Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Up in the mountains of Peru, tunics are usually longer because it is colder and you would want a longer garment to help keep you warm. On the coasts near the ocean, tunics are often shorter because it is warmer. What environment do you think this tunic was created for?

  • What do you notice about the pattern and colors on this tunic? Does it remind you of anything?

  • This striking checkerboard pattern is one of four “standardized” tunic designs and probably had military associations. What do the uniforms of our military look like today? Are they meant to stand out, like this tunic, or blend in?

  • This tunic was likely woven from the hair of an alpaca or vicuna, both camelid animals. Is your clothing made from animal hair? Have you ever seen or felt clothing made from animal hair?

Weaving overview:

  • Weaving begins by shearing wool from an animal. In the Andes, the primary material for textiles comes from the hair of the llama, alpaca, vicuna, or guanaco. This wool is good for providing protection from the cold. Wool of the vicuna is the finest and most valuable.

  • Once the wool is cleaned and combed, it’s ready to be spun into thread. The Inca people used a method called drop spindle. (Here's a video to help visualize the process.)

  • Thread was dyed with pigments created from plants, minerals, insects, and other natural materials to give it color.

  • In this tunic, the black and white squares are the natural color of the camelid fibers; the red color was achieved by using a dye made from dried cochineal scale insects (parasites found on prickly pear cacti).

  • When the thread is spun and dyed, it’s time to weave. Does anyone know what tool is used for weaving? It’s called a loom—and there are a few different kinds to choose from, depending on what suits the weaver’s needs best.
    Warp—threads that run lengthwise in textile and are often established first
    Weft—threads that transverse through warp threads (over, under)
    Basic over, under pattern is called plain weave.

  • Does this sound like a process that is fast or one that takes a lot of time?