November 30, 2009 The Tale of an Orchid

MachuPicchu_orchids
I have always coveted the breath-taking, stylistic beauty of orchids, but much to my chagrin, our climate is not conducive to their survival. Despite my best efforts to negate this reality, I have been reduced to appreciating their natural artistry through photos and dreams. My adoration exploded when I recently discovered that my beloved vanilla beans come from orchids. It seemed too good to be true: two of my favorite things combined in one glorious package! This culmination of love sent me reeling into a frenzy of research and fascination. What other miracles were hiding within these gorgeous plants? Coincidentally, I learned that orchids thrive in the rich climate of Peru, with over 3,000 different varieties found in all three regions: from the coast of the Pacific, to the Andean highlands and the jungle areas.

Cattleya-rex
Orchids were accidentally discovered by a British explorer, Swainson, who was collecting moss samples in the Amazonian jungle regions of South America for the horticulturalist William Cattley. Back in Great Britain, the collected samples produced beautiful lavender flowers, which became known as Cattleya orchids in 1818. Ever since this "official" recognition of orchids, more than 30,000 varieties have been identified around the world. This rare Cattleya Rex variety is strongly rooted in the city of Moyobamba in the northern high jungle of Peru. Known as "The Orchid City," Moyobamba is home to the most diverse selection of wild orchids in the world.

Masdevalliaveitchiana Although orchids were not officially classified until 1818, it is believed that these marvelous wonders existed thousands of years before. An ancient Quechua legend tells of a tragic "Romeo and Juliet" love story enchanted by bright red orchids. It is told that a young Incan princess destined to marry the Sun God fell hopelessly in love with a victorious warrior. Upon learning of their romance, her father, the Inca King, sent the warrior to the battlefields of the Amazonian mountains, knowing his death would be imminent. Heartbroken with tears streaming down her face, the princess followed her beloved into the forest. According to the legend, wherever her tears fell a bright red orchid bloomed, leaving a trail for her lost lover to follow. This bright red orchid, now known as Masdevallia Veitchiana is thought to be the most beautiful orchid variety and has even been honored with the First Class Certificate, the prestigious award of the American Orchid Society.

Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, houses the largest private orchid collection, with 372 species growing in the sanctuary of their natural habitat. Like Moyobamba (The Orchid City), tourists can embark on official "orchid tours" or enjoy leisurely strolls through the vast orchid trails. With awe-inspiring orchids blooming year round, this is simply one more reason to visit the marvelous world of Peru. I for one can’t wait to get lost in the perfumed beauty of the orchid trails!

Orchids have inspired artists and PC's designs over the years, including the Wild Orchid Silk Shift and the Floral Lacework Tunic, and a stylized orchid adorns this Holiday's Black Orchid Headband.

–Amanda Hart

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And the winner is…

DSCN2202MaryAnne Lauderdale of San Jose, California was the lucky winner of Peruvian Connection’s grand-prize shopping spree. The prize included a free trip (air and hotel) to Washington, DC, plus a $1,000 Peruvian Connection gift card to enjoy at our flagship store in downtown DC. DSCN2198 MaryAnne and her husband had a great time in Washington, where they visited the Ford Theater as well as the Newseum. And, of course, she loved trying on all of the clothes at Peruvian Connection, and came away with some beautiful outfits.

Here she models a couple of her glamourous favorites, the Victorian Corset Blouse and the Faubourg Dress.

Congratulations, MaryAnne!

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November 23, 2009 India’s Inspiring Mystique


Toran
From the famous Patola weaving of Patan to the intricate art of wood block printing, India’s mystical textile legacy has long been a touchstone of inspiration for our global designs. As I was amorously ogling the upcoming spring collection, gorgeous prints and hand-dyed fabrics from India kept my eyes sparkling with wonder. My heart leapt at a cardigan inspired by an antique block printed resist-dyed head covering from Gujurat, a sari-inspired little black dress and a skirt patterned after a Punjabi women’s bandhej shawl. We even have a few pieces that have been skillfully hand-embroidered and hand-beaded by artisans in India (remember the Raj Jacket from Holiday?). These striking pieces left me lusting for both the majestic garments and more knowledge about the textile tradition in India.

Indian textiles have flourished for thousands of years and can be traced back to early tribes in the Indus Valley, a Bronze Age civilization from as far back as 2600 B.C.E. They were referenced in ancient Hindu epics, traded along the historic Silk Road and were even found in Egyptian tombs. Prized for meticulous detailing, dazzling uniqueness and innovative techniques, India continues to produce the finest textiles around the world.

Child's dress Shaped by tradition, location and indigenous materials, every region within India has developed a distinctive style. From batik to printed fabric, from embroidery in the Punjab to the Rajasthan tie dye and from vibrant colors to muted pastels, the varying styles are rich with cultural heritage. The tie-dyed fabrics of Gujarat, known as Bandhej, are among the most celebrated in the world. In fact, Gujarat alone accounts for 25% of India’s massive textile production. Bandhej is a technique in which the printed portion of the fabric is pinched into small sections and then knotted with 2 or 3 threads. These knotted portions are left uncolored as the fabric is dyed in the lightest shade. Then the fabric is retied and dyed in a darker color for a unique shading effect. A similar process, known as Batik, is commonly employed in this area too. Batik also involves dying colors one at a time, from lightest to darkest, but instead of using thread wrapped knots, undyed areas are protected with molten wax. You can find a wide variety of Batik-inspired pieces throughout our collection, including the Totem Tank Dress.

Sari Often used to make wedding saris, the famous Patola weaving of Patan is known for its colorful and strikingly beautiful geometric patterns. Using a unique tie and weave method, silk threads are dyed in warps and wefts and then carefully woven on a hand operated harness loom made from rosewood and bamboo. Requiring extreme precision as the weft is woven into the warp, the desired pattern is achieved by an intricate juxtaposition of similarly dyed shades on equal lengths of interlaced warp and weft threads. It is a highly complicated process that has been perfected over the millennia.

Although the traditional method of Ajrakh is being replaced by more modern techniques, the intricate art of printing fabrics using wood blocks continues to blossom in Dhamadka, Jetpur and Kutch. Expensive and labor intensive, the entire process of Ajrakh involves 13 successive stages. After the fabric has been prepared and treated, a resist paste is block-printed by hand in order to retain the white areas of the final design. Different solutions are then individually applied to create the colorful portions of the pattern. For example, an alum solution mordant is applied onto areas that will eventually turn red. This complicated process yields a wonderful depth of color that can not be achieved with surface printing.

India has a vivacious reputation not only for their remarkable dying and weaving traditions, but also for their elaborate artistry in embroidery and beading. Using needle and thread, small mirrors, beads, gold filaments and even broken glass can be used to create illustrious embroideries. From this small sampling of techniques, I hope you too have an appreciation for the legendary acclaim of India’s textile tradition and an eager anticipation of our new spring collection!

Image of Qanat and child's dress from the Textile Museum's permanent collections.  See more Indian artistry as home furnishings in the Textile Museum's upcoming exhibit:
The Art of Living: Textile Furnishings from the Permanent Collection, Feb. 12, 2010 – Jan. 3, 2011

Amanda Hart

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November 16, 2009 Exclusive Knitting Patterns from a PC Designer

Every year when the temperatures start to fall, I’m compelled to get out the knitting needles, and go to the local knitting shop for some luscious new yarn. I only use yarns that inspire me, and nothing inspires me like a really soft, silky hand-dyed yarn in beautiful colors. I’m also inspired by the challenge of a new, innovative scarf pattern. One of PC’s designers, Tabbetha, who also happens to be a masterful knitter and all-around textile enthusiast, created two designs specifically for Peruvian Connection Baby Alpaca Handpainted Yarn. Whether you’re just beginning, or have been knitting for a lifetime, I think these patterns will inspire you. Click below for printable pdfs:

Tile Scarf Pattern
 
Undulating Leaves Scarf Pattern
EASY
 
ADVANCED
Tile Scarf Pattern
 
Undulating Leaves Scarf Pattern
Our apologies! The following error has been corrected on this pattern: Rows 15, 17, and 19 should start with K4.
     

You can purchase our Baby Alpaca Handpainted Yarn or Huaranguito Wood Knitting Needles by clicking on the links below. Not a knitter? You can also browse our website for Handknit Sweaters, or learn more about The Craft of Art Knitting and the countless hours that go into our luxury fiber garments. Or visit our stores to purchase yarn and knitting needles and get inspired by our luxurious handknits.

If you are in the U.S., please click here:

If you are in the U.K., please click here:

p.s. The Knitting Fool website was recommended by Eva, one of PC’s German staff members and accomplished knitter, as a reference for some of the Knitting Abbreviations used in these patterns.

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November 13, 2009 The Art of Chinese Silk

Bombyx_mori

From ancient Andean knits, Argentinean leather and Austrian crystal, we transcend global boundaries, searching the world for the most treasured resources. More recently, we have tapped into the vast wealth of Eastern textile traditions, most importantly China’s unprecedented silk legacy. Our talented designers and dedicated pattern makers have partnered with the world’s foremost silk manufacturers to bring you the most coveted fashions.

Chinese legend bestows Lady His-Ling-Shih with the mythical title Goddess of Silk, who is credited with the advent of silk production in China from 3000BC. Her monumental silk heritage may not be as far fetched as it seems. In fact, silkworms will only eat fresh mulberry trees and for thousands of years these trees were found only in China and Japan. It was not until 600 AD that the indigenous mulberry tree was smuggled out of China and brought westward.

Silkworms2

China’s magical silk legacy lies within its unique cultivation of the blind, flightless moth, Bombyx Mori. It is believed that the original ancestor of this moth was the Bombyx Mandarina Moore, a silk moth that lived on the white mulberry trees found only in China. Today, China is still the leading cultivator of this special moth species, which produces the finest, smoothest and roundest filament. The production of high quality silk is highly complicated and time-demanding, requiring precise temperature and diet regulations. The Chinese have long been heralded for their meticulous cultivation of these sensitive moths.

Silkworm eggs must be cultivated at 65 degrees, gradually and steadily increasing to 77 degrees, at which point they will hatch. Once hatched, the worms are regularly fed fresh, hand-picked mulberry leaves every half hour, day and night, multiplying their weight 10,000 times within a single month. During this period of growth, they must be kept at a fixed temperature and protected from loud noises, drafts and strong smells. Classical music is often played softly in the background, which increases their rate of growth.

Cocoons2
 
After they have stored up enough energy, the silkworms will spend 3 or 4 days spinning a cloud-like cocoon around themselves. When they are ready to be unwound for their precious silk filaments, about 8 or 9 days later, the worms are gently dipped into hot water to loosen the tight threads. From each cocoon a single filament between 2,000 and 2,500 feet long will be obtained, which is then twisted together with 5 to 8 other filaments to make a single thread! It is at this point that the threads can be woven into beautiful cloth.

Rawsilk

Today China is the leading producer of silk in the world, and for good reasons! Here at Peruvian Connection, we have been reveling in the luxury of fine, Chinese silk, which is like no other. We invite you to delight your senses in our exclusive silk confections, such as the French Quarter Dress, the Rosebud Dressor even the Black Magic Skirt, bringing to you our distinctive designs on a palette of prized silk.

–Amanda Hart


 

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