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