Threads of Peru Blog

Threads of Peru Adopts a New Photographer/Social Media Volunteer Mariah Krey for the Summer!

Mariah, originally from Minnesota, first stumbled upon TOP last summer while she was searching for a way to combine her interests into meaningful work. She is currently a business school student studying Entrepreneurship & Marketing in Washington State, and spends most of her free time in the studio fostering her passions for photography and fibers.
Read more

Culture & Color: Cataloguing Andean Dye Plants

Combining the methods of traditional anthropological research with a modern perspective to work with and sustain developing communities in a global economy, has been an interesting challenge for Threads of Peru intern Alexa Jones. 

Alexa purchased a beautiful wedding table runner directly from a weaver from Rumira Sondormayo

Alexa purchased a beautiful wedding table runner directly from a weaver from Rumira Sondormayo.

She says, “It is amazing to see how Peruvians mesh cultural tradition with modern technology. They are suspended between the old and the new, clinging to ancient practices while adapting to a rapidly globalizing world. Organizations like Threads of Peru help to maintain ancient craft traditions that would otherwise be lost, along with the stories of native communities. It’s been an incredible experience helping keep those stories and traditions alive.” 

This vibrant red and turquoise are only a couple of the naturally produced colors.

This vibrant red and turquoise are only a couple of the naturally produced colors.

Alexa’s internship focused on natural dye plants native to the Andes. For three months she researched the diversity of dye plants that grow in the area; which included reading previous works, interviewing master weavers for their knowledge, gathering and cataloging the dye plants, and creating color sample books.

After nearly 3 months of work, Alexa along with master weavers Daniel Sonqo and Andres Sallo produced this great selection of colors

After nearly 3 months of work, Alexa along with master weavers Daniel Sonqo and Andres Sallo produced this great selection of colors.

She also organized two natural dye workshops in order to produce all of the primary shades of TOP's color palette dyed on wool and alpaca, one in the community of Huaran with master weaver Andres Sallo, and one with master weaver Daniel Sonqo at his home in Parobamba.

She has completed a set of labeled color samples, along with the basic dye recipes and information about each plant and also conducting short interviews with the weavers in order to update the “Communities” section on the Threads of Peru website. 

Alexa preparing each batch of dye during the workshop in Huaran

Alexa preparing each batch of dye during the workshop in Huaran.

Alexa Jones was a cultural research intern for the past three months with Threads of Peru.  As a recently graduated Spanish and Anthropology double major from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she felt she was able to put her skills to good use working with Threads of Peru and said, “this has been an incredibly insightful and invaluable experience! I am so grateful to have been part of the Threads of Peru team, along with all the other awesome staff and volunteers here in Cusco who I’m happy to call my friends.”

Measuring the Impact of Threads One Community at a Time

Greetings from Cusco! My name is Harrison Ackerman and I’ve been here with Threads of Peru as an Evaluation Research Intern since early July. Although Northport, a small Long Island town in New York, is where I call home, I’ve been in Boston for most of the past few years in school at Northeastern University. I’m currently the youngest in the office at 20 years old and will graduate with a degree in Political Science and International Affairs this upcoming May. 

Warping is one of the many steps of creating the beautiful products by each artisans. Photo courtesy of Alexa Jones

Warping is one of the many steps of creating the beautiful products by each artisans. Photo courtesy of Alexa Jones.

I was immediately drawn to Threads because of the focus on economic development and expanding opportunity in marginalized communities. However, what really solidified my decision to pursue a six month research project was the organization’s unique strategy. Rather than relying on the benevolence of donors to empower indigenous artisans, Threads has utilized the international market to create a model of social enterprise that warrants replication in other industries and across the world. The potential for creating positive change in such a sustainable business-driven project was reason enough for me to join the Threads team, and luckily enough there was a specific project concept that we excitedly agreed upon. 

Annie with Ruperta in the community of Uppis. Photo courtesy of Annie Marcinek

Annie with Ruperta in the community of Uppis. Photo courtesy of Annie Marcinek

Annie, my research partner, and I are in the process of creating and implementing the organization’s first evaluation project. As September approaches, we are finishing the project’s planning phase and will be beginning extensive community visits and weaver interviews in the upcoming second phase. The research will ultimately allow us to better understand the weavers with whom we work through the collection of baseline data. Additionally, responses to our ¨defined¨ and ¨hypothetical¨ socio-economic question sets will inform future project development and help us to more effectively support weaving cooperatives by addressing their individual and collective needs. 

The thriving of Huaran weavers shows why Threads sincerely appreciates the support from our customers, followers and volunteers. Photo courtesy of Alexa Jones

The thriving of Huaran weavers shows why Threads sincerely appreciates the support from our customers, followers and volunteers. Photo courtesy of Alexa Jones

 Evaluating the work of NGOs like Threads of Peru is absolutely essential to ensure their continued success. For Threads to distinguish itself within the sector, it needs to prove that its initiatives are yielding worthwhile results. The days are over of investing in a cause because the needs are great and the ambitions are grand; donors want to be part of something with proven impact. While this research project is just the first step of many on the long-term evaluation horizon, building a strong foundation is key to creating a comprehensive strategy. In the words of American author Hunter S. Thompson, ¨Anything worth doing is worth doing right.¨

Eliane expanding Threads with a capsule collection

Hola – Hoi – Hey – Salut

My time with Threads of Peru has exceeded my expectations. Visiting the communities and learning how to weave with a back strap loom myself has greatly inspired me. I was able to closely watch the weaver’s habits, their styling as well as the way they transport and wrap their belongings and purchases.

I immersed myself in the Andean culture trying to translate their textile tradition into the modern world. I was searching for a design language that both cultures – the Andean, and my own culture (which I would like to call European) will understand. 

Eliane out and about near the community of Chaullacocha during an entrega

Eliane out and about near the community of Chaullacocha during an entrega.

I am a fashion designer from Zurich, Switzerland, however for the past two years I have been living in Paris, France. I moved to Paris to work for the fashion designer LUTZ HUELLE. After two years of assisting the creative director, I decided that I was ready to take the next step and built up my own company and brand. 

Elaine learning to weave on a backstrap loom

 Elaine learning to weave on a backstrap loom.

However before embarking on this new chapter in my life, I wanted to widen my horizon further by seeing a corner of the world that is still unknown to me. Being passionate about textiles, design, pattern making and fashion, I applied to Threads of Peru proposing to design a little capsule collection for them. 

Eliane and Armando working on creating the prototypes for her capsule collection

Eliane and Armando working on creating the prototypes for her capsule collection.

As a result I used traditional pallays (textile designs) and known combinations, such as their black skirts with the colourful Golòn (a work-intensive and difficult ribbon), combined them with leather and gave them a modern, clean shape. I paid a lot of attention to finishings and details, which I believe are the essence of a clean, luxurious product. 

Sewing the prototypes with new shapes and sizes has been a fun adventure for the team in Chinchero

Sewing the prototypes with new shapes and sizes has been a fun adventure for the team in Chinchero.

I fell in love with Cusco and the surrounding communities and even though I don’t know what the future will bring and if I ever come back to this area, it has greatly impacted my life. It has also inspired me to travel and explore all traditional and unique textile techniques in the world. I would love to continue collaborating with other similar organizations around the world.

Eliane piled up in the back of a truck to make her way to the community of Parobamba

Eliane piled up in the back of a truck to make her way to the community of Parobamba.

I am very grateful to the team of Threads of Peru, Sarah So (volunteer coordinator) who made me feel at home and helped me wherever she could from the minute I landed in Cusco and Dana Blair (project coordinator) who took along to all her community visits and faithfully trusted in my design decisions, and all the other volunteers, Stephanie Pardi, Alexa Jones, Giulia Grassi and Harrison Ackerman who enriched my work but also private time in Cusco.

Giulia connecting Threads to the European market

Hola! My name is Giulia and I am from Italy. Currently I am living in London and studying Marketing at the London College of Fashion. It was my passion for both textiles and fashion that originally brought me to discover Threads of Peru. One day during a class called “Fabric and Fibers” at Central Saint Martins School, I discovered my interest in weaving and I wanted to know more about the process and Peruvian textiles in general.

Weavers from the community of Uppis. Photography by Giulia Grassi

Weavers from the community of Uppis. Photography by Giulia Grassi

When I first heard of Threads of Peru, I instantly connected with the organization’s mission of maintaining a population’s cultural tradition through innovative and efficient initiatives. Here at Threads of Peru I am doing a three-month internship, in which my main task is to analyze the organization’s current brand image and its current marketing plan. Threads of Peru is looking to expand its network and throughout my time here I have analyzed the European market in order to understand how to integrate Threads of Peru into this market. 

Natural dye workshop in Huaran. Photograph by Giulia Grassi

Natural dye workshop in Huaran. Photograph by Giulia Grassi

It is really interesting working with such a young organization like Threads of Peru because unlike working with most other start ups, working with Threads of Peru also involves discovering the world of Andean artisans, along with their culture and traditions. This type of understanding is what makes my work here so interesting. 

Volunteers Stephanie, Giuia, Eliane and Alexa riding in the back of a pickup truck in Quillabamba. Photography by Alexa Jones

Volunteers Stephanie, Giuia, Eliane and Alexa riding in the back of a pickup truck in Quillabamba. Photography by Alexa Jones

Working here at TOP has been a very exciting experience, moreover the team has been really friendly and there is such a good connection between all of us. 

Street in San Blas. Photograph by Giulia Grassi

Street in San Blas. Photograph by Giulia Grassi

Cusco is an amazing town. I love to walk through the streets of Cusco, especially the neighborhood of San Blas and enjoying a nice coffee there. Here people are nice and very friendly. Cusco is a town where it is easy to become inspired just about anywhere, with streets full of artisans selling amazing handcrafted jewelry and textile products, almost all artisans open to sharing with you their personal stories and skills. I really enjoyed my time here and when I leave I will really miss Threads of Peru and Cusco!

Meet the Threads Volunteer Team!

As you might have noticed, Threads of Peru has a thriving volunteer program this summer! With five fresh faces in the office, we’ve been able to work on a multitude of exciting and interesting projects, from social media and marketing to cultural research and impact assessment. 

Adrian, Alexa and Stephanie during an interview with the weavers  in which Quechua was translated to Spanish and vice versa

Adrian, Alexa and Stephanie during an interview with the weavers  in which Quechua was translated to Spanish and vice versa.

On the social media front, Stephanie Pardi has been hard at work creating content for the Threads blog, as well as updating our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. With her creative and insightful writing, we hope to give you all a better taste of Peru and what Threads is all about. 

Alexa stirring a pot of cochineal for various shades of red, purple, pink and gray

Alexa stirring a pot of cochineal for various shades of red, purple, pink and gray.

Working on cultural research concerning Andean dye plants, Alexa Jones has organized two natural dye workshops in order to produce all of the shades in our color palette. She’ll be creating sets of labeled sample books, while also helping out with some graphic design work! 

Eliane and Dana going over the order of pom poms

Eliane and Dana going over the order of pom poms.

Eliane Heutschi, designer extraordinaire, is sewing up a storm! Eli has been creating samples for a capsule collection, which includes five gorgeous, Peruvian-inspired pieces. We can’t wait to show you the final products! 

The Threads of Peru team in Cusco during a dye workshop with the weavers of Huaran

The Threads of Peru team in Cusco during a dye workshop with the weavers of Huaran.

In order to expand Threads of Peru’s market in Europe, Giulia Grassi has been scouting new wholesale opportunities and redefining the brand image. In addition to reaching out to new retailers, Giulia is writing a marketing strategy and customer surveys to help Threads grow. Harrison Ackerman is in the early stages of an impact assessment project, seeking to observe Threads of Peru’s impact in the communities by interviewing the weavers, analyzing what kind of progress we’re making, and suggesting ways we can improve.

It’s quite a productive summer here in the Threads of Peru office! Stay tuned to hear more about all the progress our bright volunteers are making on their respective projects. We also have several new and exciting volunteer opportunities! Threads is currently looking for graphic design, social media, and journalism volunteers.

A (slightly belated!) 2012 New Years Message

Thoughts at the beginning of 2012 “How did I end up writing the New Year message?” I wonder, as I ponder whether a New Year’s message is about the past or the future… and whether its even a New Years message, when you are writing it more than 30 days into the New Year.

Regardless, I forge on deciding a New Years Message can be about both the past and the future.

2011 was a big year for us, as we employed a fantastic Cusco based Project Manager, Amanda Zenick, and were blessed with the talents of two great volunteers, Fani Karaivanova, Textile Project Assistant & Community Liaison and Frankie Ginnett Assistant Volunteer Coordinator & Project Assistant who have all contributed to advancing the project considerably.

Here you can see Amanda Zenick and Fani Karaivanova working hard to measure everything at the entrega

Here you can see Amanda Zenick and Fani Karaivanova working hard to measure everything at the entrega

The idea of having more people “hands on deck” is to relieve the pressure and hours worked on the founders, who are still completely voluntary. What actually happened is that the Founders moved onto new projects, including spreading the marketing of the project further!

This year our Ebay store was absolutely beautiful, thanks to the design talents of Angie Hodder and Adam Foster Collins, and of a number of photographers in Cusco, including volunteer Lynn Dao. In 2012 we will be expanding into an Ethical Community store and hope in the not too distant future to have our own store on our website!

We also should make special note of our patient Master weaver, Daniel Sonqo who put in a sensational year’s work, enduring our requests for different styles and dimensions, and then transforming these requirements into beautiful weavings with the women of our different weaving groups.

Here you can see Daniel giving a talk to the women in Chaullacocha at the pedido, he is asking them what they would like to weave. Due to the heavy rain this talk takes place inside the greenhouse!

Here you can see Daniel giving a talk to the women in Chaullacocha at the pedido, he is asking them what they would like to weave. Due to the heavy rain this talk takes place inside the greenhouse!

As I look back over the year, there are many small and large successes, but in short – we have achieved a lot and have a lot of people to thank, not the least everyone who “put their money where their mouth is” and supported us by buying a fair trade weaving.

Each year the Project takes a weather directed hiatus for several months (January and February) as it’s difficult, if not impossible, to access the communities where we work. So currently we are busy planning, budgeting and dreaming about what we can create for the project in 2012. In general terms – we would like our women to continue improving their weavings, and for us to sell more of their weavings, which will in turn bring a better quality of life to their remote communities.

An example of one of the beautiful ponchos made this year by the women we work with.

An example of one of the beautiful ponchos made this year by the women we work with.

Happy New Year everyone!

Ariana Svenson, Co- Founder