The Hat in the Hat

In our culture today, it’s most likely a felt or straw Stetson or a baseball cap, that thing men put on their heads. (In my father’s time, it was the ubiquitous fedora.) In Peru, it’s a knitted chullo, often topped with a brimmed felt hat. One for warmth, one for sun protection. The knitted chullos […]

Crafting with Grace

Accha Alta Accha Alta is a small community high in the Peruvian Andes. To arrive there, you drive up steep switchbacks on a single-track road, past ancient Inca storage structures, and alpacas foraging on almost nonexistent vegetation. Or you walk. In spite of, or maybe because of, their remoteness and sparse lifestyle, the villagers of […]

Wrapped in the Flag

How many national flags in the world? It depends on whom you ask. Maybe 194, or 197, and it can change at any moment as national governments and boundaries rearrange themselves. Add to that state and regional flags, organizational flags, holiday flags—the list is endless. In every case, a flag is just a rectangle of […]

Their Daily Lives

This story could have been written yesterday, or it could have been written 200 years ago. Life can be painfully hard, or joyously fortunate, but life goes on. This story is excerpted from a book we published in 2013, Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes, and details the life of a typical Elder […]

With a Little Help from My Friends

When I think of the Peruvian highlands, one of the first images that comes to mind is a steep and winding dirt road with switchbacks stretching out as far as the eye can see, and mid-vision, a tiny figure walking along at a steady pace. She’s wearing her many skirts (for warmth), and her beautifully […]

Listening to the Elders

Elder

You can learn a lot from carefully studying a piece of cloth: Its age, the fiber and its origin, the interlacement of the threads, the pigments used to color it, the cultural references in its design. And so much more. Museums and scholarly books are troves of information for understanding how and why textiles have […]

Where in the World is Alepio Melo?

About four years ago, Linda, photographer Joe Coca–with the excellent help of Diana Hendrickson–and I spent a couple of weeks in the Peruvian highlands learning from, documenting, and photographing master artisans of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. CTTC director Nilda Callanaupa had arranged for various artisans from all of the communities that comprise […]

Keeping Track of the World One Thread at a Time

My fascination with kipus likely began when we were working on our book Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands in Chinchero, Peru. Kipu, from the Quechua word for knot, are the knotted cord devices that the Inca used for record keeping. They were made of long cords of thread suspended from a […]

Facing up to the Likeness

My mother-in-law looked Chinese. This petite, pure Okie born and bred Caucasian lady—I thought of her so often when I was traveling in China recently, because I saw her double everywhere. How could that be? Each of us is unique, face-wise. When I passed through immigration in Beijing, the clever machine that checked my identity […]

A Tricky Stitch from the Peruvian Highlands

trickystitch

One of my favorite Andean textiles is the humble potato sack, or costal. It’s deeply traditional, handsome, and almost indestructible. I first saw costales in use when I visited the very high village of Accha Alta in 2005. The area is known for the best and most varied potatoes, but the terrain is so steep […]

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