SHEARING OF THE WOOL
Shearing of the animals is the first step in the organic process of construction of frazadas. It is a collaborative process that purports celebration and gratitude to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). In many outland Andean villages an offering is made to the Gods and Pacha Mama before shearing the animals. Offerings are given as thanks to the God’s that watch over and provide the natural gifts that these communities depend upon. The shearing is done by hand with a scissor like tool. It usually takes 3 people to properly and safely facilitate the process. Shearing is practiced every 1-2 years so as to not leave the animal without protection in the harsh winter months.
CLEANING THE WOOL
The Sacha Paraqay root and Illmanke plant are indiginous to the rural regions of Peru. When ground down and combined with water a white foamy detergent like substance is produced. This substance, along with a robust hand wash is used to organically clean the wool.
Hand spinning raw wool into steady thread takes years to perfect. Between the ages of 6 and 12 young girls begin to learn the trade beside their mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Using a drop spindle multiple threads are combined to generate strong, even threads used to weave. Depending on the specific wool being spun and purpose, ply and texture are varied. Whether walking through villages, sitting, talking, or watching over children, women spin thread as though it is second nature. Hands skillfully spinning it is a constant in daily Andean life and a practiced art-form however effortless it may appear to a novice eye.
All colors comes from local flora and fauna; indigenous plants, minerals, flowers, and insects. Some of the most common are the Chilca bush for yellow and green, Indigo leaves for blue and Cochinilla insects for a intense red dye.
The process of weaving a frazada can take up to several months depending on the intricacy of design. It can be a highly spiritual and personal journey of creation in which a weaver will draw from her experience of the natural world, her history, memory, and psychological state in order to create. The Quechan women believe that each design has a specific “life force” which represents the weaver’s understanding of her intimate world. It is traditionally understood that a weaver’s body of work can tell the story of her life.