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Peruvian Textiles

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 16-06-2022

Peru's textiles are prized around the world, which makes sense considering that the weaving tradition in the country is over 4,000 years old. Peru's best weaving culture is found in Cusco, Chinchero, and Huancayo. Textiles are made using the wool of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas, and the weavings are soaked into dyes made from flowers, roots, and leaves to create these magnificent works of art. 


Peruvian Woven Belts


Textiles can be found in museums and at markets, where talented weavers exhibit their products. Local workshops often have weaving demonstrations which will help you understand the tremendous skill that goes into creating each piece. Textile tours are an interesting way to become acquainted with one of Peru's most traditional and timeless art forms.
Peruvian textiles have an incredibly rich tradition, with museums all around Peru featuring exquisite textiles from ancient cultures.  Pre-Incan cultures, such as the Nazca, Paracas and the Moches, had rich textile traditions; in these cultures, textiles were both highly valued and extremely useful. Dating from around 600 BC, these textiles were used to wrap around mummies in layer after layer of ornate, finely woven cloth.


Passed down through the Generations


The back strap loom used in the Andes today dates from pre-Inca times; today's weavers use very similar technology to that of their ancestors using bone or wooden pegs, shuttles, and rods with the looms. The Incas were famous for their assimilation of weaving techniques and they improved the traditions of each civilization they conquered. While the Incas will always be most famous for their architectural prowess, their ceramics and textiles were also exquisite. It is said that the Inca only wore each cape once and that he had a storeroom of them at his command. When the Spanish arrived, their thirst for gold and only gold caused them to gloss over the importance of the textile tradition that already existed in Peru. However, the making of Peruvian textiles continued as it had for centuries before the arrival of the Incas and the Spanish. The knowledge of weaving was shared by the Andean method of person-to-person communication, tradition and by watching and practicing. Today, the traditions surrounding Peruvian textiles are undergoing a revival in Andean communities. Textiles are given as gifts in courtship, are important elements in marriage and coming of age ceremonies, and are present during baptism and communion celebrations.


Loom Weaving


Andean weaving, embodies the living history and culture of the Peruvian highlands, and are characterized by the intricate patterns found in traditional Peruvian textiles. Exploring the personal histories of the Quechua people who sustain this tradition today, you can witness how they weave extraordinary amounts of cloth on simple backstrap looms in the same way their forebears have done for thousands of years, to make items of clothing, rugs, bedcovers, potato sacks, hunting slings, and sacrificial fabrics for both their villages and for interested tourists. How patterns represent the geography and history of the region, by telling a story within the weavings and how the traditional natural materials and colors enhance the value of the work.


Natural Dyes


Find out more at Valencia Travel for the best communities to buy authentic textiles and which tours you can take to weaving communities in the Andean region, to experience this incredible cultural activity first-hand.