Last Saturday, we took our first trip to La Ligua since we’ve been in Chile. Throughout Chile, La Ligua is known for its abundance of Chilean artisans specializing in handmade knits. You can find a whole range of handmade products ranging from woven sweater, sweater dresses, hugs, ponchos, you name it they’ve go probably got it in an assortment of colors.

But, when we got to La Ligua we were told that the best place to find knitwear was in Valle Hermoso (Beautiful Valley). Valle Hermoso is a 10 minute ride from La Ligua, so we hopped in a cab and were definitely not prepared for what we saw when we got off.

A town where everyone knits?

Valle Hermoso is a small, rural town where you’ll find tiny shops lined up on both sides of one street. Each store usually belongs to one family that is accustomed to selling handmade products as a way of survival. You can easily see the store owner sitting outside his or her shop knitting away while they wait for a client to walk in. It’s a very welcoming sight.

ValleHermoso03

The main street in Valle Hermoso

We were so excited with all the handmade products we saw that we decided to skip lunch and just keep looking for knits that liked. However, if we would have known that the stores are open EVERY day, ALL day, well… we wouldn’t have shopped till we dropped. On our way back we decided to ask the cab driver when the busiest day was and he said that during the weekends, hoards of people go there looking for knitted clothes.

Weaving –  a part of Chilean tradition

Among this vast number of stores, we stumbled upon a small shop with a man weaving on a peddle loom. At first we thought the peddle loom was just for show, but then we realized he was actually sitting down and weaving! How exciting!!

Local weaver

Local weaver

We popped out the camera and filmed him (tried uploading it to WordPress, but it wouldn’t allow it. But we uploaded it to another site where you can see the peddle loom in action – sorry about the quality of the shot). Anyhow, he was happy to let us watch and talk to us about the different handmade knits he made and the fibers he used on his loom. His work usually consists of making specific handmade knit called “poncho de huaso”, (huaso = a Chilean cowboy). If you look closely you can see the handmade ponchos in the picture above (right side). The natural fibers he uses are hand spun by his niece and range from alpaca to guanaco to lamb’s wool.

Peddle loom with work in progress

Peddle loom with work in progress

Novelty Yarn- Valle Hermoso Reinvents its Yarn

Yarn is one thing that is very hard to find in Valle Hermoso. As a matter of fact, we actually expected to find knitted products everywhere, along with yarn made with natural fibers or hand woven yarn, but much to our surprise, we only found one store. Fortunately, what we did find was amazing.

You really can’t tell by the pictures, but each yarn is composed of 6 strands of different colors, textures and weight. The end result is unique novelty yarn. Some of the skeins you see are composed of cashmere and flamé.

Some more skeins

3 oz Skeins

We finally decided to buy a calipso skein with a sunflower yellow thread and a 100% cotton skein. I will definitely be using both to knit something beautiful :).

Dulces de La Ligua

Our purpose for going to Valle Hermoso was business, but you can’t go to La Ligua and not buy Dulces de La Ligua!

Palomita selling Sweets

Palomita selling Sweets

Dulces de la Ligua can be translated to Sweets from La Ligua. They are small treats handmade with wafers and manjar (cooked condensed milk) covered in merengue, or cake and manjar covered with lots of powdered sugar. They are REALLY good! The funnest thing about these sweets is they’re sold by women and men dressed in white, historically known as “palomita”. It’s really common to see them flagging down cars on the highway by waving a white handkerchief in the air – it’s a real sight!

Close up of dulces

Close up of dulces

Well, that was it. It was a really long day, but we were happy with the results. Stay tuned for future posts.

Until then,

If you have any comments or questions, please leave post

-P

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Well, this is the first official post since we opened our wordpress account. The idea behind this blog is to share our experiences as we start our first e-business of homemade and handmade products.

WHO ARE WE and WHAT’S CUPERNICKEL?

We are two sisters who have decided to start a handmade – homemade business to sell Chilean artisan products that are inspired on the beauty that surrounds this amazing country. The whole “starting a business” thing is nothing new to either of us, but the Internet factor is a novelty and somewhat daunting. Add to that the fact that we are sisters, and we tend to have quarrels quite frequently. Are we nuts? I say maybe, but that would be a discussion for a different day and a different blog.

Now, a little more about the handmade, homemade, artisan e-business. Ever since we were young, both of us have been quite resourceful and manual. We would easily learn how to knit, how to crochet, how to paint, and how to do just about any other type of technique for making homemade products. This trait has carried on into our adult life and we each have hobbies that have kept that alive be it writing, drawing, sewing, knitting or any new found artisan technique that has us eager to learn.

WHAT MAKES OUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS UNIQUE?

This is nothing new if you think about all the people out there that either create their own clothes or even spin their own yarn, so what makes us so special? As young adults we both moved to our passport country (we are Adult TCKs), and that added a new depth to our lives that we now pass onto our products. Certainly, the transition wasn’t smooth, but we’ve always tried to take it as optimistically as possible.

HOMEMADE, HANDMADE, or ARTISAN PRODUCTS?

If you look-up the word artisan you’ll basically find the same type of definition everywhere: “one that produces something in limited quantities often using traditional methods”. This sounds just about right when you’re trying to define handmade products or even homemade products, but if you take the time to investigate … you’ll see the differences. However, we never saw all the art there was in handmade products until we discovered Chile.

CUPERNICKEL – the philosophy behind the company

On that note, we decided to combine our experiences from our host country (US) and our passport country (Chile) to come up with Cupernickel, and that’s what makes us special.

We take from our host country a strong work ethic, a certain aesthetic sensibility and a “can do” attitude.  From our passport country, we take the beautiful landscapes that range from desert lands to glaciars with forests and coastlines in between. The colors, textures, and unique materials that this country lends us are stunning. And with all this we mix, knit, dye, sew, felt, and create beautiful artisan pieces that are combined with the inspiration found in our natural settings giving way to unique handmade products.

Therefore, Cupernickel is a combination of two worlds, just like us. In fact the name (deliberately misspelled) comes from a copper-nickel alloy that is used in coins and most chilean artisan jewelry. In Chile, it is referred to as alpaca, just like the camelid.

We’ll be keeping you posted while our company gets on its feet. This is an amazing new challenge for us both and we hope to have our homemade products up soon so that you can have a look at them. We’ll also be posting stories about Chile to share with you the beauty that inspires us. Hope you enjoy this journey as much as we do.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them.

Until then :).