A Story Worth PERUsing

Have you ever had those Andes mints?  You know how they’re the perfect mix of sweet and cool?

This post has something that’s both sweeter and cooler.  And actually from the Andes, not the American midwest.

Peru has the longest continuous history of textile creation in the world, going back almost 10,000 years to around the time of the beginning of agriculture.  One of the most distinctive creations is the chullo, the Incan knitted hat.

Traditionally, the hats are made to be worn by babies and grown men, who wear their chullo hats for warmth in the high altitudes of the Andes mountains, then layer a broad-brimmed hat on top to get some protection from the sun.  Though they’re not typically worn by women, the modern chullo hat likely would have gone extinct without the efforts of a young girl named Nilda Callañaupa.  In the 1980s, Nilda went to the only people in Chinchero who still knew how to make the complicated hats, asking to learn.  She taught her niece Yolanda, and this important part of Incan heritage was saved!

That’s not to say it’s easy.  Traditional chullos require lots of patience and very tightly-knit stitches.  It starts with scallop-shaped rows that make up the border.  The Chinchero-style chullo that Nilda worked so hard to preserve features edging in three colors.  Then, there’s a stripe and check border design, called ñaccha or k’utu.  The shaping on the head is adorned with images from the natural world, like foxes, geese, plants, and furrows.  Then comes the three tubular sections, topped with tassels, along with fringing, straps, and finally, the ear flaps.  Oh yes, and all of this is done in the Andean style, meaning the needles, yarn, and knitting are all held backwards.  This alternative to the English or Continental styles requires you to hold the right-hand needle like a pencil, while the yarn gets wrapped around the fingers of your right hand.  There’s a tutorial online for anyone interested.

The patterns for chullos aren’t recorded, which is why they were in danger of disappearing.  Different motifs and colors can signify regional identity or marital status, and different communities have different traditions surrounding the creation of their chullos.  For example, the men of the Chahuaytire community make their own chullos, adding buttons and braids for decoration.  Meanwhile, both men and women make the “bobble” style hat in Accha Alta, creating the strings of bobbles separately and then knitting them into the hat.  In the Taquile community, the women do the spinning, and the men do the knitting.

A Taquile boy doing his knitting


This page has more information about the type of yarn used, as well as a story about a woman learning the technique.

Here’s a course where you can learn from the woman who saved the Chinchero chullo!

This pattern is really colorful, and the page also has information about knitting letters into your chullo.  May we suggest “GYI!”


A Wale of a Tale

As we at Gosh Yarn It! like to point out, knitting and crocheting can be survival skills.  Knitting was a literal life saver in Wales in the year without a summer.

In April 1815, Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted, causing global temperatures to drop.  This led to some dreary summer days in 1816, and a gang of writers decided to have a scary story contest to salvage their ruined Swiss vacation.  Colder temperatures and heavy rains also led to crop failures in Britain and Ireland, including Wales.  This is where knitting comes in.  In 2012, Wales was home to nearly 8.9 million sheep – and about 3.06 million people.

So when famine struck, men and women took advantage of the domestic stocking industry in such places as Merioneth and Llanuwchllyn.  The knitting of stockings was a major cottage industry in the highland districts of Wales.  Robert Thomas wrote that local men, in addition to women, were skilled knitters, and children were taught to knit as well, so that entire families could pitch in during the hardship.

Traditional stockings from mid-Wales are made with undyed wool welts and toes, and blue or grey legs.  Although most stockings were based more on tradition than on patterns, you can find out more from Nancy Bush’s pattern, published in Folk Socks: The History and Techniques of Handknitted Footwear.

Welsh women were pros when it came to knitting productivity.  They took raw wool, carded it, spun it, and knitted it up, typically producing four pairs of stockings per week.  They took their handicraft everywhere, knitting while they walked.

And in the evenings…

They had knitting groups where they would gather together for nosweithiau gwau, also known as knitting nights or stitch ‘n bitch sessions!



The blog is back!  And just in time to report on some of the exciting things going on at Gosh Yarn It!


  • 21-and-overs had the chance to head to the Punderdome, NYC’s monthly pun competition.  If you missed it, see above re: Punapple Express.

  • Last week was Random Acts of Kindness week, and GYI! distributed handmade flowers to brighten Columbia University’s campus.



Did we leave anything out?  Keep checking back for more updates!