Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Lliklla (Woman’s Mantle)

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Lliklla (Woman’s Mantle)


With the Spanish invasion in the 16th century and the establishment of their colonial empire, an array of fabrics from around the world began to be introduced into the Andes and elsewhere in the indigenous Americas. Chinese fabrics came to the Americas in exchange for the huge amounts of silver needed to manufacture Chinese coins. Spanish trading ships also sailed across the Pacific to Europe, carrying American products including the precious red dye, cochineal. They returned with cloth manufactured in Europe.

These foreign fabrics made an impression on Aymara weavers of Bolivia, who created new methods of plying thread so as to imitate their shimmering surfaces and subtle color changes. New plying techniques are present in this lliklla (plying twists two threads together to make straight and strong yarn). The plain or pampa sections contain ch’imi, a technique in which two colors of thread are plied together like a candy cane. In this piece, pink and brown create ch’imi. Another new plying technique, lloque, is visible in the pink bands at the mantle’s edges. This technique alternates warp threads that have been plied in opposite directions, creating the visual effect of chevrons. A slight shimmer also results as light hits the surface. These techniques, common in the 19th century, have now become traditional elements of Aymara garments.

Geographic Area

South America, Bolivia, Department of La Paz/Cochabamba, Province of Bolivar


19th century


Camelid fiber

Credit Line

Anonymous loan

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

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