Starting day 6 is our first workshop. Rufina and Inez are my first teachers. They are wonderful ladies who have an extraordinary amount of patience for our clumsy attempts at learning to knit differently. So first off, the five needles we are given are hooks at one end and pointed at the other and made from bicycle spokes. The yarn is handspun alpaca in lovely colours made from natural dyes. Our mission is to make a coin bag. The method is Peruvian … ball of yarn in lap, yarn up and around the back of one’s neck and then down to the needles. Cast on using the long tail method (Rufina’s way is slightly more complex, but is still a long tail). Knit in the round with the inside facing out, using your thumbs to catch the yarn around the needle. All is well until we introduce colour number two! What fun … we aren’t there to learn Spanish and Qechua or to teach knitting, we are here to learn to knit the way our Peruvian teacher’s teach it. So what if a row of 60 stitches takes half an hour or more? As I watch Rufina’s hands I notice she isn’t now using her thumbs! Fingers are manipulating the yarn as she twists the colours around each other so there aren’t any floats to be caught in unsuspecting fingers. Actually, it is the speed with which she works that is the amazing part.
During the evening we are taught how to spin using a drop spindle. Tonya from Ayacucho makes spindle spinning look like a bit of a dance. She is ever so rythmic in her movements that it is a pleasure to just sit and watch. It is, of course, another thing to duplicate what she is doing and of course we don’t no matter how hard we try!
Knitting and spinning are not the only things happening in the gardens and rooms of Casa de Melgar. Tapestry weaving with Alejandro, gourd engraving with Florencio and Leon is teaching braiding. I’ve come home with many finely carved gourds and pieces of gourds used in jewelery. The carving is typically of scenes of Peruvian life. Not only are they intricate and detailed, but interesting in the stories they tell of life here.
To see all the Peru pictures click here.