Our next day with Raul was devoted to teaching new handpaint techniques to a hand dye co-op exclusive to Michell called Andes Yarn.
Andes recently purchased a facility at the outskirts of the city and employs 24 women from the Socabaya district of Arequipa, which means a short ride to work, but a long commute for our visit!
Andes uses two hand dye techniques: kettle dye and handpaint, but does not self-stripe the co-op does not have the specialized equipment needed. No matter, I came here to teach a new kind of handpaint I call Broad Band, which combines self striping handpaints into broader bands of shifting shades.
Unlike other contractors, Andes hires workers based on “formal” or traditional employment, meaning that jobs are not seasonal, but full time. Employees are selected for artistic talent and training can take months.
Typically, Andes invites hand dye companies down to teach technique, in effect making their co-op an extension of their client. Five years ago, I showed all 33 standard Cherry Tree Hill colorways to Andes, and they have never failed to reproduce the colors exactly as I demonstrated.
Unlike other dye studios, Andes has no secret methods or fancy machinery but does offer custom work and exclusivity when it comes to color. My partnership with Andes has been wonderful and reciprocal. The time they spend on my yarn allows me freedom to concentrate on writing my Potluck Yarn fantasy series. Because I am down here teaching, some of these women have viable jobs.
I spent a few hours showing my Broad Band method to three lead dyers. The owners filmed me dyeing a sample hank with a translator and when we were done everyone understood the process and we had produced a good sample hank. I can’t wait to see more.
On the way back to the city center, traffic was horrendous as it was the lunch hour of 1 o’clock. Raul parked the car in an alley and took us to a crepe shop where we had crepes and caprese salad in an open courtyard near one of the four churches on the square.
Then we went back to our hotel to pack. Tomorrow we fly to Cusco and Tim is anxious to see the colonial city and the ruins of the Sacred Valley, but I am certainly going to miss the mills and yarn co-ops of Arequipa.