Crafting with Grace

Accha Alta Accha Alta is a small community high in the Peruvian Andes. To arrive there, you drive up steep switchbacks on a single-track road, past ancient Inca storage structures, and alpacas foraging on almost nonexistent vegetation. Or you walk. In spite of, or maybe because of, their remoteness and sparse lifestyle, the villagers of […]

Their Daily Lives

This story could have been written yesterday, or it could have been written 200 years ago. Life can be painfully hard, or joyously fortunate, but life goes on. This story is excerpted from a book we published in 2013, Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes, and details the life of a typical Elder […]

With a Little Help from My Friends

When I think of the Peruvian highlands, one of the first images that comes to mind is a steep and winding dirt road with switchbacks stretching out as far as the eye can see, and mid-vision, a tiny figure walking along at a steady pace. She’s wearing her many skirts (for warmth), and her beautifully […]

Listening to the Elders

Elder

You can learn a lot from carefully studying a piece of cloth: Its age, the fiber and its origin, the interlacement of the threads, the pigments used to color it, the cultural references in its design. And so much more. Museums and scholarly books are troves of information for understanding how and why textiles have […]

A Tricky Stitch from the Peruvian Highlands

trickystitch

One of my favorite Andean textiles is the humble potato sack, or costal. It’s deeply traditional, handsome, and almost indestructible. I first saw costales in use when I visited the very high village of Accha Alta in 2005. The area is known for the best and most varied potatoes, but the terrain is so steep […]

A Mother’s Gift

Teaching textile traditions is a gift mothers pass to their children generation after generation. Whether in Mexico or Morocco, Afghanistan or Laos, mothers have been teaching their daughters (ands sons) to weave, to spin, to dye, to embroider for centuries. Sharing these skills with the next generation is practical, of course, because it creates a […]

The Heights of Machu Picchu and other Poems

Poetry

I’m feeling a tad guilty that April is National Poetry Month and here we are in the final stretch, having done nothing to celebrate. Over the years, we’ve often found ways to join text with textile in poetic ways. For International Women’s Day a few years ago, Marge Piercy’s “For Strong Women” set a meaningful […]

In the Twinkling of an Eye

More than thirty years ago, National Geographic magazine published an issue with a young Afghan woman on the cover. Her intense green eyes were so unexpected, and her expression so loaded with hard-to-read emotion, that the photograph has become iconic. Just google “afghan girl” and there she is, after all this time. Kind of like […]

Yours to Mine, Giving is Hand to Hand

Rug Money

“Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand, Mine to yours, yours to mine.” Alberto Ríos  Catarina spins with a touch that turns clouds into thread. Photo by Joe Coca from the book Traditional Weavers of Guatemala. It’s the gift-giving, and gift-finding, season. Enjoy the bounty of gifts so vivid in each of these […]

Silkworms, Mezcal, a Few Potatoes, Exquisite Cloth

silkworms

I was digging around in the pocket of a fleece jacket the other day, and found a small handful of roasted squash seeds. The memory was instant: I was back in a little hut in the Oaxacan highland village of Santo Domingo Roayaga. Our hostess was graciously extending hospitality. All she had to offer was […]

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