Cataloging & Using Traditional Designs

Marilyn MurphyBehind the Scenes, Indigenous Connections, Textile Traditions

The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) has long understood the importance of documenting weaving designs, techniques, and other textile traditions that were disappearing over time. One of the early goals was to create a simple design catalog as a physical archive documenting a woven example of each design and its name. In 2020, the CTTC completed the documenting of the designs from all ten communities, finishing it during Covid, which helped to maintain contact with the weavers. In 2021, the CTTC expanded the design catalog from a physical archive to a digital database, taking photos of all the designs and collecting histories from the weavers about each design. By the end of this year, all of the CTTC’s … Read More

Chuspas: Small Bags with Big Significance

Virginia GlennIndigenous Connections, Textile Traditions

When I started researching this topic, I was merely focused on the one very old chuspa that I had in my collection, which I purchased in Peru in 1980. Chuspa is a Quechua word for bag or purse. Elaborate chuspas are used as part of dancers’ costumes during festivals; every-day, smaller chuspas often carry money (these chuspas are also called monederos). I knew that chuspas also are used for carrying coca leaves, but I never thought about the significance of coca to the Andean culture. I had only been told that the Indigenous Quechua speakers would chew the leaves to help give them energy or to keep from getting hungry. While chuspas are made using traditional techniques, the sacred substance … Read More

The Finishing Touch for Andean Textiles

Marilyn MurphyHow-To, Textile Traditions

It’s rare to see an Andean textile without an added border, whether an attached band, braid, or fringe, or an exquisite, embellished seam. So much care and attention go into the finishing details, that many weavers in the Andes look forward to these finishing touches. Finishing details are also very practical. Seams hold two handwoven cloths together for items such as ponchos, blankets, and mantas, while borders and fringes prevent edges from fraying. When borders, edges, and seams wear through, a weaver will carefully take them out and put in new ones, extending the life of the textile for many more years. Joins & Seams Since Andean textiles are woven on a backstrap loom, the width of the cloth is … Read More

Monederos for Your Money

Cynthia LeCount SamakéTextile Traditions

Women in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia knit colorful purses and bags in every shape imaginable. Since they hold coins (monedas in Spanish), the purses are called monederos. In the late 1800s, little purses in the shape of llamas, bulls, fish, birds, and people complete with detailed clothing were common, especially among wealthy women. Over a hundred years ago, Andean women used tiny knitted purses made of fine silk or vicuña thread to hold the small gold coins in use at the time. A wealthy woman wanting to impress her guests might greet them at the front door wrapped in a shawl, carrying a rosary, and holding a superbly detailed purse in her hand, as an object of status … Read More

Unraveling the Mystery of Khipus

Virginia GlennTextile Traditions

I don’t remember the first time I read about khipus (also spelled quipus). Most likely, it was the summer that I spent at a Spanish language institute in Mexico and was assigned the topic “Who were the Incas?” for a culture report. I remember being intrigued with the mathematical possibilities of something that sounded like a soft abacus. But I set aside my curiosity in order to focus on learning the names of all the Inca leaders—names that all seemed to have way too many letters. So now, all these years later, I was very interested in the ATA Textile Talk, “Written in Knots: What We Know Today About Khipus,” presented by Juan Antonio Murro, the curator for pre-Columbian art … Read More