Peru - To Dye For - Part 2

For many visiting the Pisac Market, the natural dye stand is a favorite.  Dozens of canisters filled with brightly coloured powders are dyes that have been used for generations to create vibrantly coloured wools. Over time, however, this ancient knowledge was rapidly vanishing in the Andean culture - there was a decline in using the natural dyeing process as the ease of using synthetic dyes and materials were being introduced. 

More recently, however, there is a resurgence in wanting to use the natural dye process - to preserve the knowledge and skills of their ancient traditions.  I learned that it’s even possible to attend week-long natural dye and weaving courses which is becoming more popular with tourists!


The various colours of the dye can come from a variety of natural materials including plants, flowers, fungus, wood, and even parasites.  To achieve the deep reds often seen in Peruvian culture, our tour guide Rony (Friendly Planet) stopped along the roadside in the Sacred Valley to show us where the ‘cochineal’ is found - living on the prickly pear.PricklyPear_MG_6296.jpgCochineal, a scale parasite, is the most commonly used substance to produce red dye. By adding different natural additives, such as lemon salt, to the cochineal other hues are produced.  PricklyPear_MG_6683.jpg CochinealParasite_MG_6682.jpgQuite fascinating to learn where the different colours are derived from in nature.  REDS - from the cochineal insect, PURPLES - from cochineal and the addition of lemon salt, ORANGES - from lichen or flowers, GREENS - a combination of plants and minerals, BLUES and GREYS - using various amounts of Tara a bean-like pod and blue colpa (locally iron sulfate) or indigo dyes, some GREYS - alpaca fleece is grey so no dyeing is required when the wool is spun, BROWNS - some alpaca and sheep are naturally brown so no need to dye when spinning their fleece, or from lichen can also be used in various amounts to produce a brown colour dye, YELLOWS - flowers from plants and trees, or from lichen produce varying hues of yellow, BLACKS and WHITES - alpaca, sheep and llamas naturally produce these colours.

Back at the Pisac Market, the woman at the dye stand was demonstrating how the colour of the dye powder is NOT the final colour. Surprise! PisacMarket_MG_6101.jpg

That is cochineal in the bowl - where the Andean deep-red is derived from.PisacMarket_MG_6101_.jpg
PisacMarket_MG_6102.jpg PisacMarket_00250.jpg PisacMarket_MG_6099.jpg

Day 5 - Friendly Planet - Amazing Peru Tour

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Welcome to my travel photo blog. Photography has been a part of my life for a long time – back in the day the Pentax Super Program was always near at hand. But it wasn’t until I started travelling around the world that photography became a vehicle for me to show others about the absolutely amazing and complex world we live in. My hope is to share with you glimpses of what I’ve seen. Enjoy!