Book Review: Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia by Marcia Lewandowski

Living in Bolivia for many years allowed Lewadowski to opportunity to become immersed in the daily life and rich cultural traditions of the Andean people, a tradition that includes colorful knitwear. After noticing the local women begin using imported fanny-packs in lieu of their unique hand knit purses, she began collecting and recording the bag patterns and stories from across the Andes. Born of her love for the hand knit patterns of the Andean culture, Lewadowski has brought together a thoroughly charming and whimsical knit purse collection liberally laced with photos and background information about the region. Sprinkled amongst the purses are a few mitten, scarf and hat patterns.

Following a brief history of the Andean people and their folk bags is a detailed techniques chapter with clear line drawings to assist beginning knitters the basics. Additionally there are several embellishment techniques and an abbreviation key that will be used throughout the book. The yarn requirements are categorized by weight, usually sport, worsted or bulky and in small quantities allowing knitters to make use of all those stashed skeins of bright worsted or sport weight yarn. Each well-photographed project is rated by difficulty and features background information, full color row-by-row charts in addition to written instruction, overall dimensions and suggested use.

With so many fun designs to choose from the hardest part will be deciding which one to start first. The cute “Bolsa de Llama” or Llama Purse is a knit replica of this indispensable companion and pack animal. Knit in black the “Monedero de Perro Protector” relies on a dog head off to one side of the top to add to distinctive touch. The majority of brightly colored purses sport an assortment of unas or miniature pouches hanging from them, often with their own special symbols knit in. Of these, the La Paz Ladies Purse is perhaps the design most outsiders think of as traditional Andean although a piece like the Pachamama Purse may be closer to their tradition.

Whatever your level of expertise, there are patterns to tickle your fancy and get you rummaging through your yarn stash. Before long your new purse will be drawing longing looks and friends will be pestering you for one of their own.


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