Threads of Peru Blog
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.
May through September is peak wedding season in North America, and many of us will attend at least one ceremony before it’s over. Whether it’s your best friend, your cousin or a sibling chances are you’ll be looking for a special wedding gift for the happy couple as they embark on their new life together. Maybe you’re a last-minute shopper or maybe you like to stand apart from the typical registry offerings, but if you’re after something truly unique and meaningful, the MUNAY wedding table runner could be just what you’ve been searching for.
Q’INTIKUNA CHURUNAKUY - Love Woven into the Fabric of the Wedding Table Runner
As in many cultures across the globe and throughout the centuries, textiles play an important part of the traditional wedding rituals in the Andes. Not only are special garments prepared, sometimes months in advance, to adorn the bridal party, textiles also play a role as a form of dowry, a testament of the bride-to-be’s weaving ability, and special woven patterns have been developed to represent the loving union.
Though the subtleties of meaning vary from community to community, the patterns that illustrate frontally opposed birds – such as the q’intikuna churunakuy pattern featured in the MUNAY wedding table runner, which depicts hummingbirds with beaks joined – represent affection and love. Such patterns can also specifically express the affection the giver of the weaving feels towards the recipient.
Similar pallays featuring birds sharing food further symbolize the way a couple will share resources now that they are joined as one. There is also a balance in the MUNAY wedding table runner, such as in the contrasting use of light and dark colours. Like the traditional Chinese yin and yang symbols which illustrate the balance between male and female energies.
“Weddings symbolically bring together an asymmetrical but balanced union of male and female duality. This union, called yanatin in Quechua symbolically joins the ayllus of the male and the female in reciprocal commitments formed by the joining of man and woman.”
- Andrea Heckman, Woven Stories
Whether displayed on a wall or used to add a decorative touch to a table or other home furnishing, the MUNAY wedding table runner is a gorgeous work of woven art imbued with the love and affection that we celebrate during the wedding season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
Ponchos have truly survived the currents of history, making its original debut as a clothing piece over 2,500 years ago, and still making an appearance in modern fashion. The Poncho has a long history dating back to 500BC worn by a Pre Incan people known as the Paracas. Though nowadays ponchos are worn in the Western world primarily as fashion pieces, ponchos were originally distinguished for their functionality. Their simple yet utilitarian design made them practical for agricultural work as well as for keeping the wearer protected from rain and moisture. Today, alpaca ponchos are reserved for more special occasions such as weddings and festivals.
Nevertheless, one can still find an poncho being sported as casual attire, especially on the streets of Cusco. Locals as well as tourists from many corners of the world often wear ponchos made from anything ranging from synthetic polyester wool blends to pure fine spun alpaca. After the sun sets in Cusco, temperatures plummet nearly 40 degrees within hours. Therefore, an alpaca poncho is an essential item to keep well-insulated during frigid Cusco nights.
Jose Luis Poncho
In fact, ponchos do such a superb job of keeping the wearer warm that we feel fortunate that we have ample access to ponchos here in Peru. Luckily for those outside of The Land of the Incas, Threads of Peru provides you access with some of the highest quality artisan-made alpaca ponchos. Each alpaca poncho we sell is crafted by a talented artisan from one of the five communities we work with. The Jose Luis, Alejandro and Inca poncho feature neutral colored fibers and is perfect for cold weather climates. Bring a piece of Peru to your home!
With over 2,500 years of history woven from high quality alpaca fiber, the poncho is, and will always remain, a classic piece.
Where can I buy an alpaca poncho like this one?
Check out the alpaca ponchos found in the Threads of Peru store.
I paid the taxi driver 4 Peruvian soles when he dropped me off at my final destination in Cusco: the Threads of Peru office. I carefully unloaded my MacBook Air and journal onto the desk that would be mine for the next three months. I came from Berkeley, California to Cusco, Peru to be Threads' Social Media intern, meaning I manage Threads' Social Media platforms and build the online community. I connected to wifi, checked my email, and was ready to go.
About two hours into my internship, my project director, Dana, announced one of the artisans, Roberta, was coming in from the community of Uppis to discuss different color yarn options. So there I was, first day on the job sandwiched between my lap top and an indigenous artisan who graciously gifted me with an intricately woven bracelet before she left on a four hour bus ride back to her community.
3 boys from the community of Chaullacocha. Photo by Stephanie Pardi
Little did I know that moments like these would become a regular occurrence during my time interning with TOP. Though I have been here for two months now, I am perpetually astounded by the contrast between my work of updating Threads' Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in an office setting and interviewing the artisans at a field 4,800 meters high. During the weekdays, I step over tangled extension cords, and on the weekends I step over brightly colored threads being warped for weaving. The kids in the communities sheepishly giggle as we take "selfies" on my iPhone, and I coyly laugh as the women try to teach me the art of spinning alpaca wool into thread that they have long mastered.
Taking an iPhone "selfie" with 2 kids in the schoolhouse of Chaullacocha. Photo by Olivia Campus.
At times, I can't help but feel that my internship exists in two distinct worlds, the artisan's world, and the world of technology. I will feel this way sitting in an artisan's backyard with snowcapped mountains as the backdrop of this setting, and then a weaver will get a phone call, answer her cell, and start laughing and chatting away. At this point, I feel my own phone tucked away in my pocket, and realize that perhaps our worlds are not so far apart after all.
Post by Stephanie Pardi, Social Media Intern.
This month, we are thrilled to announce that we will be featuring indigenous jewelry items by like-minded organization ORG by vio ® in our store! ORG by vio is a non-profit that works in partnership with indigenous artisans in the Amazon to promote their culture and artistry and providing a sustainable source of income. Just like Threads of Peru, ORG by vio sells fair trade items with the goal of increasing the livelihood of indigenous artisans.
Designer Violeta Villacorta founded the non-profit and designs collections of handmade jewelry, accessories, and eco fashion items using plant materials native to the Amazon. She believes that “adornment connects us to something higher … it honors the beauty of the Earth and power of nature.” We couldn’t agree more! Here are some of the ORG by vio items we are featuring in our online store:
ORG by vio joins other non-profits we are already working with to support indigenous Peruvian artisans on the path to economic empowerment and cultural preservation, Awamaki and Q’ente.
Founded in 2009, Awamaki’s mission is to “collaborate with the greater Ollantaytambo community to create economic opportunities and improve social well-being.” They are committed to empowering “highly skilled Andean women artisans engaged in the market economy, running successful cooperative businesses, and leading their communities out of poverty.”
The Q’ente Textile Revitalization Society is “an incorporated British Columbia not-for-profit society, which works directly with over 100 weavers in the Sacred Valley region of Peru by providing an outlet to sell textiles in North America. The aim of the project is to establish sustainability in the Sacred Valley region through the textile tradition, which is an integral part of the Quechua culture, history, and economy.”