Inca Knitted Hats | Jun 1, 2013

June 1, 2013

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In the Andes In the Andes mountains the traditional Inca knitted hats are made to be worn by men  and by babies, not by women whose dramatic hats are entirely different. Men usually wear their knitted chullo hats for warmth and then on top often wear another broader brimmed hat to shade their faces from the high altitude sun.

The traditional hats are extremely fine, tightly knitted, not loose like those seen in the markets that are meant for sale. (The latter I would call “trade goods.) Now the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco has introduced natural dying which is used in knitting by villagers associated with the Center.

In Chinchero, Peru and elsewhere, the practice of distinct Inca knitting had become almost extinct by the 1980s. Only one old lady in Chinchero and her son knew the complicated process. Nilda Callañaupa, as a young girl, went to this woman and asked if she could learn from her the unique Inca knitting. Nilda started to learn by making a tiny bag and progressed until she knit a whole hat. She then passed on the technique to her niece, Yolanda. On and on the knowledge spread. Even from a young age Nilda was intent on preserving her Inca weaving traditions.

boys hat

Man from Acha Alta knitting a chullo (pro: choo yo) -photo by David VanBuskirk

The Inca traditional knitting is difficult and time-consuming but now it is widely practiced by weavers committed to carrying forward the tradition.

Some beautiful knitted hats are made by men in Acha Alta, Peru, as in the photograph above.

A wide selection of the best knitted hats for men and children are on display in the exhibition at the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, 603 Av. Sol, Cusco, Peru and for sale in the Center’s Museum shop.

Photographs by David VanBuskirk