Andean textile art is part of a continuing tradition at least 10,000 years old. Fine textiles 8,000 years old are in existance in museums. Weaving is very fundamental to Andean culture People begin weaving and training while still young children. Skills are passed from generation to generation. Each community has distinctive designs and colours.
During the period of the Inca Empire textiles were used like a currency. Taxes were paid with cloth. And it was used to cement treaties and alliances. There were different classes of cloth. The highest class was reserved for royalty and ceremonial use, and had threadcounts above 600 per inch. Quilted armour was lighter, more comfortable, and almost as protective as European armour of the time.
Today, Inca familes in mountain villages raise alpacas, card and hand spin the wool on drop spindles, and dye it with local plants. Using hand looms, the women hand design and weave detailed traditional shawls, ponchos and blankets. Larger items take several months of steady work to complete.