Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Of all the beautiful, colored and patterned textiles produced in the Andes, one group of plain, black cloth stands out. (Fig. 1 ) Its plain appearance is deceptive, however, and masks the virtuosity of the craftsmanship of the spinner, dyer and weaver. Generally constructed of native camelid fiber warp and imported silk weft, in a simple warp-faced weave, these fabrics, (Fig.2) during the early Colonial period, became an important component in high status native dress and exemplify the integration and adaptation of a European tradition within the Andean weaving vocabulary. Its proliferation throughout the Southern highlands would seemingly indicate a pre-Colonial origin, however, I would propose that, in fact, it is a Colonial construct in a conflagrance of cultural traditions not seen prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Referred to as 'tornesol' ("turns to the sun") in colonial documents this fabric constituted some of the finest and most subtle textiles produced by highland Andean weavers1.