August 16, 2013 A Rainbow of Natural Dyes

As eco-awareness spreads around the world, it’s refreshing to remember the natural, sustainable practices in places such as Peru.  Natural dyes and fabrics are not simply a trend in Peru, they are a way of life.  Peruvian textile techniques are a time-honored tradition, with roots that extend back hundreds of years, well before the advent of chemicals and synthetic dyes. Although Peru was not immune to the spread of synthetic dyes in the late 19th/early 20th century, many Peruvians have continued to produce eco-friendly dyes from insect, plant and mineral sources.  Peru has seen a resurgence in natural dye production over the past few decades, as demand has steadily increased.

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photo: Kelsey Quam

The bold red hues that characterize many Andean textiles often start with a bug: the Cochineal.  As early as the 15th century, the Aztecs and Mayans were extracting red dyes from the cochineal. Cochineal feed on the prickly pear cactus, which thrives in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Cochineal yields over 20 shades of red, pink, and even blue depending on the type of fixant used. Cochineal is also used as a food additive, and is the only natural red dye approved for consumption by the FDA.

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Peruvians also extract red dye from an indigenous red flower, the Achancaray, or madder root, which is one of the earliest known red dyes in mankind. Mot’e mot’e, Yamamiyo, and Nukch’u are native Andean plants also used for red dye. While these alternatives are in use, cochineal is favored for its unique red colors that mark the beauty of Andean textiles. For more information on cochineal, see the book Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color by Elena Phipps.

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Yellow and orange dyes are made from the flowers of the Qolle tree or Quico flowers, both indigenous plants of Peru. Orange dyes can also be extracted from Beard Lichen, known as Qaqa Sunka in Quechua.

The color green can be derived from a gamut of plant and mineral sources, with Ch’illca, a green leafy shrub with white flowers, being one of the most common. The essential oil found in Ch’illca also has many medicinal purposes, and can be used to help protect and heal Alpaca skin.

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photo: http://www.saobancrafts.com/our-products/silk/natural-dyeing

Indigo is one of the oldest and most coveted dyes in the world, used in ancient India to create gorgeous blue hues to be worn only by royalty. Indigo is still used as a natural dye source, but it can be rare in Peru as it does not grow in the region.  Instead, Peruvians tend to rely on a combination of Tara, a native pod, and Colpa, an iron sulfate, to create natural blue dyes.

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While synthetic dye is readily available and much easier to use, cultural revitalization programs – such as dyeing workshops sponsored by NGOs, cooperatives, and textile projects, bring hope to indigenous weavers in revitalizing the ancient textile techniques.

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There are many beautiful textiles and garments produced without any dyes at all.  Alpaca fleece is available in a beautiful range of natural colors, including black, grey, white and caramel.

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Summer on the Farm

Here at Peruvian Connection headquarters, we enjoy sharing our habitat with songbirds, tree frogs, free range chickens, and a happy-go-lucky bloodhound named Bonnie.  We are lucky enough to have our offices on a family farm in rural Kansas. In addition to the fauna, we’re treated to the gorgeous flora of the Canaan Farm iris gardens. They’re at their prime in May, but are just as luscious in the dog days of summer, when roses and poppies bloom and the butterflies and frogs settle in for the season.

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Glimpses of Spring ’14: a Behind-the-Scenes Look at our Style-out

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Explore our Stores

A visit to a Peruvian Connection store brings to life the experience of shopping our original, ethnographic-inspired collections. Our one-of-a-kind stores are located on iconic shopping streets in historic neighborhoods. Each store has an ambiance as distinctive and authentic as its surroundings with carefully-curated antique décor and fixtures. Reflective of our commitment to historic textiles and artisan craft, our stores are as unique and inspired as our apparel. You’ll feel it the minute you step inside.

Come visit a Peruvian Connection store in Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Santa Fe, or San Francisco. Our original collection of artisan-made, luxury fiber clothing and accessories is even more amazing in person! In the meantime, take a virtual tour of our stores with our online slideshow:

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July 25, 2013 Fall 2013 Inspiration

The Fall 2013 collection features delicate floral prints, rich detail and ethnographic patterning. Inspiration comes from many sources, including ancient textiles, the work of artisans from around the globe, as well as the beauty found in nature.

Inspired by the intricate floral motifs from Islamic decorative tiles, with an overall Central Asian aesthetic: Samarkand Dress, Madero Reversible Jacket, Las Flores Pinafore

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Influenced by the geometric detailing found in Indonesian handwoven textiles: Java TeeNicobar Dress

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top photo: Jakarta Post

Subtly patterned in marbled swirls and abstract lace patterns based on decorative papers:
Bolinas Skirt, Paloma Skinny Pants, Lacework Long Tank, Fiorentina Skirt

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Inspired by drawings of the Canaan Farm iris garden here at PC headquarters: Sketchbook Floral Dress

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Richly detailed in billowy cloud forms from ancient Chinese textiles: Cumulus TunicCloudscape Dress, Tambora Cardigan

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top photo: Tina Tabone: Textile Art

Based on the shimmering feathers and patterning of a bird’s plumage: Ariadne Dress, Mirage SheathScarlatti Dress

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Striped in bands of color from Andean woven manta motifs, some with cross-cultural influences from traditional Scandinavian and Fair Isle knit patterns:  Ayaviri Striped DressCross-Cultural Pullover, Chinchero CardiganByways CardiganHuaraz Short Skirt, Manta Blanket

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Mimicking the delicate lacy patterns from butterfly wings: Lacewing Dress

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butterfly wing image: DeviantArt.com

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