Next I was attracted by the hanks of handspun and naturally dyed yarn hanging near the dye pots. The fiber is tightly spun and is hanked, with two unplyed threads held together, in a continuous figure-8 for dyeing. Because the yarn is so tightly spun, it is dyed in “singles” (in other words, before two or more threads are plied together). This allows the dye to penetrate both threads.
Andean women spin and ply their yarn with much more twist than we do in the US. This makes a firmer (and not so soft) yarn, but the woven fabric wears much longer than loosely spun fibers. When so much time is dedicated to creating clothing, they want it to last. After the yarn is dyed and air-dried, two threads are then plied together and it is ready for weaving or knitting.
After we visited for a while, it was time to leave, but I brought out a collection of knitting needles that the Vashon Island knitters had donated for me to give to the women. I told them, “De las tejedores de Isla de Vashon a ustedes, las tejedores de Chinchero!” (From the knitters of Vashon Island to you, the knitters of Chinchero!) They were delighted and made their choices carefully. With big smiles, they posed for a group photo.
After I returned to my home the next day, I could not wait to tear into those hanks and start plying. I spent much of the day running the fiber through my fingers. The local women are able to ply directly from the figure-8 hanks, but I found it easier (and safer!) to carefully pull the threads apart and drop it into a basket. Then I made center-pull balls from the two yarns held together and plied the yarn from that ball. I later learned that this is the way that the young people prepare the hanks when they are learning to spin because they are less likely to get it so tangled.
Up next! The hike from Chinchero down to the Sacred Valley…Beautiful!
Many thanks to my travelling companion for the day, Yiqian, who grabbed my camera and took some photos of me!