Peruvian Textile Traditions: Textile Techniques, Natural Dyes, and PallaysKhipu
Textiles were discovered by ancient Peruvians around seven thousand years ago. Said ancient Peruvians made bags, ropes, mats, and garments from vegetable fibres. Consequently, when cotton was domesticated, fish nets were developed. On the other hand, about three thousand five hundred years ago the loom appeared, which served to make more sophisticated woven garments. The appearance of the loom also boosted the development of more textile techniques, in which the Andean creative genius clearly stood out. As such, the textiles that were consequently developed served to identify social status, region of origin, and even the transition into adulthood. The possession of a woven textile assumed social prestige, while also being a sacred instrument used in rituals. Additionally, towards 200 A.C, a number of textile techniques developed, such as, embroidery, plain weaving, painted fabric, tapestry, needle fabric, double cloth, to name a few. The most used technique since this time (200 A.C) until the arrival of the Spaniards, was the warp face, where the plot is hidden. This technique is still maintained (with some variants) in the Cusco region.
TelaresTextile production in the Andes is realised through the use of mainly looms. This makes the loom the origin of woven cloths of different complexity: from the plain fabric to the finest tapestries. Similarly, there are different loom types, which allow the usage of different techniques in the elaboration of garments with different formats. Three basic forms are known:
- Horizontal loom, which works with the warp tied to four stakes that are nailed into the ground.
- Vertical loom, composed of two parallel wooden logs nailed to the ground, whose upper part is crossed by another log in the manner of a crossbar, where the threads of the warp are placed in an orderly fashion and the weaving is executed by one or two people.
- Back-strap loom, which works by having one of the extremes tied to the waist of the weaver, and the other extreme is tied to a stake which is then nailed into the ground. The weaver then starts weaving from the part that is tied to their waist.
Production Process of the telar (cloth).
- Rutuy: Cutting or shearing. The first step of the process consists in selecting the wool that will be used for weaving or knitting.
- T’isay Puskay: Willowing. Willowing or fluffing is the process of cleaning organic rests left over in the fibre after washing it. Immediately after this, the spinning (puskay) process is started using either a spinning wheel or with a spindle.
- Tiñiy: Dyeing. First the different tones that are needed are chosen. Then the dyeing process is started, which is obtained through the combination of natural plants and insects of the region in boiling water.
- K’antiy: Twisting. It is the preparation of the threads, it serves to give greater fineness and resistance to the threads.
- Allwiy: Warping. It is the first weft of the fabric, in which four stakes and two horizontal sticks are used where the wool is stretched from top to bottom, tensing the threads in the loom
- Away: Weaving. It is the process that requires a greater degree of specialisation. The basic thing is to pass the threads of the warp alternately over and under the threads of the weft. The complexity depends on the designs we seek to represent.
Many of our products are naturally dyed. In the event that a product is naturally dyed, it will be indicated on its tag. A number of natural plants and insects are used in the dyeing process, such as cacasunqa for orange, kinsaquchu for tones blue, colle for tones yellow, purple corn for tones purple, and cochineal for sixteen tones of red!
Pallay means design, so when we refer to the term, we are refering to the pattern of the weave.
The Luraypu pallay
The Luraypu pallay is one of the most representative designs of Chinchero today. Luraypu is the proper name of the design; the term has no other meaning, although it could refer to the technique. The only other similar term refers to a plant called Loraypu. The juice of this plant is used as an anti-inflamatory, but the plant does not resemble the design. Luraypu is a geometric design, a combination of q’iswa, kuti, wacac ñawin and its variations.
According to interviews with the women elders, when they were young, in the 1940s, there were times when they learned designs and techniques from other towns or regions, mostly for commercial reasons, not for themselves. These designs are now part of our repertoire in Chinchero.
Amongst the most common designs from other regions are Ley pallay- also known as supplementary technique. This technique allows for the creation of many designs with ease, including letters, numbers, or anything the weaver can imagine. The result of this technique is a single-sided design. The design is created by picking up or dropping the dark threads only, while the light threads remain in the same place and form the background.
Double Jakakuq pallay: double wave design.
Jakakuq sisan of eight pairs. This design is probably of pre-Inca origin. It was used by the Chimu culture (800-1470 AD) in many ways, and refers to waves. One might conclude that this design represent waves moving in two directions.
Chimu was a powerful and organised society descended from the Moche. It developed on Peru’s nothern coast, between 900AD and 1400AD. The Chimu built one of these mud brick cities of ancient Peru: Chan-Chan. This was a great walled city composed of nine complexes, each of which contained plazas, storehouses, audience chambers, and pyramids. All of these structures were surrounded by the neighbourhoods inhabited by the farmers and workers who supplied the temples. The Chimu continually expanded their agricultural frontiers to the North, creating an important kingdom capable of extending its area of influenced conquering other regions, such as the territory of the Lambayeque culture. The great metalworkers and textile makers of Chimu maintained close relations with a number of other dominions, such as Chancay and Cajamarca. In turn, this helps to shed light on why designs from the Northern coast of Peru ended up in the Southern Andes Mountains, where the ocean is not visible. The design is still used in Chinchero, Cusco, and is a favourite of several of the weavers we work with.
Puma Makin pallay: Puma claws.This design is from another region, though it can often be found in the textiles of Urubamba mountain communities. In Andean cosmovision, the Puma represents the connection between all living beings that roam the earth. Therefore, the puma is a part of the Andean trilogy, which consists of the condor, the puma, and the serpent.
This design is one of the last to have been incorporated into the pallay repertoire of Chinchero. It was copied from the textiles of another region. The design is created while arranging the warp threads, then woven by shifting the heddles. The adoption of this technique is mostly due to its ease, which allows for the rapid production of designs. One can weave with three or more heddles, and the design is only used in belts.
These designs are also created by using the supplementary warp technique. The design is created by alternating every second row, with rows of alternating colours between the design rows. This type of design comes from the textiles of the Urubamba mountain communities: Cachin, Choquecancha, Willoc, Patacancha, Wakawasi, Cuncani. This technique allows you to create countless designs with any desired number of warp threads. The animals that appear in these pallays are llamas, humans, birds, bears, guinea pigs, lizzards, snakes, fishes, toads, owls, and spiders.
If you would like to see a video of the production process you can click here.
-Callañaupa, Nilda. Textile traditions of Chinchero. Cusco. Center of Traditional Textiles of Cusco, 2012.
-Amano Museum. Lima
-Brommer, Bea. 3000 Jaar Weven in de Andes. Geementemuseum Helmond, 1988.