Pichinku Naturally Dyed Peruvian Yarn
My name is Dana and since 2013 I have been the Director of Operations of Threads of Peru, based in Cusco, Peru.
Our team provides support and training to indigenous artisans that practice totally non-mechanized weaving and natural dyeing techniques. We work to improve the quality of their products and market them internationally. With rusty Spanish and absolutely no Quechua arriving to 13,000 feet in the Andes, it was the most extreme, breathtaking work environment I can imagine even now. In just days, I was traveling to remote, in-need communities where basic education, running water and electricity are just now arriving.
To say that it’s been an educational and life-changing experience is to say very little. When the success or “failure” of your efforts could in part determine the well being of impoverished families, you find yourself striving to do much more than you would have imagined yourself possible.
Our little Threads family, spread across three continents and four time zones, has achieved remarkable growth as an organization. But reaching sustainability through sales is, in my experience, an ever-present challenge for artisanal goods. The market is constantly evolving and the concept of fair trade and artisan made products has become distorted with time. Although passionate and driven, it is difficult for small teams like ours to keep up, not to mention working in very limiting cultural and environmental circumstances.
Now wrapping up my dream-like 4 years as director, I embark on the next adventure, taking my unconventional career education in the Peruvian Andes and applying it to an artisan partner project of my own. On February 18th, Pichinku Naturally Dyed Peruvian Yarn achieved its crowd-funding goal on Kickstarter. In just 6 short weeks from now, I will dive into production with one of the first naturally dyed yarn initiatives in the Cusco region.
Pichinku Naturally Dyed Peruvian Yarn
Pichinku is a social enterprise, based in Cusco, Peru, and product: 100% natural knitting weight yarns in the highest quality Peruvian alpaca and wool, sourced from Michell and Cia. We naturally dye these fibers using locally sourced, exotic plant materials, following ancient practices from these breathtaking mountains that have become my adoptive home.
Pichinku was inspired by the desire to find sustainable products that consumers would actually buy. As I’ve mentioned, textiles can be difficult to sell, especially when they’re slowly made by hand with expensive materials. Yarn, on the other hand, is simpler, globally marketable and in higher demand. It’s not at all to say that there isn’t a market for traditional textiles. Pichinku seeks to recognize that there are more opportunities to apply these techniques and together they can provide more long-term benefits to the artisans who have become so very dear to my heart.
But that the product is “simpler” doesn’t mean that the process of creating and marketing it will not be challenging! Quite the opposite, Pichinku confronts many of the same “base” obstacles as Threads of Peru, including inter-cultural communication, a small founding team and longer production times. Even certain characteristics of the product itself, which I consider to be part of its beauty (i.e. naturally dyed colors) will never be “standard” and vary from batch to batch, may be difficult for some consumers to accept.
My passion is to preserve world heritage by investing in the artisans that carry on traditional practices today. But it will take time and patience to bring consumers to an understanding of the economic and cultural value embodied by this work. It is much more than textiles, or yarn, or even basket weaving; it’s embracing that our purchases have power to positively change both our lives and those of others.
Pichinku is still LIVE on Kickstarter and although we’ve reached our funding goal, the campaign will continue until Tuesday, Feb-28! Why still pledge? Every bit extra will mean an even better beginning for our business! AND by making a pledge, you will become one of the first to receive first edition Pichinku yarn from our workshop in the Sacred Valley of Cusco. It’s win-win!
PICHINKU Naturally Dyed Peruvian Yarn
Note: Dana will continue to work with Threads of Peru as opportunities arise. This year, they are excited to offer several exceptional textile tours! Learn more here.
About Rachel Biel
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