Materials & Techniques

Textile Production in the Andes

Artists have been weaving in the Andean region of South America for thousands of years. They use natural resources such as cotton, camelid hair, and insect and plant dyes to produce striking textiles of complex forms, colors, and designs. The labor-intensive process of creating a textile begins with sheering camelids for the raw hair and picking raw cotton. These fibers are cleaned, combed, and spun into thread, which is dyed with natural colorants and woven together using a variety of techniques and tools. Rather than weaving fabric, which is intended to be cut and sewn into something usable or wearable, Andean weavers generally produce textiles in their entirety. The textiles are finished along all four edges directly on the loom, which requires meticulous planning. In the Andes, the skills and techniques of weaving are passed down orally and through demonstration from generation to generation.

A variety of looms are used for textile production in the Andes. The ground loom is fastened to the ground with four stakes, and the weaver sits on the ground as he or she weaves. The vertical loom is fastened to the ground with two lateral stakes; the warp threads are stretched vertically between two parallel beams. The back strap loom is a portable loom in which one end is attached to a tree or post, while the other end is secured to a belt that wraps around the weaver's back.

Adapted from

Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, Inca: Conquests of the Andes / Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes, Gallery text, 2015.

Web Resources

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Read more about Andean Textiles.