Yippee, finally got a Internet connection and half an hour!!
So far I have been to three cities in Peru; Lima, Arequipa, and Cuzco. All pretty amazing places and far away from the UK in many ways. It is a complete culture shock for me, there seems to be such a difference between people who have money and people who do not seem to have much at all. I needed to come here and see for myself where some of my yarn was produced, and I am so glad I have, because I absolutely know the people are looked after and are really happy, making my yarns. It has also completely widened my eyes to what can be done and what I can make for Fyberspates.
So lets go through the processes of how alpaca yarn is made!!!
Firstly I would like to say that health and safety in Peru, doesn't really exist, people hang out of buses, and do the scariest things, but what made me very comforted, was that the standard at all the factories I went to were extremely high.
So it starts on the animals, here in Peru, people in the Highlands have herds of Alpaca's, its a bit like in the UK, where they sell all the fleeces after the sheering to people who collect from all the small herders for the yarn and top producers. Fleece arrives at the factories in HUGE bails like this:
Then it gets opened and checked that is hasn't been stuffed with crap, because the farmers get paid by weight. Then is has to be sorted into colour and finess. There are lots of natural alpaca colours, but the skill is the finess, the women are very highly trained to distinguish how fine the alpaca is and to sort it out. There were no men doing it, mainly because, and I heard this lots of times, the men were rarely able to develop the skills to the high level that women were, lol, which made me laugh.
Women often take the children to work with them, and the children just play, (and they get good wages for their work).
To go off topic slightly, and just comment on mums and children here, (i'll put this thought process into context first), after my degree, I studied economic problems in families, and its psychological impact on children, I learned very strongly that economic stress in families (IN THE UK) leads to stressed parenting and often leads to children experiencing problems. This was at post graduate level for two years, so I am sort of programmed to think about these things when I am faced with lots of mothers and children especially who clearly are experiencing severe economic problems, and that is everywhere you go here, everywhere. One thing I have noticed about mums and children in Peru, is that no matter who it is, mothers and children are so close and loving, I have not heard one mother shout at a child once, and believe it or not no obviously naughty children, its really very strange, but it has really really blown my mind. People here just have a completely mind set about everything.
Anyway back to the process, sorry for the thought interjection:
Vicuna is expensive for a reason, firstly it is endangered, because they used to be killed for their fleece, obviously not any more, but, their fleece is the most expensive in the world, its finer than cashmere, and gorgeous, totally gorgeous. This is a Vicuna, I actually managed to get close enough to take this, I feel very privileged, because they are notoriously timid animals:
In addition to it being rare, there is not an automated process to clean the fleece unlike wool and alpaca so it is sorted by hand, yep, with tweezers, 800gms per sorter per week!!!
Anyway, Alpaca, cleaning alpaca takes quite a while too, its not sorted by hand, but unlike wool which is washed and carded really quick, alpaca takes longer, because the fleece is different, can't remember exactly why, but anyway here it is getting scoured:
It gets washed and washed and washed, big forks gently move it around in the water, it gets rinsed and gets washed again, and again until the water is clear:
So once its clean it gets dried, and sort of spread out to get it ready for carding:
Then the carding process starts, it was hard to photograph it but its gets spread out more and the fibers get aligned and it starts resembling a top:
It goes from this (can you still see the noils in the fibre?)....
and then to this scrummy stuff:
This is ready to spin into yarn, I'll go over that one another time :-)
Now for Peruvian food again!!!!! Its good really good, no matter who you are in Peru, you eat well, whether its a boiled vegetable soup on the street corner, or hot corn and Andean cheese, the food is very healthy. Whilst visiting a monument, our tour guide suggested we try, (you have to be careful about eating things here so when given recommendation I jumped at the chance to try it) Its corn cake, cooked in the leaves of the corn, it was gorgeous, and hot and sweet:
Next raw fish was on the menu, marinated with lime, and I wasn't about to refuse:
It was delicious, also there is a wonderful snack, which is kind of roasted corn, I guess its like salted peanuts, but its salted corn:
Potatoes are very popular, as is Alpaca, guinea pig, yukka tuber, and a tonne of tropical fruit, corn, quinoa, and amaranth.
I already have two cookbooks, and I can't wait to try some of the recipes, keep your pets locked up people!!!! YES OF COURSE THAT WAS A JOKE, my sister in law may call me 'Cruella devil' for asking her to comb her rabbit for me, but I am not that bad, mwahahahahahahaha.
Next post will be the Maku pichu one, its was amazing!!!