Revitalizing Weaving in the Andes

The mission of Andean Textile Arts (ATA) is to support the people and communities of the Andes in their efforts to preserve and revitalize their textile traditions. In support of that mission, ATA has been working closely with the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) for just over twenty years. During those formative years, we have had two major areas of focus: Identifying the highland communities where textile traditions were almost extinct and reviving techniques such as discontinuous warp (ticlla) in Pitumarca or tie-dyed warp (watay) in Sallac, and establishing the Center in Cusco, with its rich resources: a museum, training center, store, and offices. With a strong foundation in place to preserve the weaving techniques, we are thinking about the future vitality of the weaving culture and traditions.

Resist-dyed samples by Mahuaypampa young weavers. 

Young weavers are a huge part of our focus now, as future of the weaving communities will depend on their skill and enthusiasm. This year, with the help of an ATA grant, the young weavers will visit museums in Cusco to see firsthand the origins of their traditional clothing. Many of them have never had the opportunity to visit the museums, nor do they know the origins of their traditional clothing, so this grant fulfills the mission of ATA as well as CTTC in the preservation and education of ancestral weaving. It certainly helps the young weavers appreciate their dress and the role it plays in their lives. Plus, by visiting museums, they find other avenues of learning besides a formal classroom. Through your generosity, Andean Textile Arts has been able to grant $3,200 towards this study, and we continue to be impressed by how the young weavers absorb the knowledge of their heritage.

Completed Incan dress design by young weavers of Patabamba.

This year’s grant continues the development of the young weaver’s program and their education on the textiles of Peru. A few years ago, with the support of an ATA grant, the young weavers spent two weeks learning about the Nazca, Paracas, Chimú, and Chancay cultures. They learned the simple resist-dyeing used in Nazca textiles and they wove an ancient Chancay design. Their final activity was creating a life-sized paper doll dressed in Incan clothing.

Resist-dyed samples by Huacatinco girls.

We are also still focused on helping Andean weavers recover ancient techniques. For example, we have only started to see the results of the revitalization of doubleweave. In 2013, ATA board member Jennifer Moore taught doubleweave to a group of weavers, who have since been teaching others in their communities. There was a superb doubleweave exhibit during Tinkuy 2017.

Doubleweave workshop being taught by Jennifer Moore.

Revitalization of the Paracas looping technique is also underway. During Tinkuy 2017, many weavers took part in an all-day workshop. This year, ATA has granted funds towards continuing the developing of this technique, and we look forward to seeing what the artisans will create in the years to come.

Paracas looping being taught during Tinkuy 2017 by Ana Maria Rojas and Soledad Hoces de la Guardia.

These are just a few examples of how your donations make a difference to the people and weaving communities of the Andes. For artisans the world over, particularly those where traditions are struggling to survive, it is necessary for young weavers to develop pride in their cultural and textile heritage. We look forward to seeing how our young weavers will translate their learnings into the development of new designs and products and carry on the heritage of their forebears.

Want to help educate young weavers? You can donate at Just add a note Young Weavers Program when you make your donation.

You can learn more about the living textile traditions of the Sacred Valley in the book Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands.

All images provided courtesy of CTTC and ATA.

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