Ever wanted to speak with a Threads of Peru weaver? Now is your chance on ChatBasket.com!

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On behalf of all of us at Threads of Peru, we would like to extend an invitation to you – our friends and supporters – to take part in our featured sales week on ChatBasket.com! From Sunday, April 28th to Saturday, May 4th, our team – scattered throughout Peru, Canada and Australia – will be online to chat one-on-one with you about everything from our products to our goals for the future. And there is more! We have coordinated with weavers from both of our communities, Rumira Sandormayo and Chaullaqocha, to meet with us in nearby Ollantaytambo to take part in all the chatting fun. With the help of one of our guides from Apus Peru, we will translate all of your questions from English to Spanish to Quechua and back again, giving you a unique opportunity to connect with the TOP weavers from the comfort of your own home.

the people of rumira sondormayo-4

But perhaps you are asking, “What exactly is ChatBasket.com?” Kicked off just this year by an experienced team of entrepreneurs in San Francisco, California, “ChatBasket.com is an e-commerce site that allows customers to chat live with the artisans who made the products for sale.” Their vision is based on the idea of bringing personal interaction to online shopping – to connect you directly with the artisan whose product you are buying. All of the products featured on ChatBasket are hand-made and sustainably produced, truly one-of-a-kind treasures from around the world. By facilitating the personal connection between producer and buyer, this innovative approach to online shopping sets traditional artisans in developing countries apart from the middle-men and mass production of retail sales. To learn more about ChatBasket, chatting online during our sales week and why this is an opportunity you definitely should not miss, check out the short video below or visit ChatBasket.com to see what’s already happening online!

ChatBasket Launch Video

We will be periodically posting reminders on our blog and Facebook page over the next few weeks to keep you in the loop! We also hope that you will check out  the TOP profile on ChatBasket.com and sign up to be notified when we are available online to chat during our sales week – just follow this link!

Threads of Peru ChatBasket Profile

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Arrival of Master Weaver collection!

We have just received a few select pieces from locally recognized Master Weavers to begin our new Master Weaver Collection, a collection of one-of-a-kind pieces of exquisite quality.

Threads of Peru is interested in supporting and promoting the work of Master Weavers as they are important knowledge-bearers in the Quechua textile tradition. The dedication that these weavers have made to their craft has helped not only to keep it alive but also to strengthen and revitalize it. Through their example, others begin to appreciate this cultural tradition and decide to learn to weave or improve their skills. All of these individuals are very passionate about traditional back-strap loom weaving and take time to pass on their skills and knowledge to others.

Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to these Master Weavers and their work, including a few pictures from a textile photo-shoot in the beautiful Sacred Valley location of Huaran.

DANIEL SONQO

Master Weaver, Daniel Sonqo.

Daniel Sonqo (sonqo means “heart” in Quechua) is an experienced weaver from the community of Parobamba, high up in the mountains in an area referred to in Spanish as the “eyebrows of the jungle”.  He has been weaving since childhood and attributes his early interest in the art of weaving to his mother. Daniel began to sell his work in 1990 after the political climate in Peru became more stable. His works are highly regarded and well-known in the Cusco region. Daniel says that he tries to conduct all of his work with honour and is dedicated to sharing his knowledge to improve the weaving techniques in other communities. Daniel is extremely passionate about natural dyeing techniques and hopes to one day share his knowledge by writing a book.

Judy Svenson and Daniel Sonqo discuss a textile while founder Ariana Svenson, taking notes, looks on.

Daniel shares his expert knowledge with Judy Svenson (left), TOP founder Ariana Svenson (front) and the women of the Chaullaqocha weaving association.

Daniel has produced an intricate, multicoloured bedspread, an incredibly soft and warm baby alpaca poncho, and a striking table runner, as well as a traditional manta which features iconography from the region.

Visit our Eco Market and Ebay stores to view more of Daniel’s work!

http://stores.ebay.com/threadsofperustore

http://www.ecomarket.com/stalls/threads-of-peru/

A traditional Peruvian poncho, handwoven by Daniel. All product information available on Eco Market!

A traditional Peruvian poncho, handwoven by Daniel from baby alpaca fiber. All product information available on Eco Market and Ebay!

 

Threads of Peru welcomes new Project Coordinator, Dana Blair!

Sarah Confer and Dana Blair happily pose with the latest TOP purchase - a colorful chullo from the Pitukiska community. Soon to be available online for your purchasing pleasure!

Sarah Confer and Dana happily pose with a member of the Pitukiska weaving community and the latest TOP purchase – a colorful chullo. Soon to be available online for your purchasing pleasure!

Dana Blair joins the Threads of Peru team with years of experience studying and traveling throughout South America. Recently having graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in May 2012, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and History, disciplines that have allowed her to indulge and expand upon her interest in sustainable development and indigenous heritage in Latin America. Before taking up residence in Cusco, her travels included six months studying International Relations in São Paulo, Brazil, pioneering research on traditional ceramics making in the Bahian Recôncavo, Brazil and working as a field research assistant at the Chavín de Huantar archaeological site in the state of Ancash, Peru.

Dana deeply shares the values embodied in the work done by Threads of Peru and is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of this important project. For sustainable, and more importantly, equitable development to happen, it must begin with the infrastructure already in place. Her work in Peru taught her that the ingenuity and master craftsmanship of Peruvian artisans are the building blocks. All that was lacking were resources and a few bright minds. By providing and developing those resources, she is motivated by her strong belief that we can achieve sustainable growth in Peru without having to leave behind its vibrant cultural heritage.

Setting off on a four-day trek deep into the Mapacho River Valley to oversee natural dye workshops only two days after arriving in Cusco, Dana is confident in her ability to hit the ground running as the new TOP Project Coordinator. She sends her saludos to family and friends, especially in her hometown of Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, from her new “home” in Peru!

Announcing the Launch of Threads of Peru’s 2013 Wholesale Catalogue!

Are you a retailer who is interested in high quality hand-made goods, traditional culture, natural materials and the principles of fair trade? Are you a business-person looking to invest in some traditional artwork for corporate headquarters, or a hotel owner looking for new, ethical and culturally-inspired decoration ideas?

If so, you might be interested to browse through our freshly minted wholesale catalogue!

Threads of Peru Product Shoot

This catalogue features some of our finest and most highly sought items, a refined selection curated from the regular collection of textiles featured on our website and online shops.

ponchos

Here at Threads of Peru, we aim to offer a more authentic and sustainable view of fashion, one that interconnects textiles, people, and the world, according to the principles of the worldwide Slow Fashion movement.

Slow Fashion is about providing a more sustainable future for the textile and clothing sector, linking fashion with awareness and responsibility, shifting value away from consumption to a conscious valuation of quality and durability in the products you buy and use.

Weaver hand weavers

Each Threads of Peru textile is carefully woven one at a time according to centuries of tradition. Our products foster ecological and cultural integrity, as we focus on producing unique pieces from 100% natural materials.

Contact us today for your very own copy of Threads of Peru’s 2013 Wholesale Catalogue!

 

The Indomitable Spirit of the Andean People

Barely three weeks have passed since the river flooded that separates Rumira Sondormayo from its neighbour Patacancha, and yet the signs of recovery are everywhere.

My colleagues at Apus Peru and I travelled up to Rumira on Saturday to deliver some staple foods to the families who lost crops due to the flooding, and we were amazed at how quickly efforts have been made to repair the damages.

Hector from Apus Peru hands some bread to one of the weavers from Rumira Sondormayo.

Hector from Apus Peru hands some bread to one of the weavers from Rumira Sondormayo.

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Some of the staples that we brought for the families whose homes and crops were damaged in the flooding.

Just outside Ollantaytambo, we passed a faena in full swing. Faenas are community work projects, where everyone from a particular village or group of villages is called on to come together to work on a particular project, usually a project that is of communal benefit. On this day, we saw men of all ages shovelling sand into sacks, hauling those sacks away, and also carrying all kinds of other construction equipment to a work site some distance away from the road.

As we travelled further up the road, beyond Huilloc, we saw that damages to the road had been repaired, bridges re-built, and most noticeable of all, the river had returned to its normal level.

A road that was impassable just three weeks ago can now easily be travelled by car.

A road that was impassable just three weeks ago can now easily be travelled by car.

Hector and Ever carry the goods we brought to one family's one, using a newly re-built bridge. The previous one had washed away.

Hector and Ever carry the goods we brought to one family’s one, using a newly re-built bridge. The previous one had washed away.

Much is being done to prevent the same situation from repeating itself next year as well. While we were in Rumira, we crossed paths with a man from the Civil Defense service. Apparently members of the Civil Defense have been in the community investigating ways to divert the flow of the river, should it be in danger of overflowing again, so as to avoid impacting homes and fields. They are also engineering ways to raise the banks of the river.

It just goes to show how hard-working and dedicated the Andean people are, and no amount of rain will ever wash that away.

Unveiling the Secrets of Dye Plants in Calca: Science…or Magic?

This past weekend, a colleague of mine and I went to visit a man in Calca to learn about some of the mysteries of the natural dye world.

Martín Solís has been working with natural dyes professionally for the past 15 years, though it’s a subject he’s been interested in since he was just a boy growing up in the Paucartambo district. He has an innate passion for the extraordinary diversity of colours that can be achieved using locally available plants and minerals, and a deep respect for the plants themselves. Although we carried out our workshop in his relatively urban home in the middle of the Sacred Valley, more than once he insisted that it was infinitely better to dye “in the field”, surrounded by a wide variety of dye-bearing plants, so that we could truly appreciate their gifts.

Martín lifting out the freshly dyed red yarn, our first batch of the day.

Martín lifting out the freshly dyed red yarn, our first batch of the day.

 

Martín is a master of working with the dye plants themselves: he knows just where to go to collect the best quality materials, knows just how to use the plants in different combinations to produce different shades, and knows all the little tricks to ensure that these colours last.

Leaves of the dye plant ttere, which dyes shades of yellow.

Leaves of the dye plant ttere, which dyes shades of yellow.

For the past six years, however, Martín has been developing something truly Martín is a master of working with the dye plants themselves: he knows just where to go to collect the best quality materials, knows just how to use the plants in different combinations to produce different shades, and knows all the little tricks to ensure that these colours last.: he has found a way to dry, grind and combine his usual array of dye materials into prepared, ready-to-use, just-add-water dye mixtures.

It’s absolutely amazing!

His preparations (the exact ingredients of which are a proprietary secret) come in a set of six basic colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and black. By using different combinations of each of these base colours as well as pure cochineal, Martín is able to produce a range of 50 natural shades, from the brightest, truest shades of red, orange, green and blue to a range of purples, pinks, and even browns, greys and black.

5 of the 6 prepared dye preparations

5 of the 6 prepared dye preparations

The best part about his dye mixes? They allow the user to conserve water and fuel!

Because his dye recipes are calculated exactly, all of the dyestuff in each colour batch is taken up by the yarn being dyed. This means that the same dye bath can be used to dye multiple shades, one after the other. No need to dump out large volumes of water and start fresh with each new colour. During our lesson, we dyed 12 different colours in the same two pots of water! We were also able to add back in water that drained from finished yarn, thus preventing any water from going to waste.

Furthermore, Martín told us that during the course of our workshop he expected to go through about 10kg of firewood in order to boil the water for dyeing. This is a huge savings compared to the 40kg he says it would take if you had to boil fresh pots of water for each new colour.

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The scene at Martín’s house.

Martín teaches a variety of workshops to weaving groups and institutions, including a three-day workshop that combines the practical skills of natural dyeing with colour theory, both how to combine different colours in a weaving and also the traditional meanings of colours.

He also takes custom dye orders from weavers all over the Cusco area.

Checking on the orange...

Checking on the orange…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and the green.

…and the green.

 

When not teaching or dyeing himself, Martín is often off on plant-collecting excursions. On three separate occasions while planning this workshop, Martín had to apologize for the bad cellphone connection when we called him, saying that he was “on the top of a mountain” collecting plants, and the reception must not be very good.

He’s off again today.

But the best part of the experience for us was definitely watching it all unfold. Squeals of delight rang out as a spoonful of non-descript powder was added to the water and instantly turned it a brilliant shade of blue or green or red.

I actually understand a great deal about the chemistry going on during the dye process, but when you watch it happen before your very eyes, no amount of science can explain away what is really going on: pure magic.

– Written by: Project Coordinator, Sarah Confer

The dazzling array of 12 shades that we dyed that day.

The dazzling array of 12 shades that we dyed that day.

 

Rainy Season in the Andes

Rainy season in Cusco is terribly unpredictable. This year we seemed to be poised for a less intense rainy season than we’ve had in previous years. We’ve had plenty of sunshine, and I even overheard some Cusqueñans complaining about the “heat”, saying that they don’t know how to deal with hot weather in Cusco!

However, that all changed last week as the entire southern Andes region of Peru saw intense rainfall and flooding, from the Sacred Valley all the way to Arequipa.

On February 10th, sudden heavy rains caused the river that flows between the communities of Rumira Sondormayo and Patacancha to overflow, inundating fields and creeping up property lines.

The heavy rains caused the river to swell and overflow, creeping up towards property lines.

The heavy rains caused the river to swell and overflow, creeping up towards property lines.

Luckily, there were no major damages in Rumira Sondormayo, one of Threads of Peru’s partner communities, although some houses did suffer some water damage, and many families lost crops, chickens and guinea pigs.

I and a couple of coworkers from Apus Peru travelled up to the community to assess the impact of the flooding, bringing some basic supplies with us. Due to the loss of much of this year’s harvest, we will be contributing additional staples in the coming weeks such as rice and sugar, in order to help offset the impact of this loss.

Fields and livestock holding pens were inundated by the river's flow.

Fields and livestock holding pens were inundated by the river’s flow.

Right now, the community is busy reinforcing the river’s edge in order to prevent a similar overflow in case there is another heavy rainfall. Down below, on the outskirts of Ollantaytambo, others were doing their part as well, making offerings to Pachamama in the hopes that she might spare them another deluge.

The force of the river's flow   flattened  many planted crops.

The force of the river’s flow flattened many planted crops.

In Cusco, we’re bracing ourselves for power outages as electrical storms threaten the main power lines throughout the South.

This is life during the rainy season in the Andes!

But, in another month’s time, repairs to damages caused by rain and flooding will be well under way as the dry season begins to take hold once again, and this year’s events will become just another memory in the never-ending cycle of seasons.