Yearn Worthy Yarn: Wool from Chiloé

I had the good fortune to recently visit the Southern hemisphere and explore a good portion of the country of Chile. And in whichever city or town I was in, handmade goods and local artisans and craftsmen were in abundance.

While on the island of Chiloé, the second largest island of Chile, the majority of the artisans sold hand knitted items and hand spun wool. I couldn’t have been more delighted!

Chiloé was a magical place for me, the views of the ocean and rolling farmland with happy and healthy looking cows and sheep and chickens, were such a pleasure to behold. The island holds much lore and is seeped in tradition, with hand spun wool being one of these traditions.

In exploring the markets filled with handmade goods, many of the women would sit and knit, creating their wares as people browsed. Or they would spin. Several had spinning wheels and would spin their wool into yarn, right then and there.

Since my spanish language skills aren’t that wonderful, I learned later that the wool is dyed using natural dyes. Plants and vegetables such as onions, cinnamon or eucalyptus leaves are used to color the wool to create a plethora of shades.

I chose a soft green for the wool I brought home. It is a fairly uniform spin, though not as soft as some wool. It has some rough characteristics. When winding the skein into a ball the dye stained my fingers. But all in all, I am in love with this yarn.

Not only is it a wonderful memento of my time in Chile and in Chiloé, it is something handmade with the tradition of that beautiful island.

Written by Kelly Rand

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting.

Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.


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  1. I studied abroad in Chile in college (loved it!) and we took a trip to Chiloé! I have a scarf, and a few pairs of mittens, hats, gloves and even scarves that I love from there. My favorite part was the “palofitos”- the colorful houses on stilts over the water. Thanks for sharing your story! 🙂

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