Making Cloth to Build Community

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Image by Yolanda Coervers from Pixabay

Joshua Leo and Liz Waid look at a group of Peruvian women – weavers who make cloth. They are using their skills to make their lives better.

Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand – no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1

A woman sits on a high, green mountain side in Peru. She watches her animals – a group of sheep and alpacas. She keeps these animals for their hairy wool. The woman is careful to watch the alpaca, but she is also busy in another way. She is weaving wool from the animals to make a colorful cloth. It can be used for clothes, or in a home. She learned this traditional skill from her mother. And she continues to teach her daughters, and other women in her village. She hopes that weaving cloth will create a better future for her community.

Voice 2

The woman is working with the organization Awamaki. Awamaki supports native Quechua communities in Peru. These traditional communities are very poor. But they have a deep cultural history to share with the world. Today’s Spotlight is on Awamaki and their work with the Quechua weavers of Peru.

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The Quechua people live in the high Andes mountains in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile. They live a simple life. It is centred on farming and family. They raise sheep. But they also raise many kinds of camelid animals – llamas, alpacas, vicuña, and guanacos. They use these animals for food. But they also use their hairy wool to make clothing and art.

Indigenous Weaver” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Julie Edgley
Voice 2

Each kind of camelid animal has a different kind of wool. Llama wool is very rough. They use it mostly for making rope or bags. Vicuña wool is very soft, but can only be harvested every few years. However, people can harvest alpaca wool often. This fine wool is softer and warmer than sheep wool. Baby alpaca wool is the softest and most valued alpaca wool. It is used for fine clothes and scarves for warmth.

Voice 1

The Quechua people also use the wool from these animals to make weavings. Then, they use these weavings to make warm clothes, pieces of art, blankets, and more. The images in Quechua weavings are shared through generations. A weaver repeats images again and again in a weaving. Weavers choose images for their meaning and history. These images include animals, plants, gods, people from history, water, and the stars. The image may not be clear immediately. For example, the whole animal may not appear. The weaver may only show the marks from its feet. A talented weaver combines many different images.

Voice 2

Awamaki is based in the town of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is in what is called “The Sacred Valley” of Peru. This area is high in the Andes between Machu Picchu and Cusco. More than 500 years ago, it was part of the Incan empire – this people group ruled a large area stretching through many countries in South America. Ollantaytambo is a beautiful example of a traditional Incan town. People still use the original Incan walls, farming terraces, and irrigation channels, used to bring water to farms and villages. Hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists come through this area each year. They want to see these Incan places, and the Quechua people. Many women in this area weave traditional cloth. And they sell the clothes and other products to tourists. But in the past, they did not get fair prices for their work. They did not know the best things to sell to tourists. And this is how Awamaki helps.

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Awamaki has four main goals. First, they want to make sure the tradition of Quechua weaving continues. They are helping the Quechua women bring their work to the market, and get a fair price.

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Second, Awamaki wants to help the women sell their work around the world. They sell the traditional weaving and clothes over the internet. But Awamaki also connects the women with clothing designers in other countries. They work together to make new and interesting designs.

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Third, Awamaki also wants to improve the lives of the weavers, their families, and their communities. The women of Awamaki have a regular income. They can depend on earning money each month. The money earned also goes back to their communities. Some of the money is saved in a medical fund for the women and their children. If a medical emergency comes up, the women can use this money to help their families.

Voice 2

Finally, Awamaki is helping to save traditional weaving methods. To weave their cloth, Quechua weavers use a backstrap loom. This kind of weaving is special to Quechua weavers. A weaver working with this loom will sit on the ground. One end of the loom attaches to a pole or stick in the ground. The other end of the loom attaches to the weaver by a strap around their back. The backstrap loom is very easy to carry. A weaver can roll it up and take it with her. If she is watching her sheep or llamas in the field, she can bring her loom. If she is visiting friends, she can bring her loom. Awamaki wants to protect this way of weaving.

Voice 1

Through Awamaki, the women also learn new weaving skills. They go on field trips to meet other weavers. By meeting other weavers, they have a chance to learn and improve their skills. Awamaki is also teaching the Quechua women how to use natural dyes. These dyes colour the cloth. In the past, Quechua people dyed all cloth naturally. They would use things like plants, insects, roots, fruits, and seeds. More recently, traders have been bringing new chemical dyes to the weavers. These dyes are cheap. They are also easier – the women do not have to take time to gather and prepare natural dyes.

Voice 2

As a result, many Quechua women forgot or never learned how to use natural dyes. This tradition was about to be lost. But Awamaki trains their weavers to use the natural dyes again. The women are re-learning the old ways of dying wool. The natural colors are much softer, and more beautiful.

Voice 1

These Quechua women are changing their lives. Their work is valued. They earn a fair payment for their weavings. And they can depend on this money each month. They are learning new dying, spinning, and weaving skills. They are able to take care of their families. Through Awamaki, they are building their community.

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Johanna Poole. The producer was Joshua Leo. The voices you heard were from the United States. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called ‘Making Cloth to Build Community’.

Voice 1

If you have a comment or question about any Spotlight program, you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. Or you can leave a comment on the script page of the program on our website, radioenglish.net. You can also find Spotlight on Facebook and Twitter. Just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Have you ever seen the Quechua cloth? Are there traditional ways of making cloth in your culture? Write your answer below.

Join the discussion

  • In Ecuador, my country there are the culture quechua, the clothes are soo very beatifull and expensive, the people appreciate this clothes because are made to hands.

  • I no think that seen the Quechua cloth in the past but this boardcast now seen.it very beautiful and wonderful.and think makes it is work hard and tired.however,it’s method of traditional more than industri.with organization Awamaki is found. in my country Syria,cloth is industri do it traders.
    they make it in factories special with it.

  • No , I ‘ve never seen , but in my culture , we ‘ve made the dress from textile and also , some times , we use weaving for making hats , scarfs .

  • Yes , I have seen them in documentary program, It was amazing. and yes we have it in my country but the difference all region have traditional cloth so the north it’s not like the south.

  • Hello. I seemed listen to this story very nice. I always listen to spotlight English. I am new student who has been studying since 2019. I will try to my best

  • From: ssramossilva@gmail.com
    To: spotlight program
    Subject: to answer to the questions below
    Date: Wednesday 07, October 2020
    Location: São Paulo city – São Paulo Brasil South America
    Dear Liz Waid, Johanna Poole, and Joshua Leo
    First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one great article. Thank you. Also, I want to say that Peru country is next to my country Brazil. Peruvians are my neighbours and I love them.
    Question 1 – Have you ever seen the Quechua cloth?
    Answer 1 – Yes, I have. Here in Brazil, there are a lot of people from Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and other countries. So these people come to Brazil to work in sewing field for brazilian entrepreneurs. So, I see them wearing their colourful and bealtiful clothes.
    Question 2 – Are there traditional way of making cloth in your country.
    Answer 2 – Yes, there are. In a formal way, sport way, winter way, summer way, beach way, and spring way.
    Thank you very much and God bless you.
    Severino Ramos da Silva

  • I’m Ecuadorian, in my country is traditional wear Quechua cloth in the some regions, also is interesting to know about this culture because within their traditions there are some different even within the same country.

  • Hello, I’m Washington. I’m ecuadorian. In my country there is a famus comunity called Otavalo. They make cloth using traditional ways. They travel over the world carring their cloth.

  • In my country Egypt, we have like those weavers in Al Arish , north Sainai
    as many tribes in Al arish depending on weaving cloth as main income resource


  • Yes I see the Quechua cloth in magazine national geographic channel and my culture have a same traditional but it’s different and thank you for this information

  • In Ecuador, my country there are the culture quechua, the clothes are soo very beatifull and expensive, the people appreciate this clothes because are made to hands.

  • I think this kind of clothes its very interesting and amazing , because they are make clothes by hand , I wish to get some clothes like this , but I think h cant find this type of clothes here in KSA.
    thank you Spotlight .

  • In fact, I have no idea before about the Quechua cloth. I enjoyed listening to the information about Quechua cloth. I am so interested in the traditional cloth because they are so colorful and handmade.

  • it was very good to know a little more about this people i admire a lot. i thank you so much.

  • The Quechua cloth is natural
    Yes in morrocco we have a many traditional ways to making cloth with a lot of traditional things for exemple with sheepskin..

  • No , i haven’t ever seen the Quechua cloth , but after that episode i became excited to see them and i wish i could ,
    2 Yes there are lots of traditional ways to make cloth .

  • I’ve never seen this kind of clothes , I hope to see such, in my country yes we have traditional way of making clothes, our grandmothers they got their own sewing way to make very nice dresses! I’m from UAE proud to be from

  • No . Never seen the Quechua cloth but l’m suer l well like it . In my culture we don’t have Quechua clothe but we have thwb alnashil

  • I have never seen a Quechua cloth, but in my country particularly in the Asir region, our women weaving by using natural materials traditional cloth, carpets, and painting. so we have something in common with the Quechua culture.

  • What i beautiful episode , thank you .my answer is no i have not seen i Quechua cloth on real life but i want , in my culture at the past we used to make our cloths from the animals wool so it’s kind of similar to Quechua’s culture.

  • الفويس الاول وين القى الكلام اللي يقراء ابيه مكتوب وينه

  • No I’m never see their cloth , in kuwait we have a saado only the old woman can do it perfectly and my grandma always making thes things and l loved .

  • -No , I’ve never seen it
    – yes , Here in my country we are respect our traditional clothes. We are wearing them at a very big ceremonies like weddings or graduations even some people wearing them every single day. So that’s make many designers and traders invested in our traditional clothes . I know I talked a lot about details maybe not important and ignored one from very important things it is the clothing itself our traditional clothes for men called Thoob women called Abaya .

  • I have not seen the Quechua cloth , or may be seen it but I did not known them
    Yes my country has tradition method for the weaving clothes , bags , cover food , baby shoes , baby cover , blankets and other

  • Yes l saw the quechua cloth in the movie it so nice and beautiful , no we don’t have a traditonal ways of making cloth.

  • This is the first time that I hear about Quechua, but it is very interesting.
    In my country, we have traditional Farming embroidery. It is very nice and beautiful.
    Thank you for this amazing object

  • no, I have never seen the Quechua cloth.
    yes, traditional ways of making clothes are in my culture, where the women weaving wool and cotton to make sweaters, scarves, socks, and gloves for their families. and more earning money by selling their products to others.

  • no i havnt see the ouechua cloth..
    i dont know the real if we have a ways to making cloth،becuse i never meet any quechua pepole in my life..

  • i have never seenthe Quechua cloth.But There are tradition ways of making cloth in my culture. There are 108 ethics groups in my country so we make different kind of traditional costume from wool, cotton, soft,etc…

  • AAMMM i do not even sure see it , but i rely wanted to se this culture ,I think in my town we do this culture .

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