Threads of Peru Blog

How We Met: Huilloc

Young Andean weavers

For their age, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of weaving they showed me (just a few table runners and scarves): the designs are well-executed, the colors very vibrant, straight edges and a nice finish. Already so accomplished!

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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.
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Volunteering with Threads Part 2: Lessons from the Communities

My first invitation to visit a community that Threads of Peru works with came a couple of weeks after I started volunteering two mornings a week in the Cusco office.

The visit quickly disabused me of any notions I had had of how the textiles are made. I suppose I had thought, not very thoughtfully, that the process would be a more rustic version of a western association of weaving hobbyists. It is much more complicated and intricate than that.

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Volunteering with Threads Part 1: Weft and Warp: Working in Two Cultures

It all started over a beer at a fund-raiser in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, near Cusco.

That afternoon, all the micro-brewery’s profits went in support of the non-profit, Threads of Peru. When I met the organization’s director of operations, Dana, a sassy young anthropologist who works with local weavers, I asked if I could volunteer. (I’d been keeping an eye out for volunteer work involving textiles and supporting women.)

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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.”

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!