The theme that I picked for my journey before I began was “Expect the Unexpected” because I wanted to keep my heart open to every possibility. Little did I know how profoundly this theme would manifest itself in the coming year.
Quest for Fiber
A main theme of my travels is to engage with people who spin, knit, weave, felt, or do anything to create handmade textiles.
But then, the sheep came to a wide place in the road and as they spread out, the dog went to work. The farmer only occasionally had to give him direction; the dog zig-zagged behind the tractor making sure there were no slackers.
I spent the entire day walking through the exhibits showing the living quarters, spinning machinery, children’s living conditions, the non-profit company store, and today’s working spinning mill making the New Lanark Wool Yarn.
You find hentilagets where sheep have rubbed up against walls or fences, but the best pieces for spinning are on the ground. I found that most hentilagets are rubbish. They have been weathered too much and are slightly felted,
I enjoyed visiting Centro Textil Llank’ay the most. The women were very welcoming and since we were the only customers, we had a nice visit with them. One talented young woman was knitting a very fine chullo (hat) and manipulating three colors of yarn which she ran around the back of her neck.
Since I arrived in Calca, I have been trying to find a natural dyeing workshop to learn how the Quechua traditionally dyed their fiber.
Michell’s Mill is the place where more tourists go because of their very interesting alpaca museum, Mundo Alpaca and high-end apparel shop located on the mill grounds.
I decided to take a little tourist jaunt to the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca. You can purchase a tour from one of many agencies in Puno, but if you go to the pier in Puno and pay the captain directly for the trip and then pay your host family directly, the families receive more of the proceeds and don’t have to wait for the agency to send the money.
Sitting there with no work reminded me of a very classic American story by Mark Twain. In very broken Spanish, I tried to recount Tom Sawyer’s method of snookering his friends into whitewashing the fence.
A woman sat on the ground with not only her raw fiber of many colors, but also her hand-crafted husos (spindles) for sale. WOW! Here I was
As I turned to leave, the woman in the stall across the way held out a ball of yarn and asked “Lana de alpaca?” JACKPOT!!
On my third day in Arequipa, Adela took me to Michell’s Fiber Mill. There is an outlet store there with all kinds of alpaca yarn at very good prices. Adjacent to the mill is Mundo Alpaca, a museum showing the process of preparing alpaca fleeces for market—both by hand and by machine.
Each month Michell employs two women from fair-trade organizations in the Cusco area to demonstrate their craft for museum visitors. I sat down beside this beautiful woman and watched her work for a little over an hour.