Chiloe’s Traditional Textiles

Chiloe’s Traditional Textiles

Judy Doughty
Marketing Assistant South America Travel Centre

Beautiful Chiloe and its artistic traditions of rustic knitted and woven textiles (textile techniques originally from the Mapuche people)

Dalcahue Market Chiloe


Beautiful Chiloe is a step back in time to a gentler slower pace. It’s your perfect getaway from the fast past vibes of Santiago de Chile. I liken it to the change in pace between Tasmania and the mainland of Australia. Likewise I’d been told how much I would love this gorgeous island off Chile.

As soon as we approached our architecturally stunning lodge at Tierra Chiloe I knew I was going to love everything about my experience here. This beautifully appointed lodge and its suites featuring local timbers and high quality woven woollen accessories is a perfect place to indulge and relax. The throws carefully placed in the property are gorgeous and I wasn’t leaving without one.

The architectural delight is set in a stunning position on a peninsula overlooking the sea. The view of the estuary from our room was mesmerising including watching the people collecting seaweed by hand daily on the wetlands. It was like a stunning tapestry of all shades of greens and browns and only broken up by the people bending over collecting the seaweed.


In search of my own throw we were escorted by one of Tierra’s excellent local guides to the craft market Feria Artesanal de Dalcahue a half-hour’s drive away. We visited on our last day on the island. But before wandering around this small market our lovely guide contacted a local artisan selling the finest high quality woven rugs and throws from her own premises; we were in luck she opened her premise up for us to make our special purchase. We then walked across the road to the market where they were selling chunkier rustic throws (I found a beautiful knitted poncho) and all things woollen. You can get anything you can think of knitted and beautiful handcrafted wooden products.

Tierra Chiloe

Dalcahue Traditional Textile market, Chiloe

Seaweed farmers Chiloe

I feel when I return, no matter how far into the future, the island will still have the sense of being frozen in time and I’ll be buying another one or two of these stunning throws.

Local textiles Chiloe

The Warm Wool of Chiloe
Courtesy of Tierra Chiloe

Craftwork in wool is one of the artistic traditions that characterizes the chilota culture. The climate of this magnificent archipelago in the south of Chile has led its inhabitants to seek warmth through weaving, using the ancient textile techniques of the Mapuche people.  Wool plays a very important role in the history of Chiloé and in the life of its islanders.  Not only is it an excellent form of protection from the cold and rain, but it is also a reflection of the local culture, so closely bound with nature and the communal lifestyle.

It is mainly the island women who have taken on the job of keeping this tradition alive, passing on their knowledge through each generation over centuries.  Observing their mothers and grandmothers, they have managed to learn and continue using the same techniques of their ancestors, those which were inspired by Mapuche weaving techniques.  It is the women who spin, dye, form balls, and weave.

Originally, the wool of Chiloé was obtained from the guanacos, but, with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the XVI century, this animal became extinct in the area, making way for sheep’s wool.  At the beginning, their weavings were white, but with the arrival of exchange commerce, colors and designs began to appear.  To knit the wool they utilize 100% natural methods.  Even today, the weavers use leaves, bark, roots, branches, flowers and fruits of different plants to give color to the wool.  They also use mud, for darker tones.

The tools used today are the same ones they used in the past, with the loom, of course, being the most important.  In Chiloé, the people proudly say “I weave on qüelgo”, a very large, wooden artifact which functions as a horizontal loom. The chilote weavings are soft, of good quality and can last for many years.  Most of the island homes feature woven rugs, blankets, throws, ponchos, sweaters, socks and hats – even pants, belts and bags.  In the artisan fairs one can find a wide array of designs and sizes.

To provide the most complete experience possible, Tierra Chiloé offers its guests the option to truly feel this handcrafted tradition which, as we have seen, represents an intimate part of life on the island.  In addition to contemplating the beautiful views of this impressive part of southern Chile and enjoying its delicious gastronomy, we invite you to also use some of these woven items and appreciate the warmth of the chilota culture.

Textiles on Williche (Tierra’s boat on Chiloe) and snacks