Peruvian Textile Heritage

In rural Peru it is common to find people using a simple spindle to produce yarn as they are chatting with their neighbors, or to see them working at the looms set up in the patios of their dwellings. This very traditional scene depicts a millennial craftsmanship which has been providing the people of ancient Peru with tools and clothing from time immemorial. Making use of nature’s abundant resources, the craftsmen employed camelid fibers, mainly Alpaca, Cotton and a variety of vegetable fibers. With expert hands they knotted and interlaced fibers and yarns to form baskets, nets and fabrics. Later on, they developed the loom with warp and weft and six more textile techniques.

Advancement of the pre-Columbian societies saw the emergence of true weaver-artisan classes whose high level of specialization allowed them to produce sophisticated products and to master the techniques of spinning, weaving and dyeing. Woven fabrics came to acquire a lot of importance in Andean societies and served different functions: they were a social status symbol and became indispensable as a means of exchange in an economy, where money did not exist. The Incas collected tributes in the form of cloth and offered textiles, especially of Vicuña and Alpaca, to their gods in religious ceremonies.

In spite of the new customs and techniques introduced after the arrival of the Spaniards, many of the original textile traditions survived as they incorporated new concepts from the European world. Nowadays, the Peruvian textile industry has ceased to be confined to the rural areas. A modern industry has emerged, combining the best of traditional savoir-faire and contemporary techniques to continue an age-old textile heritage.