The altitude is 3,762m, the air is thin and oh so pure… it’s a place far from home where the mountain ranges seem to go on for ever… It’s Chinchero in Peru, and it’s home to a very old wonderful colourful market… fruit and vegetables are bought and sold there in the same way they have been for hundreds of years… the main difference now is the odd tourist and backpacker.
You can purchase just about everything you’ll ever need and more … from alpaca jumpers to ancient hand made spoons … even fairy floss!
It’s an historic market held on sacred grounds… and we were lucky to see them preparing for a festival on the day we visited.
We ventured over the valley to the hill nearby… here the lovely Peruvian women showed us how fibre was turned into colourful yarn… with traditional methods that have been used for hundreds of years.
The first step was obtaining the root of the soapwort (jabonera) plant… it was grated into warm water, then frothed up with hands ’till it become sudsy. It’s a natural shampoo…. and smiling a beautiful cheeky smile, she tells me it’s ‘good to stop the grey hairs’… ha, a few years too late for moi!
The pure wool fibre was washed and became a beautiful clean white within minutes… then rinsed and strained using a woven basket a few times… it was soon looking pristine enough to start spinning.
Watching the spinning was really beautiful… she made it look so easy and effortless… and I know it’s not! Despite this I’ve added learning how to do this to my crafty wish list… I’m not sure I’ll break into song though.
There’s a little insect that lives on the cactus… the Cochineal bug leaves a powdery white trail on the cactus… ‘sacrifice’ she whispers as she crushes it in her hands… the vivid red liquid stains her palm.
Then the magic starts… she squeezes some lime juice into one part of her palm and the colour softens and mellows… then a large piece of rock salt transforms the red into a new shade as she rubs it… a little powder from one of the dishes in front of us is mixed in and the colour changes before our eyes again… She rubs her palm with the skein of yarn to remove all the colours and dips it in the pot of water… a new colour is born… a teaspoon of salt is added and half the skein is dipped again to reveal a new shade. I am in awe by this stage!
All the colours are made from items that are naturally available to them… purple corn, beans of some sort, plants, leaves, flowers, salt, limes… all imparting their signature colour on the yarn… so naturally… what a privilege it was to see… I just love that it’s the simple things that create the colours… the resourcefulness… the years of learning that go into creating specific colours… who thought to add lime juice to change the colour the very first time? So clever… so beautiful… so honoured… so inspired.
So, you guessed it, I’m also adding yarn dyeing to my crafty wish list! Have you ever dabbled in dyeing your own yarn? Or fabric? Do you have million things on your crafty wish list that you are busting to learn?
Wishing you magic moments and colourful inspiration this sunny Saturday…