Now that winter is coming (in the northern hemisphere), time has come to talk about small woollen hats that are popular in the Andes mountains. They are small, they are really warm, and its name is written in Quechua, the language of the defunct Inca empire. Yes, I am talking about chullo caps.
Given their origin, chullo hats (or just Chullos – check the pronunciation here) are common where the Inca empire existed: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. All of them were hand-knit originally; but nowadays machine knitting has eased and added more variety to their production.
The origin of Chullos is still a matter of controversy among scholars. Most seem to agree that Chullos are as old as the pre-Inca civilizations that developed in the Andes mountains; others state they are an Inca headgear; while others state that Chullos began being knit after the arrival of Spaniards to America (as an adaptation of a European garment, maybe a cap).
Historians may take a while to research and reach a conclusion, so let’s focus on the hat itself. Chullos are pretty, warm, colorful and so different to other caps it is worth taking a look at them in greater detail.
What Are Chullos Made From?
Peruvian hats are all made from wool. There were not sheep in the Andes before the arrival of Spaniards in the 16th century, so Chullos are traditionally made from llama, alpaca and (rarely) vicuña wools. Now-adays you can also find chullo hats made of sheep wool, but they are still uncommon. Most of them are made of llama or alpaca wool. Using baby alpaca wool to knit them would make them finer and more valuable; while using vicuña wool would really make them a luxury item. During the Tawantinsuyo (which was the name of the Inca empire in Quechua), only an Inca and his family were allowed to use vicuña in their garments because vicuñas give very little wool, and you need to fleece many of them to get enough wool to do anything.