Number 1

Fiber, needles,
spindle, wheel

See
inside
this
issue

A Trip to
Chinchero

B

ehind the heavy wooden
doors of this spacious walled
compound, you will meet several
dozen Quechua women who have
committed themselves to fostering
a high standard of traditional
excellence. They come together
to spin, weave, knit, and share
their challenges and dreams.
Children chase each other or a
stray lamb, or practice beginning
spinning and weaving skills at their
mothers’ side. Pairs of women
work together to prepare a warp
for a backstrap loom, tossing
balls of bright natural-dyed yarn
back and forth. Women hitch
their looms to a central post,
spreading out spoke-like as they
make slow but steady progress on
their intricate pick-up patterns.
Women pull out their knitting and
work intricate, traditional colorrich patterns. This is no “living
history” museum; it is a vibrant,
forward-thinking community of

H

ead north and west from Cusco, Peru, and you’ll see stunning landscapes
of rolling fields, snow-capped mountains, small farmsteads, and women in
traditional dress herding flocks of sheep. As you drive down the narrow cobbled
streets of the town of Chinchero, you’ll note the remnants of Inca stonework and
waterways, the bustling market, the 17th century church. Then you come to the
Weaving Center.

women devoted to preserving and
extending a rich textile heritage and
providing income for the health and
education of their families.

The driving force behind the
Centro de Tejedores Away Riqcharichq
de Chinchero is Nilda Callañaupa
Alvarez, a native of Chinchero

who has become known in her
own country and throughout the
world as a champion of traditional
Andean textiles. The Center in

Tending flocks
is an all-day,
everyday
responsibility
for older
women and
children of
Peruvian highland villages.

V

Left: Holding her circular knitting so the
right side is away from her, a Chinchero
knitter maintains tension by passing the
working yarns around her neck.

Chinchero is one of nine that
she has established throughout
the region, each having its own
characteristic weaving and knitting
styles and techniques that can date
back hundreds of years.

Spinning in Chinchero
Centuries after the invention
of the spindle wheel or the flyer
wheel, all handspinning in the
Peruvian highlands continues to
be done with simple wooden drop
spindles. There’s a reason for this:
spinning is women’s work, and

it’s only a small part of a woman’s
work. Depending on her age and
life situation, she might spend
hours every day tending flocks in
the fields. She might spend several
hours walking to and from a nearby
market. She certainly will spend
time watching after children and
preparing food.
With a drop spindle, her
spinning is always at hand, always
easy to pick up and carry along.
(Of course, there’s the issue of
economy, as well. You can find
drop spindles in the markets for

Above: The first
step in plying is to
wind two strands
of yarn into a
ball or skein.
Left: Natural
dyes are the rule
in Chinchero.
Common dye
stuffs are
cochineal, indigo
and a wide variety
of local plants,
lichens, and
minerals.

Energized
Yarns
Yarn with a Mind of Its Own
Video: Kathryn Alexander on
how it all got started
Slide show: Highly energetic
knitting
Working with Energized Yarn
Video: Kathryn describes the
qualities of energized yarns
Video: Kathryn talks about
the shape-shifting nature of
energized yarns
Dyeing Energized Yarn

Peaks and Swirls Socks
Sock pattern to download
Kathyrn Talks About Her Yarn

I

magine yourself as a bug
on the surface of one
of Kathryn Alexander’s
knitted fabrics. You’d be
in a psychedelic badlands
of heaving, pulsating
furrows and hillocks. You
would weep bug tears of
ecstasy and dismay.
But wake up! You’re a
spinner, not a bug. You
can spin these yarns and
create these landscapes
yourself. Read along
and just imagine the
possibilites.

Finished Size Tip of toe to back of
hese socks were made
heel 8 ½”; diameter around leg 7 ½”;
with my un-dyed
top of leg to bottom of heel 10 ½” (the
millspun
singles
top is scalloped,
so yarns.
this is an average).

T

X

Peaks and Swirls Socks with Energy

PDF

I dyed the socks after
Yarn Sportweight, Kathryn’s undyed
knitting
using a painted, weightenergized S and Z millspun singles
resist
folding
(described
yarns (availabletechnique
from Kathryn
Alexanat
the
end
of
the
pattern).
you
der; one 1800 yard/lb cone willIfmake
want
to spin
yourorown
for the
4-5 pairs
of socks)
youryarn
own handspun (240
of Z-twist,
160roving
yards
socks,
youyards
could
spin dyed
of S-twist);
about
2 yards
each
of two
or
dye your
singles
using
the
different colors
of smooth
waste You’ll
yarn.
technique
described
earlier.
Needles
3 (3.25
mm)
set of
need
to U.S.
spinsize
about
240
yards
of 4
or
5
bamboo
dpn.
Adjust
needle
size
Z-twist and 160 yards of S-twistif
necessary to obtain
the correct
gauge.
sportweight
singles.
Your singles
Notions
Tapestry
yarn
should
ply needle.
back on itself at
about
a sts
33-degree
twist
Gauge 6
and 8 rows
= 1”,angle.
rectan45-degree
(That’s
about
gles are 1”
wide x2⁄13 1of
⁄8” along.
or
right
angle.
candirectly
check
Note:
If you
knit You
the yarn
the
with
twistwill
gauge
a
fromangle
the cone,
thea sock
seemor
a bit
protractor,
or you
eyeball
it if
loose and sloppy,
andcan
it will
collapse
after finishing
hot water.
The sock
you’re
prettyingood
at geometry.)
does
not
shrink,
but, as
the stitches
The
sock
begins
with
a
migrate left and
right, they
takeankle
up the
provisional
cast-on
at the
excess room in the fabric. The finishso that the entrelac peaks and
ing is needed to get the right look for
swirls
can be worked up the leg.
the surface. I recommend knitting a
Individual
triangles
andfinishing
blocksit
swatch in the
pattern and
are
worked
back
and forth,
to make
sure the
knitting
has theand
detiers
are joined
round.
sired surface.
Thisin
is the
not the
case After
with
completing
the yields
cuff, the
fresh yarn, which
the fistitches
nished
surface
immediately
are
released
from and
the undergoes
provisional
very littleand
change
the fiand
nishing
cast-on
theinheel
foot are
(washing).
knit
down towards the toe.

Project Notes

P

While the Peaks and
Swirl Socks get their
color from a form of
tie-dyeing after knitting, the sock above is a riotous
combination of color striping,
stranding, and intarsia.

R

Changing the size
The sock foot can be made
narrower by decreasing
to fewer stitches at the
heel gusset. For a smaller
leg, delete a rectangle,
making the sock top seven
rectangles around instead
of eight. The sock foot can
be made as long as desired.

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