Knit and Crochet Workshops with Awac Phuna

Last year, our partners the Awac Phuna knitting cooperative came to us requesting more orders. Upon evaluation, we found that they didn't have the knit or crochet skills or equipment to make some of our bestselling products. Thanks to generous donations we were able to plan a series of workshops.

One of our top priorities for the workshops was teaching the artisans the llama play toy. This is not only a top-seller, but we work with very few artisans who know how to crochet, so our production time can be slow for this handsome guy.

For this workshop series, we were very lucky that our partner artisan Fiorella agreed to lead the workshop teaching the Awac Phuna cooperative. It is incredibly validating and rewarding for us when we are able to hire artisans who have been through our training program to train other artisan partners.

Now, a few weeks in, our crochet workshops have become a vibrant place where creativity and skill flourish. Each session has been a step toward mastering the delicate art of crocheting intricate toy llamas. Here’s a glimpse into our recent sessions:

Workshop 1: Laying the Foundation

Our first workshop kicked off at 1:00 pm with an introduction by Fiorella, expert crochet-er, Awamaki partner artisan, and our enthusiastic teacher. She emphasized the importance of effort and willpower in achieving positive results, encapsulated in her guiding principle: “I learn and I practice.” Our 20 participants had basic crochet knowledge and this workshop aimed to refine their skills further.

The focus was on creating the face of a toy llama, starting with a magic ring of 6 stitches. Participants incrementally increased the stitches to 12 and continued until they completed the llama’s snout. This foundational step was challenging, yet 18 participants successfully mastered it, while 2 continued to practice diligently.

Workshop 2: Building on the Basics

We began with a quick review question: "What did we learn?" Mareleni, one of our artisans, eloquently described the previous workshop's steps, which set the tone for the day. Participants then proceeded to complete the heads of their llamas by filling them with alpaca fiber. Using alpaca fiber that is left over from the handspinning process is a new experiment for this product, as we try to move away from polyfill or any other plastics in our products.

The next task was crafting the neck, starting with 16 stitches and working until reaching the correct length. Each participant received a size 2 crochet hook to aid in this process.

Workshop 3: Creating the Belly

Starting at 10 am, this session focused on the llama’s belly using the magic ring method. Facilitator Fiorella provided hands-on guidance, jotting down the steps on a board for clarity. The artisans diligently practiced, successfully completing this critical part of the toy. The session concluded with a shared snack, fostering a sense of community.

Workshop 4: Perfecting the Legs

This workshop began with a dynamic greeting exercise to strengthen the bond between artisans. The primary task was crafting the llama’s legs, involving a chain of 12 stitches followed by a row of 10 stitches. Supervised by Fiorella, the artisans skillfully completed the legs, advancing towards a fully finished toy.

Workshop 5: Evaluating Progress

Before this session, we held a discussion on the importance of unity among artisans, touching on themes like solidarity, strength, enthusiasm, and happiness. The main objective was to assess the learning progress from the previous workshops. Thirteen participants demonstrated their skills, with 8 passing the evaluation by presenting a completed llama toy. The remaining 5 were encouraged to practice more, aiming to deliver their finished product by Friday.

Support these talented artisan women by purchasing a Llama Knit Play Toy - a delightful creation designed to spark imagination and joy! Bursting with love, Llamita is the perfect companion for a little one in your life.

About Awamaki

Awamaki is a nonprofit fair trade social enterprise dedicated to connecting Andean artisan weavers with global markets. We collaborate with women artisans to support their efforts towards educational and financial independence by co-creating beautifully handcrafted knit and woven accessories using hertiage techniques.