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The Sacred Valley is the main artery that links Cusco to the iconic Machu Picchu so as you might expect, it is packed year round with travelers exploring this beautiful part of the world. But did you know that just off the beaten track are traditional indigenous Quechua communities that still live like their ancestors and preserve their traditional way of life?

A while back we had the opportunity to try out a community tourism initiative run by the non-profit organization Awamaki in Ollantaytambo who work with local communities like the Patacancha communities to help them generate alternative streams of income. You can read more about their tours here.

Dyeing the wool

Plants and minerals give the wool incredibly vivid colours that don’t fade over time.

They run several great projects including the tours but today we wanted to talk about their great ‘Awamaki Lab’ project which links traditional weavers and artisans (mainly female) with international designers. The idea is to use traditional and local materials and skills to develop functional and fashionable products for sale in Peru and the U.S – an interesting initiative that provides greater income for the artisans involved.

Designers take a sabbatical to come from the U.S and spend time in the Sacred Valley working with local Quechua communities where they investigate weaving methods and techniques and then together with the communities develop unique designs that can then be sold internationally.

This has allowed the Awamaki store in Ollantaytambo to stock a unique range of products including skirts and jackets, smartphone cases, gloves, hats and bags that have a more modern, attractive design but are made with local weaving techniques and materials.

Each item is hand-made and can take up to several weeks to create. Check out our photo gallery below to see this incredible process…

Spinning the alpaca wool by hand.

Step 1: Spinning the alpaca wool by hand. Alpaca wool is eight times warmer than sheeps wool!

Preparing the natural dyes

Step 2: Preparing the natural dyes for dyeing the wool.

 

Wool in the process of being dyed

Step 3: Wool in the process of being dyed. Only natural plants and minerals are used to dye the wool.

Recently dyed wool drying in the sun

Step 4: The recently dyed wool is dried in the sun. This also helps set the natural colours.

 

Dyeing wool in the community

The work of preparing and dyeing the wool is carried out by the women in the community. Most communities are rural Andean communities.

Weaving using a backstrap loom

Step 5: The different colours of wool are then woven by hand on a traditional back-strap loom to create scarves, blankets and other articles

 

The finished Awamki product

Step 6: The finished product!

 

For more information on the Awamaki Lab Project click here and to visit their online store click here.

For more great things to do in Ollantaytambo click here.

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