As in many cultures, larger traditional clothing garments in Peru are woven. I notice that smaller functional mittens, socks or stockings, hats, and occasionally sleeves traditionally were handknit, as opposed to larger garments.
In summer of 2010, our tour group saw beautiful handknit chullos. That's a llama wearing the chullo above. An alpaca wouldn't stand for it. One of my travelling companions taught me that "llamas are like dogs; alpacas are like cats." A vicuna in a hat? Forget it.
The word "chullo" comes from the Aymara word for a hat with ear flaps. (Aymara is spoken by the Aymara people in the Andes, in an area including parts of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The three primary languages spoken in Peru are Spanish, Quechua [also a native language], and Aymara.) Chullos in South America are of course knitted from natural materials: vicuna, alpaca, llama, or sheep's wool.
At the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, my tour group saw some examples. Here's a pretty bad photo of a chullo in progress, but it gives you the idea of the gauge that the knitter was working
We also saw an example of a sleeve or "armwarmer"
I love the geometric birds, and the contrast of the black and white with the colorwork.
Later, we went to the Center's workshop in Chinchero
Here's an example of a chullo in progress, you can see the longer "tail" on this particular hat
The women participating at the center tended to switch crafts, although master (I prefer "mistress") artesans stuck to their highly crafted skills, as I suspect this knitter did
The chullos I have created are a little different.
If you can place an extremely fine hand spindle spun wool, alpaca, llama, or even vicuna at one end of the continuum, what goes at the other? Why, Red Heart Super Saver from Walmart, of course. Now, while I don't always consider this a REAL fiber, I knit with it, and here's why:
I have two teenaged sons. When they were small, I thought that I would be handknitting sweaters for them throughout their youth and in to adulthood. Well....no. However, the one item that they do like handknit is hats. According to my source, chullos have become popular in western cultures due to British rapper Dappy. When knitting their chullos, I use that Red Heart for its ability to reflect B's high school colors, and its durability in the wilds of Maine
Here's the pattern that I base my chullos on. I do a gauge swatch, measure head circumference, and reduce the number of stitches given in the pattern, adjust the graphs accordingly.
Red Heart easily survives a dunking in the Allagash River