textile that Upis is known for. These items use yarn hand-spun from their own herds of alpaca and are huggably soft! We also introduced a line of super-soft, handspun alpaca scarves called Miski, which means sweet in Quechua.

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