Tag Archives: weaving

How Ancient Weaving Techniques Save the Earth

scarfcopysCopied from the Huffington Post: Article Published on 13 March 2015

This is a long but fascinating article about the regeneration of a community in Peru, by going back to the traditional methods of vat dyeing with natural plants, and spinning and weaving their own alpaca wool. 

Chinchero, Peru (photo credit: Natalie Deuschle)

The rainbow was born in the town of Chinchero, Peru, according to Incan mythology. Today, when the weavers of the area gather to dye wool in vats of boiling water, myth seems to become reality. The women wear bright red jackets as they tend to the vats, samples of already dyed wool are laid out — from blue to saffron to purple — and a weaver stirs a pot of deep moss-green wool with a long wooden pole.

Chinchero is situated in the central Andes, a short distance from Cusco, on the way to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. It has developed into a tourist hub, although the community remains seemingly untouched by time. Quechua, the language of the Inca people, is spoken by many of the inhabitants, and the town still commands the vistas that long ago earned the region the moniker “the cloud kingdom of the Incas.”

Peru hosted the 20th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change late last year, and was the backdrop for far-reaching negotiations among more than 190 countries about the impact of climate change. And Peru is also home to the small-scale but powerful work being done by artisans like weavers in Chinchero, especially in terms of how their work supports and preserves the biodiversity of the region.

Today a dyeing workshop run by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC), a group that supports and promotes traditional weaving and spinning, has drawn more than 100 people to the area to master the centuries-old traditional technique of making naturally dyed wool. Participants tend the vats of boiling water and work with the dyestuff, which includes chillca flowers from the nearby mountains, used to produce the color green; shapy, a vine that makes the color pink, collected from the jungle beyond the neighboring community of Accha Alta; and the insect cochineal, which feeds on cactus and is ground to make the color red.

“They have been there since 4:30 in the morning,” explains Peggy Clark, director of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, a group that supports the global handicraft market, including the weavers of this region. “It is physically difficult, labor-intensive work, a community effort — but really peaceful. Time slows down over this whole day. It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing.”

Sallac Village, Peru (photo credit: Natalie Deuschle)

Until recently, many of the ancient weaving customs of Chinchero, which are rooted in the stunning biodiversity of the area — from natural dyeing to harvesting alpaca wool — had all but disappeared for decades, during which chemical dyes and machine weaving pushed out the old techniques.

Now, however, natural dyeing and traditional weaving methods can take some of the credit for having brought an economic, environmental, and social renewal to the region. The textiles produced in Chinchero are sold globally and are on display in museums around the world, and that’s partly thanks to one woman, Nilda Callañaupa.

Traditions Lost

Forty years ago, Chinchero was home to a young girl, whose job it was to tend sheep as they grazed. As the many hours of the day passed on the hillside, she spun wool as she watched her animal charges, as girls her age were expected to do, producing usable skeins of wool. The wool was used to make the textiles that were an important part of the community — as blankets, clothing, in farming, and in sacred rituals. And as the girl spun, she became entranced with the act — so much so that she found herself dreaming of spinning as she slept each night.

“I am proud that I learned skills and knowledge from my Chincero grandmothers and their ability to lay out and weave complex designs, carrying on ideas passed from their mothers and grandmothers,” says Callañaupa, now 54 and founder director of the CTTC. ” … I saw how my grandmothers took strength from their Inca rituals and ceremonies, especially those connected with weaving and spinning.”

As that girl spinning on the mountainside grew older and her interest in weaving became a passion, she noticed that the traditional methods of dyeing wool and weaving were disappearing from Chinchero. The techniques, handed down orally over the years, were not recorded in writing, and the younger generations showed greater interest in leaving Chinchero for the cities of Peru than in learning from their elders. Textiles were still important to the community, but cheap chemical dyes, acrylic yarn, and machines were being used more widely by the weavers.

“The textile process was poorly managed,” says Callañaupa. “The younger generation was not working with the same attention to quality as the elders.” The growing tourist market had created a demand for simple, quickly produced designs and products of lesser quality: belts, bags, friendship bracelets from exotic, “foreign” lands. Commercially produced synthetic dyes were bright, cheap, and easy to use (natural dyeing is a much longer, more expensive process), and the weavers in Chincero were rapidly abandoning the traditional methods.

Beyond the degradation of quality that such developments implied, Callañaupa saw the loss of the connection between nature and culture looming. The ecosystem management systems that went along with the old methods (sustainable use of plants, animals, water, and land), developed over thousands of years, were becoming lost — and the ecosystem was suffering.

It’s a phenomenon that occurs far beyond Chinchero, in fact. As Greenpeace reported, the textile industry’s impact on the environment in terms of water and land use, energy efficiency, waste production, chemical use, and greenhouse-gas emissions is alarming. Groups like SlowColor are trying to tackle this problem, as their website explains. “SlowColor rejuvenates centuries-old fabric dyeing techniques and handlooming traditions, protects the environment and creates fabrics that are healthy for life. SlowColor connects artisan to audience, tradition to global market.” And in the highlands of Peru, these are precisely the methods advocated by Callañaupa and the CTTC.

Returning Home

As a teenager, Callañaupa became close friends with an older woman of the community, who taught her how to weave in the traditional ways. Callañaupa’s love of learning led her to become the first in her community to go to university, then on to study in the United States at Berkeley — and she took her spindle with her.

Callañaupa easily could have made a life for herself away from Chinchero. But after earning graduate degrees, she returned to the lush valley of her youth, with a commitment to researching and revitalizing the ancient weaving and dyeing techniques of her elders.

It was a calling that led Callañaupa to establish the CTTC in 1996. In addition to holding periodic dyeing workshops for weavers in the region, the Center runs programs for youth and elders. “Not only do I hope that young people will continue their traditions but I would like to see Inca children today experiencing the joy, sense of identity and accomplishment that spinning and weaving can bring to their lives,” says Callañaupa.

In a relatively short span of time, this community, in which it seemed that the ancient ways would be lost forever, has reclaimed its roots — and the change has gone beyond the weaving.

When you walk through Chinchero, perhaps through the Sunday market where many textiles are sold, many of the townspeople are dressed in traditional garb; as recently as 10 years ago, this wasn’t the case. It was Callañaupa and others in her community who encouraged the community to begin dressing as their ancestors had, as a way of strengthening their connection to the old ways — to strong criticism at first.

It seemed, Callañaupa explains her book Textile Traditions of Chincero, “that what I was doing seemed to be going backwards in our history because traditional clothes were used by women without education, and educated people should change. Many women and girls received strong criticism, but we have already overcome that complex phase of unwarranted embarrassment.”

It has been, in fact, by “going backwards” that Chinchero has not only survived but thrived. The old weaving techniques, once scorned, now have great value. More young people are staying in Chincero and making a living from weaving, as opposed to going to the cities and facing an uncertain and potentially dangerous future. Women are now economically empowered, which has a net positive effect on their families and the community as a whole.

“We Are Helping the Land”

Although preservation of their ecosystem is not the main objective of the Center, their work has had a positive impact on the land in any case. “By giving opportunity to the weavers,” Callañaupa says, “that creates income for families, so they don’t need to overwork the land for income [from agriculture] … we like alpaca wool, so we are raising more. When they graze in the open air, they fertilize the land. In some small scale, we are helping the land.”

Water use is an important part of the picture, too. Any dyeing process — whether it’s with synthetic or natural dyes — uses large amounts of water, so to be environmentally responsible, there has to be some awareness of where the water comes from. The region of the CTTC is part of an innovative watershed services project that is protecting Lake Piuray, a major source of water for Cusco and Chinchero. This project is backed by the national water regulator, SUNASS, and executed with the funds of water users, via the Cusco water company (SEDACUSCO). Such a collaboration is unique, and has generated enthusiasm among the various actors and the desire to replicate these kinds of win-win projects throughout Peru.

And after the dyeing process, there is the matter of the waste water. As SlowColor’s Tricia O’Keefe says about chemical dye use, “What happens to the after you’re done dyeing? Where are those chemicals going? That is a huge issue … the thing about the natural dyes is that you could completely recycle that water.” In using natural dyes over synthetic, Callañaupa and her weavers are ensuring that toxic chemicals are not released into the environment via the run-off water.

The use of natural dyes over chemical dyes, the preservation and promotion of biodiversity in the indigenous plant and animal species that are vital to the weaving, in the bigger picture of recovering centuries-old environmentally friendly methods of weaving, has made the Center a model for climate change mitigation.

Callañaupa’s work — which preserves and respects the ecosystem in which it exists — means that the ancient ways can work; in fact, they may do the best job at strengthening communities and improving livelihoods. This is vital, says O’Keefe. There is a trend of “migration from rural to urban, and then into urban poverty, because what skills do they really have once they get [to the cities]? … What’s happening to the land they’re abandoning?”

Opportunities offered by the CTTC offer a positive scenario both the region’s people and the land. “It’s great in Peru that this is happening,” says O’Keefe. “It gives people at least a choice … If you want to stay in your rural village where you grew up, you actually have something sustainable to do that. If you want to go study computers in the city, you can do that. There are choices.”

As the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise‘s Peggy Clark describes the reasoning behind her group’s support of Callañaupa, “One of the things that people think is that environment is separate from economy, so there’s not enough support and investment to move the needle and make a difference. The only way to do that is to broaden the tent.

“Not only does [the work of the CTTC] make sense at a policy level or an investment level, it makes sense at an individual level. Like with Nilda and her family: they are preserving the natural environment as well as finding ways to create products from their environment for their livelihoods. They can send their kids to school, they can support their families.”

Later this year, world leaders will gather in Paris for the next COP to find solutions for dealing with climate change. They will come by airplane and limousine, and they will fill the finest hotels. While they negotiate and debate, in a “cloud kingdom” across the world, a group of weavers, led by one woman, will be doing what their ancestors did for centuries, weaving stories of sustainability and solution, using the astonishing biodiversity of the region responsibly and with great success. As Callañaupa says, “It is becoming clear that the survival of diversity contributes to the valuable storehouse of world resources.”

“Artisans are often the stewards of the natural world,” says Clark. “Often in traditional ways … they are working in their communities with products that are from their environment, be it fibers from leaves, bark from trees, or natural dyes from difference sources. So they are invested in ensuring that those resources will always be there.”

In the introduction to one of Callañaupa’s books, Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands, anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author, and photographer Wade Davis writes: “These textiles are sacred cloth, woven from the threads of memory by Andean hands that are at last firmly in control of their destiny. Each tells a story, and each story is a prayer for the well-being of the people, the land, and the community.”

Callañaupa’s work means that we can produce goods that have global value in a way that doesn’t ruin the soil or deplete the water table or poison the air. We can engage the youth in our communities in healthy, life-affirming activity, and we can reward their efforts with a sustainable livelihood.

And while the leaders convene at COP, Callañaupa and her weavers will be creating art — each piece a “story” — that preserves and promotes the biodiversity that sustains us all, one thread at a time.

This report was filed by Ann Clark Espuelas.

newz from julz: yarns for knitting & weaving


scarfcopysThis post is written as a checklist for the latest newz from julz update, which goes out to all the customers on my mailing list – its easier to put the pictures and links on this blog, where they can be seen clearly, than try and put them all into an email.

I sell in the UK and WORLDWIDE

Anyone who reads this can join the mailing list – please go to the shop talk page, where you will find a form to fill in.  newz from julz updates are sent out when there is new stock or other useful information, and are not available unless you are on the mailing list, which has nothing to do with following this blog! If you want to know more about any of the yarns on this page, clicking on any warping yarn picture will take you to the ‘slideshow’ of these yarns and if you then click on the underlined caption, it should take you to the current listing.  Clicking on the pictures of the novelty yarns will take you to the listings directly. Of course anyone is welcome to buy anything they see on any of the sites I sell on – links to my etsy shop, my folksy shop, and my two sites on ebay, are underneath my photo on the right hand side.  If you are not registered on any of them, you are welcome to buy direct.

warping yarns for weavers

Warping Yarns are particularly strong and can take the strain of being the “vertical yarns” on the loom, as they are kept under tension whilst the cloth is woven.  They can also be used  for the weft – ie: you can weave with them – and for crochet and macrame. You can also knit with them.  Many knitters are so used to small balls of knitting yarn, that they don’t realise that you can knit straight from the cone – just put the cone in a bag or basket to keep it clean and allow the thread to be easily drawn. When you click on the pictures below, some of them will take you to julzweaving on ebay, and others will take you to julz craft supplies on etsy.  That does not mean that they cannot be found on the other sites, but as ebay listings don’t last as long as the etsy ones, I have used the etsy site for listings on ebay that are near to their end date. NB:  the links are current at the date of posting, but may not work in a few weeks time – that does not mean that I don’t still stock them – see below!

novelty yarns for textile arts

sample pack of tu-tu yarns

sample pack of tu-tu yarns

Anyone with an eye for unusual ideas and novelty yarns to experiment with will enjoy these ‘Imagine’ and ‘Tu-Tu’ yarns – but they may take some getting used to! Samples are available on request, and there is a particular sample pack of 4 colourways of Tu-Tu which is also listed.  If you would like to request a variation of colours, please ‘buy’ the pack and send me a separate request for the specific colours you would like in the pack.  (There are numbers on the banding that you can use for reference.

*tutu yarn mixed

hanks of multicoloured tu-tu yarn

You can actually knit with these, and create ruffles within your pattern, and there are links to free patterns on the listings, on both etsy and ebay – all of these are currently listed on both sites, clicking on these pictures will take you to one or the other. You can also use them as eyecatchers by weaving bits of them into your work, adding them to needlework and sewing projects and incorporating them in any any collage or textile art project.

hanks of single colour tu-tu yarn

hanks of single colour tu-tu yarn

Similarly unusual, and useful for art work, are the imagine yarns, which have been created to be used to make things like scarves without knitting them! They comes as ‘tubes of webbing’, and there is a link on the listing to a video that shows how to make a scarf in a few minutes.  Buy a hank and see what else you can use these for!

These listings have expiry dates, and the links may not work in a few weeks time, but I will have stock of most of the yarns shown on this page on a regular basis, so if you cannot find the listings, please use the form on the contact me page and I will send you the link.

hanks of 'imagine' yarn

hanks of ‘imagine’ yarn

what is jute? – information sheet no 1


Information sheets are an idea I have had for a while – these will, hopefully, be a resource for all readers. This is the first of a library of i/sheets that you can consult at any time. I do not intend to write them all – if you have an idea for one and would like to submit it, please use the form on the ‘contact me’ page.  There is no planned timetable for posting these, they will appear – as and when – a good subject comes along!


hessian sacking

hessian sacking

spun jute for weaving and twine

spun jute for weaving

I have been buying in quite a lot of jute, in one form or another.  There is hessian, cones of spun jute for weaving, and garden ties, shopping bags and laundry/storage baskets – all currently listed across the 4 sites you will find underneath my photo on the right hand side. (Clicking on these 3 photos will also take you to my sites.) I just accepted the notion that it is a cheap, reliably strong material from which certain products were made. I didn’t even pause to wonder where it grew and what it was – maybe you were always better informed than I was – but I doubt if everyone knows much about jute and where it comes from.

jute laundry basket

jute laundry basket

It is always described as Eco Friendly by my suppliers, and I can trust their descriptions, because they provide proof of where the items come from and even pictures of the people that make them. But – come to think of it – I can’t remember them doing a piece on jute! So the first place I went to for information was Wikipedia – easy as that!  They even had pictures! “Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced from plants in the genus Corchorus. ……..”Jute” is the name of the plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, Hessian or gunny cloth……..Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin……. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–13 feet) long. Jute is also called “the golden fiber” for its color and high cash value. Another search for pictures led me to this blog, written in 2012, so rather than paraphrase it, I’m just copying most of it from:

Jute Harvesting and Basic Processing

jute rope

jute rope

Jute is a natural fibre that is mainly grown across West Bengal in India and in Bangladesh with some also grown in, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Thailand and China. The jute is taken from the stem and the skin of the stem, which is called the ribbon.  It is a crop that has been used for centuries and there is evidence that the Chinese were using jute fibres as the basis for early paper. The industry really began to develop with the building of large scale mills during the time of the British East India Company.  The jute was initially exported to the UK and to Dundee in particular, where there was a well-established flax industry. Initially the fibre could only be processed by hand but it was discovered that whale oil allowed to be processed by machine.  The jute industry went through a boom time and the factory owners in Dundee became known as the Jute Barons.  This is yet another example of the value being added to the product outside of the “colonies” for the greater good of the colonial powers.  Following the decline and fall of the British Empire and the discovery and mass production of artificial fibres the mills began to close.  The industry has been in decline for some years, and although the demand for natural fibres has improved things, the increase has not been as great as hoped. Jute is known as the “golden fibre” in Bangladesh and is an important source of income for the farmers. I took these photographs during my recent trip to northern Bangladesh, around Saidpur. It was the end of the growing season and the harvest was just beginning. The jute is harvested and then allowed to soak for a few days in water before the fibres can be stripped off and left to dry. It is then transported, often by bicycle rickshaw, to collection points before being taken to the mills where it is processed and turned into the familiar fibres found in sacks, carpet backing and bags. Jute can also be processed into finer, more delicate yarns which occasionally are turned into clothes. Jute awaiting harvest Jute being harvested The jute is then bundled and left to soak in water.  Here it’s soaking next to a partially flooded Hindu graveyard After the jute has soaked for a few days, the fibres can then be stripped from the stems The fibres are then dried, often on the side of the road before being taken to the collection points and then the mills And going back to Wikipedia

  • Jute fiber is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly.

    coffee sacks made of jute

    coffee sacks made of jute

  • Jute has low pesticide and fertilizer needs.
  • It is a natural fiber with golden and silky shine and hence called The Golden Fiber.
  • It is the cheapest vegetable fiber procured from the bast or skin of the plant’s stem.
  • It is the second most important vegetable fiber after cotton, in terms of usage, global consumption, production, and availability.

Jute has loads of uses – and the leaves are eaten in many of the producing countries These are the 2011 production figures for the various countries that produce jute:

Top ten jute producers — 2011[8]
Country Production (Tonnes)
 India 1,924,326
 Bangladesh 1,523,315
 People’s Republic of China 43,500
 Uzbekistan 18,930
   Nepal 14,418
 Vietnam 8,304
 Burma 2,508
 Zimbabwe 2,298
 Thailand 2,184
 Egypt 2,100
 World 3,583,235

SHOW & TELL: A Weaver’s Tale


 – with kind permission of Judith StClaire

Judith lives in Humbolt Bay, USA and these are direct copies from her blog: The Artful Weaver:  https://judithstclaire.wordpress.com
I met Judith on the blogging course we have both been ‘attending’ for most of January – well met, no we have never met, only corresponded thro’ the online portal set up for class members.  We were encouraged to check out each others blogs, I found hers fascinating.  Not only is she a weaver, but she also writes great short stories.
This is the story of a woven scarf that went wrong, and got put away in a drawer, until someone suggested that she find another use for it –
now read on!


Handwoven Scarf from Colorful Needlepoint Yarn

Several years ago when they were in middle school or beginning high school, I gave Mother’s needlepoint yarn, canvas and other crafting stuff to my granddaughter Kimberly and her friend (my borrowed granddaughter) Shannon.   With the yarn, I gave them encouragement to Make Something Creative.   And they did.  Over the next several years, they made lots of things.

On Loom_0006But when the girls graduated, got jobs, moved into their own apartment and began to look toward higher education – you guessed it – the leftover yarn and all the other leftover “stuff” came back to me.

I was on the verge of pitching out the large bag of vibrant color, but then I asked my sister’s advice.  Practical as ever, Ruthie, the master weaver, said, “Never throw yarn away!  Weave a scarf.”  On Loom_0004

As it happens, I had some hanks of nice soft gray yarn I wasn’t too sure what to do with, and when I put them with the color, I began to picture a completed project.

Needlepoint yarn usually is cut into handy lengths for those who use it.  Even though the yarn I used for red stripes was the longest in of all the yarns in the bag, the longest pieces proved to be too short to make a warp of the required length.  So, I had to make extensions. (For you non-weavers, the extensions were in the “loom waste” section of the warp.)  Making extensions wasn’t difficult to do, and the doing of it added to my meager library of weaving experience.

Needle Pt on Deck1

Without enough of any one color, I had to combine all the shades of my chosen color in order to make the scarf.  Short supply of short scraps forced me to be somewhat avant guard and make an asymmetrical design – sort of like, we’ll pile all the stripes on this end and make the other end plain.  The thought in the back of my mind was, “If worst comes to worst and this is a total flop, the danged thing could find its way into the doggie bed.”

Needle Pt on bench2In the end, however, I loved the design.  Loosely woven, the wool, strip measured seven feet long, then shrunk to six feet in length after being washed and “fulled”.  (This is not counting a good four inches of fringe on each end.)  After the washing, the tag ends of yarn were cut and the fringe trimmed.  The lovely thing was steam pressed, hung up to dry thoroughly, and ultimately was photographed.

Freshly showered and dressed in my favorite outfit, I stood before the full length mirror, and with great anticipation, flung the scarf around my neck.  My first reaction after a satisfied smile was, “Yikes!”

Needle Pt on Fence1The gray yarn was indeed soft, but the needlepoint yarn was the prickliest yarn I have ever wound around my own neck.  So, I found another use for the scarf fabric.  This piece will not find its way to the doggie bed.

To see more editions of my SHOW & TELL feature, please see the Show & Tell Archive Page.  Anyone is welcome to send in photographs of their work and have their own SHOW & TELL page – please read the instructions on the archive.

Gallery post: some of the stuff I sell


dec cal pic


Today’s assignment on the  blogging101 course was to try out a different kind of post, and I have been intending  to put together a page that shows the type of stuff I stock, for spinners, weavers, felters, knitter, quilters and other crafters – so, why not use the exercise for this purpose!  This is the first Gallery I have ever put together and its rather random in nature, I could have put them together in categories, but, I haven’t – not this time.  I also intended to link the listings on etsy and ebay to each picture – but not this time. If you want to browse the listings, click on the personal links underneath my photo on the right hand side. If you want to buy direct see this page, if you want more information on anything contact me here!

If you want to buy anything, please do, smile, I  sell worldwide.  To see the captions and find out what the fibres are,  just hover over them.  I think it turns into a slide show if you click on any of the images.

SHOW & TELL – your chance to share your work with others

decorated fantasia spinning wheel

decorated fantasia spinning wheel

I just got an ‘annual report’ from wordpress on this site, and the most visited pages are the SHOW & TELL FEATURES – especially the one on decorating KROMSKI’S FANTASIA SPINNING WHEEL. Click here to see it.

I love the idea that something posted over a year ago is still getting visitors and inspiring others.  There are several other SHOW & TELL posts – to access them, please see my new SHOW & TELL ARCHIVE PAGE.

I have constantly asked my customers to contribute to this feature, but somehow they are either too shy, or too busy,or feel its too much work!  Please don’t  let that put you off!  I will publish all contributions, whether you are just starting up or a professional – tho’ I reserve the right to edit your contribution slightly – and will give you a chance to publicise your work and for others to contact you if you want them to.

There is no time limit on this – just send me something any time you feel like to julz@julzweaving.plus.com, OR fill in the form on the CONTACT ME PAGE Please include as many pictures as you want, with some brief paragraphs about yourself and your work. Whist this opportunity is specifically for my customers, past or present – and future – I would also be interested to hear from people who just have something they’d like to share, and if its relevant in any way, I will put your contribution up too.

If you’d like to look at my current stock, please see the right hand column, underneath my photo, where the personal links list all the sites I sell on –  clicking on these links will give you a chance to browse. I am also aware that you may not currently be registered with any or all of these sites, and to make it easy for you to order at any time, and especially when you want to order various items spread across the sites, you are welcome to put in an order direct.  Please have a look at the BUYING DIRECT PAGE at the top of this blog.

HAPPY NEW YEAR – Hope to hear from you soon!

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