Sheep Wool

Ovis Aries Aries

KAI Residency
Artist Kira Leskinen
Natural dyes
Chilca leaves
Colli flower

Wool is the textile fibre in this case obtained from sheep. As an animal fiber wool consists of protein together with a low percentage of lipids.  It is chemically very different than cotton or other plant fibers that consist of mainly cellulose.

Wool has been used by humans for thousands of years and over the centuries sheep have been bred and crossbred, thus creating several breeds of wool. It can be used for different purposes, depending on the coarseness and length of the fiber. The length of the wool fiber depends not only on the sheep, but also on the spinning interval, which normally can vary from half a year to a year.

Artist Kira Leskinen stayed at KAI residency in Peru and during that time visited the Pumaqwasi community located in Pucamarca, Chinchero. The Pumaqwasi community works with sheep wool and natural dyes made with local plants. 

Before the sheep wool is turned into yarn it is cleaned with inca shampoo, a natural soap made from freshly grinded saqta root. Then the yarns are handspun and dyed with natural dyes in large pots. For the colors different plants, flowers and minerals are used, like colli flower for the yellows and chilca leaves for the greens. For creating red and purple tones they use a fine powder made of dried and crushed cochineal insects. When the yarn has absorbed the color (around 20-40 minutes depending on the color), it is taken out of the pot and let settle for a little while before washing it in a nearby lake. Finally the skeins of yarn are dried in the sun. The dried yarn is winded into balls.


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