Peruvian Hand Knit
4 min read
Written by Zak Rayment
Images by RK Peru
Textile traditions in Andean cultures, particularly in Peru, can be traced back millennia. Thanks to the arid desert conditions of the region, many samples have been preserved, and some of these intricately woven and colourfully dyed textiles have been dated to be around 6000 years old. Those early pioneers left behind a rich heritage and this year we’ve been working with two companies who are keeping these traditional crafts alive, to bring you the very best in handcrafted Peruvian knitwear.
RK Peru and Raymisa both have decades of experience, bringing techniques that have been passed down for generations into the modern age. They are Fair Trade certified, providing safe and fair employment to textile workers as well as sourcing their materials from traditional breeders and farmers scattered throughout the South Andean regions. The wool they use comes from thousands of small independent farmsteads where the animals are cared for as part of the family, such is their value and importance. The supply chain is fully transparent and traceable; with ethical farming methods, the highest animal welfare standards, and farmers holding great reverence for the animals in their care.
Alpacas have been bred in South America for over 5000 years. Originally domesticated from wild Vicuñas in the Andean mountains, farming alpacas was central to the development of pre-Hispanic societies and cultures in the region. Even today, it is still one of the only sources of income for thousands of rural communities. While similar in structure to sheep wool, alpaca fleece is warmer, softer and contains no lanolin, making it hypoallergenic. It’s also naturally water-repellent and fire resistant. Once dubbed the “Fibre of the Gods” due to its incredible softness, alpaca wool was used to make clothing for tribal royalty before Hispanic colonisation of the continent. It is a staple of traditional Peruvian dress, the vibrant garments dyed in bright colours using natural materials.
It is these ancient crafts that our partners are keeping alive – using traditional looms and weaving techniques to craft the garments. A large part of their workforce is made up of women who face adversity with little assistance from the government or their families. Single mothers and victims of domestic abuse are given meaningful employment which in turn grants financial independence and the possibility of a better life for themselves and their children.
Each piece in our range is carefully knitted by hand, making it subtly unique to the individual maker. For our Colca Cardigan and Misti Roll-neck jumper, we’ve even included a special label which has been signed by the individual knitters as a testament to their skill and craftsmanship.
We’re proud to work with these independent producers and manufacturers who are keeping ancient artforms relevant in the modern age, as well as supporting traditional, sustainable relationships with the land and their animals. With only a limited number of each style, and such exquisite technique employed in their creation, we don’t expect this collection to be around for long.