What is it that compels a craftsperson to excellence? To go beyond what is necessary and to work in cooperation with others?

 Early in my own weaving career I learned 4 selvedge weaving from Navajo rug weavers. This experience has stayed with me and done more to sensitize my appreciation and understanding of the textiles we saw in Peru than any other preparation I could have done.

 The Wari (Huarii) tapestry tunic that we saw at Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology was my first indication that things are not always as they first appear.  When examining this piece of cloth, I was astounded to realize that the warp actually ran in the horizontal direction of the tunic. This means that this piece of cloth was woven more than 2 meters in width and only a half-meter tall. As I am more familiar with the back strap weaving of Guatemala, I had always incorrectly assumed that an individual weaver wove these fabrics as long, narrow panels. The wide cloth indicates that several people could have woven on this cloth at one time, making it a communal effort that could be accomplished more quickly. The repeating patterns with subtle color and motif variations suggest that each weaver had the freedom to interpret and vary the pattern. Yet the overall palette and design were completely harmonious.

On the last day of our trip, I re-examined a similar piece at Museo Amano. This one was woven even wider - over 3 meters I would guess - and displayed a similar rhythm of pattern and variation, not unlike that of a piece of jazz music.

The large Wari tie-dyed piece at the Museo Amano likely represents another type of cooperation. Many years ago, I was involved in an exploratory weaving project in collaboration with art historian, Jane Rehl. We attempted to duplicate this type of scaffold weaving, creating multi-selvedged pieces that were later resist dyed and then sewn together to achieve the larger textile. Initially we made the assumption that large blankets of these pieces might have been woven together as one large blanket and dyed while still connected.  After setting up scaffold looms, we realized that only two pieces need be woven at one time. These small weavings, when done with a group of people, resulted in a cooperative spirit of building something together. After the individual pieces were dyed in different colors, the entire textile was sewn together. 

While visiting the Weaving Center in Chincherro we watched two women preparing a warp. I was struck by how these two women (one older, one young) tossed the balls of yarn back and forth in the rhythmic dance of warping. Nilda told us how each woman wove her own individual textiles, but was helped along the way in the spinning, warping, and dyeing processes. I have the honor of bringing home a textile that Nilda warped and her mother wove. And it wasn’t enough to weave a piece with 4 excellent selvedges. Each piece of cloth was finished with an additional woven binding that completely encased the selvedge, strengthening the cloth and adding another element for its complexity and beauty.

While visiting Machu Picchu we saw astounding Inca dry stone masonry at Machu Picchu. What is it that compelled these architects/craftsman to carry, cut, and fit stone with such precision and mastery? Rocks that weighed tons were cut and fitted like small Legos. It required large communities of people working together. Even walkways and water channels required the work and precision of many. We saw how families worked together on the Uros Floating Islands who regularly renewed and replaced the reed to keep their islands afloat.

In our western countries, we are most apt to work alone, mastering our craft and accomplishing the work as individuals. We tend to put emphasis on MY work, MY process.  We witnessed a different approach amongst the craftsmen of Peru, both past and present. Several years ago, while working with weavers in India, I observed them working together, always with many hands on the same piece of cloth. The spirit of cooperation that we say in Peru was similar.  The Peruvian craftsmen shared their labor, yet also shared the experience.

Catharine Ellis


Today some of us started early to see the Nazca lines from the air. After we went to the Museo Arquelogica Antonini in Nazca. Here we saw some very interesting textiles from Nazca and Paracas such as sprang and double weaves. There were also some textile tools for example some spindles with whorls and also preserved yarn.

After we head back to Lima which took more than seven hours on the buss.

Eva Andersson Strand


The poncho

Where does the garment term poncho come from?

The European languages have also integrated a loan word for a Latin American garment, the poncho, in Quechua punchu. This garment term can be found in various Central and South American languages cf. Araucanian (Chile) pontho "woolen fabric." Other sources indicate that the garment term stems from the Mapuche language.

However, it is also possible that the garment term stems from, or is influenced by the Spanish adjective poncho, a variant of pocho meaning "discolored, faded."

Bonus information: in late 3rd mill BCE Ur III (Mesopotamia) texts the finest wool is termed “royal”. This is still the case today in the Republic of Peru: the best alpaca wool is the Royal Quality. In Danish trade and manufacture sources, “Peruvian wool” is a merchandise of very fine quality, in white or reddish hues, first described in 1807.

Source: www.textilnet.dk


« Words survive longer than cloth », wrote textile scholar Elizabeth Barber in 1991 about the prehistory of textiles in Europe and the ancient Near East. But this is not necessarily true here in Peru where textiles of the Nasca cultures, Paracas cultures and Inca cultures come out of the ground everywhere while very few textual remains are at our disposal.

When new textile techniques or new clothing items come from a foreign place into a culture, languages have different strategies of naming them. These strategies include:

  1. Adaptation of the foreign name as a loan into the other culture: an example is cotton which came from Arab qtn through Spanish to English.
  2. Formations based on the description of the foreign item, such as German Baumwolle meaning wool from trees (and becoming Danish bomuld).
  3. Formations based on the description of how to wear it: over-coat, under-wear.
  4. Formations based on the description of the tools used to make it. In South-American Spanish there is a word for weaving, tejer, and with the introduction of knitting, this new technology is called weaving with sticks, tejer a palitos.

 Today the Andean languages in Peru are Aymara and the majority language Quechua. Andean female costumes are a striking combination of indigenous textile patterns and weaving techniques, combined in costumes of wide, knee-length skirts, felted hats, aprons, tight and tailored woven jackets, and white embroidered cotton blouses, all with distinct Spanish or European cuts. The traditional belt chumpi and the adorned handbag or purse chuspa are added to this. Some of these costume parts have their own Quechua names: pullira is the garment term for skirt. This suggests that the Andean population adopted Spanish costume elements but named some of them in their own languages, probably adapting older costume terms to these new dresses. Another example is the male upper-body garment unkhu, a rectangular sleeveless clothing item with a slit for the head and richly decorated on the front and back. This seems to stem from an ancient Andean male clothing tradition.

However, we observe than many garment terms are actually loan words from Spanish into Quechua: this includes kameshha, the Quechua pronunciation of Spanish camisa, blouse, and the Andean hat sumriru, clearly a Quechua adaptation of Spanish sombrero, ‘hat’ (Quechua does not have the vowel o-). The Quechua word for socks, midyas, is a loan from Spanish, medias. The Quechua word for jacket is saku from Spanish saco. The Quechua word for scarf/shawl chalina is a diminutive of Spanish chal, meaning little shawl. It is the same term we have in German Schal, Danish sjal, French châle, and English shawl. This garment term came to Europe from the Orient, known for exotic soft fabrics, with the Persian garment term šâl, ‘shawl’.

Source: Quechua Phrasebook & Dictionary, Lonely Planet 2014

www.textilnet.dk and kind information by Peder Flemestad.


When two unrelated languages share a word, one may assume that one of the two languages has borrowed the word from the other. However, it is often difficult to assess which language has borrowed from which. Often the phonology will provide a clue. The language of the Aztecs, Nawatl, did not use the sound written with the letter r before the invasion of the Spaniards, but after some hundred years or more Spanish words with r slowly entered Nawatl. Until then the speakers of Nawatl had adapted the Spanish pronunciation to their language, and r was pronounced l; for example, the Spanish word cruz ‘cross’ became kolo:-tzin.

Likewise the Spaniards adapted their pronunciation to words borrowed from Nawatl. Thus the sound that is written tl – which is in fact one sound - which occurs quite frequently at the end of words, was rendered te in Spanish. The Spanish word tomate - no translation should be necessary - comes from Nawatl tomatl.

It is more challenging to identify the direction of a loan when all the phonemes in a word are found in both languages. Nilda Callañaupa writes in her book (p. 36) about the vest which is part of male clothing. She terms it chilico or chaleco. Both are perfectly in agreement with the phonology of Spanish and Quechua, but since we have some etymological analyses of chaleco, which has apparently come through intricate paths from Turkish jileco via Árabic xileco, and was later passed on to French as gilet, it is natural to assume that it was borrowed from Spanish in Quechua - if it is in fact used in Quechua. This of course makes one wonder whether the word shawl, Danish sjal, Spanish chal has anything to do with chaleco, but that is in fact a different story. The word chilico is not found outside of Quechua.

The word chuspa ‘small bag’, is used both in Quechua and Spanish, but since it has no etymology in Spanish and is not in general use in Spanish outside of areas where Quechua is spoken, we must assume that the term originated in Quechua and was borrowed into Spanish.

Source: Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories (2013)