Original content from Threads of Peru
Spinning is the process of turning the raw wool and fibers, shorn from the animals, into strong, consistent useful threads. Quechua weavers use a drop spindle (pushka), which is similar to a wooden top with an elongated axis. The pushka varies in size with the diameter of thread being spun. The act of spinning is known as puskhay. Multiple threads are combined to form stronger ones. Single strands of thread are removed from the pushkas, combined into balls and skeins, and then spun together again.
Spinning is done while walking along the road, chatting with friends, or watching over one’s children or sheep.
The process of combining threads is called plying or k’antiy. A larger version of the pushka is used to do k’antiy, creating double (2-ply) or triple (3-ply) strands of yarn into thinner, stronger and more consistent yarn for weaving. The strands can go to 4-ply or higher, but this is less common. Alpaca fiber can be spun into much finer threads than sheep’s wool.
It’s rare to see an Andean woman or young girl without her hands busy spinning. It is a predominately feminine activity in indigenous culture, and often so commonplace as to be performed almost unconsciously. It is also common, in weaving communities, for boys to learn how to spin from a young age. Men will often know how to spin, even if they don’t learn to weave. Spinning is done while walking along the road, chatting with friends, or watching over your children or sheep. It’s a skill that people begin training in as children, and it takes years of practice to spin proficiently. Thus, spinning is a refined art in and of itself; one whose difficulty is often overlooked. Spinning is a vital part of the weaving process, as the yarn must be fine, but strong and even to be useful in weaving high-quality textiles.
Read more about the Alpaca Fiber & Wool Process here.