Bright Things: Peruvian Wall Quilt, an Arpillera

27 April, 2012

in Bright Things,Fabric, Textiles, & Sewing

Love how this Guatemalan wall quilt is craft showing a craft. That little lady weaving just kills me.

Don’t you just love that this is a craft showing a craft?!

Kills me. Love the little lady weaving on this wall quilt!

It was at community library where we were making piñatas for the boys’ Cinco de Mayo celebrations at school. I’m told it’s from Guatemala.

**Edited on 28 April**

Paige’s excellent comments below informed me that this is in fact a handcraft from Peru, not Guatemala.  I’m quoting this fantastic link she sent me,

“Arpilleras or cuadros, exquisitely detailed hand-sewn three dimensional textile pictures, illustrate the stories of the lives of the women of the shantytowns (pueblo jovenes) of Lima, Peru and provide essential income for their families.

Arpilleras originated in Chile, where women political prisoners who were held during the Pinochet regime used them to camouflage notes sent to helpers outside. Even the most suspicious guards did not think to check the appliquéd pictures for messages, since sewing was seen as inconsequential ‘women’s work’.

Often, the small income from the sale of arpilleras provides the only source of income for families displaced from their traditional lives in the mountains. For others, this income allows the family to educate their children, to provide a little better living standard. For all, it engenders a sense of community among women who are often from very different customs and cultures; it is also a way to express their creativity.

The arpilleras tell the stories of life: stories of planting and harvesting potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, grapes, corn; stories of spinning and weaving wool; stories of country life, of tending llamas, sheep and goats; stories of weddings and fiestas.”

Thanks, Paige!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

PaigeNo Gravatar

I can’t say for certain that it ISN’T Guatemalan, but that looks JUST like the wall hangings made in Peru. I have tons from when I was a kid and had a huge collection of the ‘dolls’/people that are made out of fabric scraps. The animal at the very top looks like a llama to me, which I don’t associate with Guatemala, but the houses don’t look like the ‘mountain’ houses I’ve seen usually depicted in Peruvian art. Just my 2 cents.


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Thanks, Paige – you could totally be right! I’ll be there this weekend so I’ll check around the back to see if there are any identifiers. Hopefully I can find out something more concrete – I’ll change the title accordingly if so.


PaigeNo Gravatar

After most of a lifetime of loving this technique, your post finally inspired me to look up the name, arpilleras. Just quick searching here’s some info and more pics:


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Paige! What a fantastic link! I checked it out again today and found no country identifier, but the llamas you pointed out and the greater presence of sierras in Peru leads me to conclude you’re right. I’m going to change the title and quote some of that fab link – thanks!


pamNo Gravatar

The few images I have seen of this kind of work have always moved me into a state of enchantment. I eyes did not wish to leave the image. And always i was wanting to know more. And now, thanks to you and to Paige, I do!!!

I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the very presence of this piece – and if it were not in a museum – to be able to touch and spend hours wandering from stitch to stitch.

My eyes and heart are leaving your space happy!


ElizabethNo Gravatar

Always happy to make you happy, Pam. I’ll bet there are some hanging up somewhere in your area, as a Hispanic cultural center or something so you could see them in person.


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