Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ropa bordada

The Colca Canyon. At 3,800 meters above sea level, the place leaves you gasping for breath. Drinking lots of coca tea helps, as does chewing coca leaves with a piece of volcanic stone to soften the leaves. The whole endeavor leaves your mouth numb and gives you a bit of a buzz. I am here now and continuing on my fiber adventure in Peru.

I have bought some amazing hats from the ladies in the markets/mercados we passed along the way. And there are the little children who, for one sole, which is about 30 cents will let you take their picture. I saw a baby alpaca about 2 months old taking it easy on a table of tapestries that the woman was selling. I really do feel like I am part of a National Geographic special, it is all so different from what I am used to back home. What a turista I am!

This is the place where some of the world’s finest fibre comes from -- alpaca, llama and vicuna. There seems to be a debate about which is a finer fibre, vicuna or cashmere. All I know is the adorable animals, with their giraffe like necks, long spindly legs and their huge brown eyes, are very strange to look at and part of an endangered species. One vicuna scarf costs $500, so it is out of my price range. Then there are the three alpacas who are cutting the lawn at the guest house where we are staying. Much prettier than our regular lawn mower from Canadian Tire! I want them to come home with me.

I have seen so many beautiful fabics, all machine embroidered in motifs called ropa bordada. Most women wear these traditonal outfits to show that they are part of a group and have been doing so for the past 500 years or so. These outfits form their identity. They started using sewing machines to embroider the fabric the last 50 years or so. Who can say no to the modern convenience?

The full skirts of this outfit look cumbersome to me but apparently the skirt can be quite functional to their daily lives and looped up around the waistband, it can serve as a large pocket, that is handy to carry lunch to your husband in the field, taking groceries from market or sowing quinoa seeds.

These outfits cost a lot to produce and they also seem to be a form of status, much like designer jeans would be to me. There seem to be a lot of turistas buying the hats, passport, cell phone and digital camera holders with the ropa bordata on them so I suppose that is a good source of income for the folks from the Colca Canyon. It is all very interesting, this blending of traditions and cultures. I think the Peruvians have a lot of ingenuity -- selling us rich North Americans stuff for our technology toys!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a peruvian knitting lesson

Today was an amazing day. I am in Arequipa, Peru, celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary on a fibre tour. The company who arranged the tour is called Puchka Peru and we are here for three weeks. The highlight of the tour for me is the knitting lessons and I have signed up for 8 days. Above is a picture of my teacher Rufina, and while she does not speak very much English and my Spanish is truly marginal, I still am thrilled with the results that I am creating.

In Peru, they knit backwards from what we do and they knit on the purl side while looking at their work. They put the yarn around their neck to help them maintain an even tension, which tends to make one feel like they are being strangled -- at least that is how I felt. They also use bicycle spoke knitting kneedles with ends that have been filed down to resemble a crochet hook.

Then there is the cast on. I never did really figure it out. It was a complicated affair using two colors, two hands and one needle. I was all thumbs and very frustrated. I was trying to over- think it but I was fortunate that Rufina's assistant Gloria, took pity on me, and did help me quite a bit with it and once I got past the cast on, what we were doing made more sense.

I ended up producing about two inches of my bolsita or purse after 7 hours of work with lots of ripping out and getting my mistakes fixed by Rufina who has endless patience and good humour. We seem to be getting by with the words, "OK, "NO" and "Excellento". Above is also a picture of my doggie motif that I am making from a book on traditional Andean patterns.

I was thinking how beautiful and unusual Rufina's clothing was when a fellow workshop participant said that it was for show and they probably wear jeans like the rest of us folks when not doing teaching. So, they don't look like they are part of a National Geographic TV Special, I guess. This was further re-inforced when I saw Rufina sending a text message after the workshop. I don't know why this was suprising to me, but it was.

I hope I can finish my purse before I leave this yarn lover's paradise.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

lemonade in lima

Above is a picture of the best lemonade I have ever had and I had it today in Lima, Peru. The taste is very different than what we are used to in Canada as the lemons grow from right around here. It is also made with fresh lemon peel and brown sugar. Rick and I each had our own pitcher and at $3 soles it only cost about a dollar a serving. YUM.

Lima is so very different than any city I have ever been in. A real contrast of rich and poor neighborhoods with 9 million people living here. I got a glimpse of the shantytowns of Callao that look like transport trailer trucks piled on top of each other that people live in --no windows, no electricity and running water -- when we were driving from the airport last night at 3 am. This is where the poor people live. You don't want to go there, ever, according to the guidebooks. It's funny, even with all of the poverty, there are tons of billboards and American fastfood restaurants everywhere. I have seen more KFC outlets here than in all of Ontario. Oh and there's Pizza Pizza, TGI Fridays and Starbucks too.

I am fortunate to be staying in the very nice area of Miraflores at the Hostal El Patio. Lovely, charming place with rooms off of a central courtyard with a fountain. The walls are festooned with all kinds of plants -- azealeas, bouganvillea, wisteria -- and so many more, but I don't know their names.

We also went to a very posh shopping district carved out the the cliffs on the Pacific Ocean called Larcomar. It was a controversial place when it was built as it took over a park. It is also full of very expensive shops with things that most Peruvians can never buy.
Let the fiber adventure begin!!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

i have measured out my life on easter weekend

I have been thinking a lot about the passage of time lately and how I am using it while I am not at work. One of my favorite quotes about time is from T.S. Eliot's famous poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". When he says, 'I have measured out my life in coffee spoons", I think he must be talking about the boring details of our lives that become routine after we do them every day. Like what I do every morning -- making coffee, letting the dogs out, letting the dogs in after they start barking at nothing and wake up the neighbors, giving the doggies their breakfast, checking my emails -- same old, same old.

I am starting to feel like this is a good mantra to use for my spinning of the sweater project. Lately, I have measured out my life in rolags spun. I have been doing so much spinning that my wrist hurts and there is still a large basket of them to do. On the positive side, I now have two large skeins of wool to use for my sweater and I have four other bobbins that will become skeins soon as they are plyed together. A tube of Ben Gay ointment has now become one of my best friends.

I wish I could say I like the stuff I am spinning. BUT, there is a big problem. The. Itchiness. Factor.

This unfortunate fact was confirmed when I proudly showed these two finished skeins to my daughter, and she said, "Wow, Mom, you sure have spun a lot of dog hair up! Talk about being crushed. The 40 or so hours of work this represents and she says it looks like dog hair. So, how will I make a sweater to wear out of this? What was I thinking?

Only 9 days until I leave for Peru. I don't think I will finish this sweater before then. At one point last year, when I started this whole endeavour, I had thought I would take the sweater that I made and show it to the folks on my fibre trip to Peru and hear their oohs and ahhs. The best laid plans....