Yarns (really good quality ones, at least) were elusive for me during the first 8 months we lived in Peru. All of the yarn was acrylic in the shops in Huancayo. Some had a touch of alpaca or wool mixed in, but the majority component was acrylic. After some asking around, our host mom heard about Hualhuas, which was just 30 minutes down the valley from where we were living.
Hualhuas, as I’ve blogged about before, had a lot of natural alpaca and wool, but the yarn had been spun unevenly and was full of bits of vegetation from the animals romping around in the fields (evidence in bottom right photo below). It was nice to know that the yarn was completely natural and also to know exactly where the fiber was coming from, but there was something frustrating about picking out the little pieces of grass and dealing with the uneven yarn while knitting it up. I did manage to knit up some projects with these yarns, including two sweaters for my husband. They are truly a one-of-a-kind garments with the striping occurring naturally due to the variation in coloring of the alpacas. (For those of you with Ravelry accounts, you can see my full project notes here and here.)
While the sweaters were wonderful keepsakes from our time there, I had been dying to get my hands on some really nice quality yarn. I did lots of internet snooping on expat blogs and online forums, typing in all sorts of search term combinations of yarn + shop + Peru. The only mentions to yarn shops that I could find were in Lima, but that was an 8-hour bus ride over a pass at 15,000 feet from where we were living in Huancayo. So I recorded all the yarn shop tips I had found from my searching and made a plan for our next stop through Lima. And I am happy to report that I found three places with beautiful yarns!!
The first yarn I found was at a high-end shop, Sol Alpaca, which sells machine-knitted garments made from Peruvian alpaca and vicuña fibers. It’s located in the Larco Mar shopping mall in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima. Buried in the back of the shop, next to the novelty shirts and socks, were skeins of yarn! They had two varieties, a worsted weight made from baby alpaca and silk, and a bulky weight made from alpaca. I opted for the worsted weight version and bought 3 skeins each of a mellow cream and vibrant turquoise color. The yarn was a little on the pricier end (US$8.65/skein), but that’s still pretty good compared to what a similar skein would cost in the US. It’s so so so soft and shimmery thanks to the bit of silk in the yarn. I couldn’t wait to knit it up, and as soon as we got home from our trip I whipped up a Hudson cowl by Alicia Plummer for Quince and Co. I love, love, love the way the cowl turned out and how it feels against my skin! It’s nice that it can be worth just draped once around the neck or doubled-up for a warmer version. I have a feeling I may whip up another one with the remaining yarn! (Full project notes here.)
My second yarn find was at Dédalo, yet another high-end shop/art gallery in the Barranco neighborhood. The shop is located in an old house with each room featuring a collection of different items, from jewelry to textiles. I spied some handknits in one of the rooms and was surprised to find a stash of yarns tucked away on some shelves. The yarns were by Ecotintes (a company committed to using natural dyes) and came in different weights of wool or cotton. I opted for four skeins of a fingering weight wool in a dark blue/green color. The skeins were more reasonably priced at US$4.15/each. I also couldn’t wait to use this yarn and knit up the Camilla Shawl Light as a gift for my mother-in-law (project notes here). The finished product was beautiful and full of wonderful texture. The only issue I had with the yarn was that it bled onto my hands pretty badly, so I opted to wear an apron while I was knitting to protect my clothes just in case! I soaked the shawlette twice in cold water just to make sure all of the excess dye was out of it before blocking and that seemed to do the trick. (Sidenote: We went back to Dédalo once more in the springtime and they were carrying a line of Peruvian cotton yarns instead of the Ecotintes wool. I wasn’t thrilled with the color selection of the cotton yarns though, and decided I would rather spend my money (and limited suitcase space) on alpaca yarns.)
And, finally, the best for last! The mecca of yarn stores in Peru–Michell! The yarn produced by this company is used to make the high-end products at Sol Alpaca. They have locations in Lima (Miraflores), Arequipa, and Cusco, Peru. I managed to visit both the Cusco (a happy accident) and then the Lima location to stock up one last time before we departed Peru. They have all varieties and weights of yarn for sale, ranging from lace-weight alpaca (~$US35/1 kg) to DK weight baby alpaca (packs of ten 50 gram skeins run ~$US25). They also have wool/alpaca blends, and they have both natural and dyed yarns available in nearly every color of the rainbow. The only things they don’t seem to have are the slightly fancier alpaca/silk blends that I had purchased from the actual Sol Alpaca shop. If you’re ever in Lima, this is the one yarn shop you HAVE to go to. Just beware, they only accept cash. I purchased one large cone of light fingering-weight alpaca in a melange of blue and turquoise, and four packs of the DK weight baby alpaca (that’s 40 skeins of baby alpaca yarn, y’all!). I’ve currently got projects with both yarns on the needles, a Watson cardigan by Amy Miller with the fingering weight, and a L’Arbre hat by Cirilia Rose (as part of the Fringe Association’s “hatalong”) in the DK weight (more about that project later this week!).
Moral of the story here, there’s a lot of good quality yarn in Peru. 🙂 If you ever find yourself in Lima, I hope you will be able to visit the yarn shops and find something that you love!
This is an edited version of a post first published on my other blog, Vida Huancaína.