By Cheryl Potter Marschke
When I go to Peru in search of fine fibers, I often bring innovative handpaint techniques and color combinations to experiment and Andes Yarn has always been completely receptive.
Since I last visited in 2010, the co-operative has purchased a warehouse at the outskirts of Arequipa to renovate into a dye house that employs 24 women from the Socabaya district, a short bus ride to work for them—but a long commute for collaborators like me.
I drove to their new facility with my friend Raul. Although it does a little commercial work for local mills, Andes focuses on two techniques: kettle dyeing and handpainting. Kettle dyed semi solids are popular as are traditional handpaints that feature short color stretches that produce mosaic results.
Andes does not use self-striping techniques as it does not have specialized equipment to wind the large hanks needed to produce long color stretches. No matter, I am here to teach a new method I call Broad Band, which combines luxury fibers and self-striping handpaints into broader gradient shifting shades of color.
Although it lacks a fair trade certificate, Andes hires workers on a traditional basis, which means that jobs are not contracted seasonally, but guaranteed year round. Employees are selected for artistic talent; training can take months for those who wish to learn how to handpaint yarn for Andes. At the time of my visit, 5 of the 24 women were apprentices.
Unlike other area co-ops, Andes does not feature secret methods, or fancy machinery but does offer custom work and exclusivity when it comes to color and technique. One unique aspect that I particularly appreciate is that Andes invites yarn companies into their studio to collaborate, rather than just offer up ranges of shades as other dye houses do.
In this way, Andes actually becomes an extension of its clientele. Five years ago, I demonstrated all 33 standard Cherry Tree Hill colorways to Andes, and the co-op has never failed to reproduce the colors exactly.
Our partnership has been wonderful and reciprocal. Not only did the time Andes spent painting my colorways let me concentrate on teaching and writing, it also allowed me to focus on my new Potluck Yarn Trilogy book series. I also like to think that because I offered to teach new technique at this co-op, some of these women have viable jobs.
I spent a few hours instructing three dyers how to paint Broad Band. The co-op filmed me dyeing samples with a translator and when we were done everyone understood the process and together we had produced some good examples. In all, we created 25 color combinations. I can’t wait to see their results!
Note: Since the time of this writing, Broad Band Colorways are expected to arrive in December 2013 and Cheryl will be showing them for the first time at the Potluck Yarn Booth at TNNA in San Diego, January 2014.
New Broad Band Yarns will be available at The Potluck Yarn Shop, for a very limited time…