The primary part of the weaving process is with the shearing of the sheep, an event that normally occurs in spring-time, and is carried out manually using a sharp knife. The gathered wool will be used for all types of weaving and household textiles, with families selling the excess wool at market. The raw wool firstly needs to be spun however, to obtain a strong yet fine and even thread which can then be used for textiles. To spin the wool firstly the unwashed wool is wound around one of the spinner's wrists. Using both hands, the spinner will then tease the wool slowly to the desired thickness, whilst spinning the wooden spindle (or phusqa ) in a circle, to gather the thread (see top image). Once all the wool has been spun once, wool from two different spindles are then combined and doubled, using a third spindle to spin the two separate threads into one single, thicker thread. This thread is then wound around the spinner's hand and elbow, to form a skein, ready for washing.
The skein of wool is washed with soap or ashes in warm water, to both clean the wool of any dirt, and to strip it of its natural grease, leaving it ready to be dyed. The skeins are dyed in saucepans full of boiling water, which are tinted the desired colour, as well as containing various fixing agents, such as lemon. In the saucepan, the skein is constantly agitated, only removed and dried when it has absorbed the desired amount of dye. Traditionally, wool is dyed with a range of natural ingredients, such as mud, sulphur, insects (cochineal), leaves and flowers; however, due to their comparative cheapness, and reliability, chemical tints are being used more and more frequently. Dyed skeins are classified as being one of four tones, or guises q'illu (red to yellow tones), parti (purple and blue tones), q'umir (green tones) and pink. Of course, the Tarabuco will use all the tones, whilst the Jalq'a generally only require black and red for their pallays.
For the technique practiced by the women, firstly the weavers must prepare a frame (or loom ) with a net of wool, called the warp in English, or saya in Quechua. In the case of the Jalq'a, red and black wool will be wrapped around the loom, one red thread for every black, whilst for the Tarabuqueños the white cotton is accompanied with the rainbow of different coloured wool which forms the recognisable stripy pattern. It is only after the loom has been fully threaded, that the weaver will then separate the two different colours, placing a long, thin stick high up on the loom called the illawa , to keep one colour beneath whilst the other rests above. During weaving, the weaver will pass a small, sharp stick along the loom, drawing a string along, called the weft , from one side to the other. By choosing which colour thread from the warp to place in front of this weft, the weaver forms the design of the pallay. To ensure a high quality and dense design, after every weft has been passed from one side to the other the weaver will strike it down firmly to tighten the weave, using a tool made from an animal bone.
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