Last month we had the
opportunity and privilege of traveling to Peru to visit with a supplier of many
Ashland Bay products. The mill is located in Arequipa, a city surrounded by
volcanic cones. Our first stop was the office complex where the alpacas were
ready for the holidays with festive adornments.
The welcoming committee –
we even went into the pen to feed them.
Within the complex they
have an informational area for visitors to see the steps in processing alpaca
fleece into yarn and eventually into hand woven pieces.
First, the fleeces are
sorted by color. The dirt, chaff and coarse hair are picked and sorted by hand.
The fiber in the picture above is Vicuna, considered to be the finest fiber on earth.
The container on the bottom left is filled with cerda – the coarse hair that
has been separated from the vellon suci- the dirty fleece. The tierra in the
middle container is the dirt that is shaken out of the fleece and the container
on the right is the pajas- which is the chaff that has been removed from the
Next, the yarns are
traditionally spun on a drop spindle and then naturally dyed with local plants
and in the case of cochineal – bugs.
In the photo above are the stoves that
are traditionally used to hand dye yarns.
After the yarns are spun
and dyed, many are used in weaving. Here, a local weaver is demonstrating
traditional Peruvian weaving. The weavers typically use an alpaca bone as the
weaving tool to pack the weft yarn. Perhaps most incredibly, the patterns are
not written, but memorized, handed down from one generation to the next.
I can’t imagine memorizing
such intricate patterns!
Did these pictures pique
your interest in Peruvian products? All Ashland Bay products of Peru are listed
Up next on the blog we
will share more photos and talk about processing alpaca fiber commercially.