Peruvian textile weaving draws on a legacy more than 2000 years old. The fineness and quality of Peruvian textiles has always been due to the patience, knowledge and skill of the
weaver, and not the technology he or she employs, which is very simple. The primitive back strap loom, unchanged for centuries, is used to weave even the most intricate textiles.
According to textile experts, the ancient Peruvians employed practically every method of textile weaving and decoration now known, with the exception of the roller and block printing and some techniques of recent invention, and made finer products than are made today.
There are three principal reasons why the textile art was of such importance in Peru, and therefore attained such a high degree of excellence. The harsh climate of the highlands required warn clothing, and even on the coast, some protection was needed against chilly fogs. The Peruvians were the only Native Americans to possess wool, from the camelidae family of the llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuņa, and they harvested cotton on the coast. Also, in the context of the highly developed and centralized culture of the Andes, there was much leisure time between planting and harvesting which could be devoted to the arts. In the Inca Empire, specially chosen women devoted their entire lives to weaving.
Peruvian textiles are woven from sheep's wool, alpaca and llama. The wool is processed as it always has been, with a drop spindle. Every village has its own weaving patterns. There are thousands of techniques, layouts, styles and practices associated with Peruvian weaving. Different pieces employ different color combinations and may be of varying size, according to region. Weavings have always served as items of identification and status. Each area has its own designs which may be worn in a distinct fashion.
A woman's social status is defined by the quality of her weavings. A skilled weaver is seen by her community as capable in other activities. Different quality weavings are produced. A lliclla, or shawl, may be intended for every day use or for a special occasion.
The birth of a child, for example, is traditionally marked by the weaving of a new textile, just as the death of a loved one may be commemorated in the same way.
The design of a textile comes from what the weaver perceives both in her surroundings and within herself. The colors employed may tell the observer how the weaver was feeling. Dark colors might denote sadness or melancholy, while a predominance of bright colors, of course, reflects the happiness she was feeling as she wove the piece.