By Hannah Bishop, Media and Marketing Volunteer

This weekend I had the chance to stay in Parobamba and participate in Awamaki’s Nature Dye Workshop! We stayed with master dyer Daniel Soncco and his wonderful family and learned about the dyeing process in addition to taking trips to the family’s chakra, several tombs, and even hot springs.

On our first day, Daniel explained some of the science behind creating the beautiful colors you can see in the textiles his family produces. In order to reproduce the same colors, Daniel measures the pH and temperature of the solutions, which contain a variety of natural ingredients. We saw samples of kinsa q’uchu (a fungus that produces light blues and teals), ch’ilka (a leaf that produces a range of greens), and cochinilla (a beetle that when crushed can make over 12 unique hues, ranging from pinkish-yellow to navy blue). Daniel also showed us a couple of mordents, which are used to fix and modify colors, including alumbre and sal de limon (aluminum and citric acid).

After this, we started dyeing! We each selected our colors and then went on a short walk to collect more ch’ilka. When we returned, Daniel made the dye bath and we watched as he added the leaves and then later infused the solution with one of the mordents. The next day, we watched Daniel make two baths with the cochinilla and then went on a hike with his son, Efrain, to the family’s chakra (or farm). We were able to sample sugar cane, several vegetables, and pollen from their apiary (where they also produce the best honey I’ve ever tasted), which were all very good. When we returned to the house, Daniel’s wife, Leonarda, had prepared a delicious lunch for us, and we continued to dye more yarn.

During our stay, we were able to take another hike to several nearby tombs, play with some of the village children (including Acner, Daniel’s youngest son), visit hot springs via motorbike, receive a weaving lesson from Nielson, one of Daniel’s sons, and we each took home one kilo of sheep and one kilo of alpaca yarn (which amounted to eight skeins) that we had dyed ourselves! We were allowed to choose from a wide variety of colors for our yarn, so by the end of our trip there were so many beautifully colored skeins hanging all around the house.

We loved Daniel’s family so much and we had such a great time that we were definitely reluctant to leave. It is truly difficult to say what the best part of the weekend was, but it was an amazing experience and I would recommend the workshop to anyone in a heartbeat!