Shopping for textiles on Taquile is hard to avoid. The islanders in ethnic attire are walking advertisements and everywhere are busily knitting, spinning and weaving.
Buying is best at the largest adobe building on the village square -- the community-run artisan store. Its abundant and diverse weavings are on consignment, and volunteer sales clerks rotate weekly. A small percentage of the earnings goes for community projects.
Tightly woven woolen stocking hats (ch'ullus), bags (chuspas) and belts (chumpis), always wearable art for Taquilen os, now are also products for profit. A subdued red, the classic color of the Incas, is typical Taquile. Some bags with natural whites and browns have been sent to the island for sale by the residents of a neighboring peninsula.
The red chumpis are of varying widths -- either wide in the customary island style or narrow, geared to tourist use as a belt. Both make excellent tapestries for display. The chuspas make excellent women's handbags and small-change purses. (The islanders use the large bag as part of a dance costume at festivals and the smaller to carry coca leaves.) The ch'ullus have rich color combinations, soft fine textures and rows of floral motifs and images from local life.
The prices, set by a community panel on the basis of quality, range between $2.50 and $10. (The prices are low and the people poorly paid. After deductions for wool purchases, the weaver earns about 40 or 50 cents a day.)
Peasant shirts and vests from homespun wool in a variety of weaves are popular among tourists in the Andean climate. Perhaps the most elegant and innovative item is the chaleco musico, a vest with a front made from the knitted fabric of the stocking hats, emblazoned with rows of bright, multicolored fanciful patterns.
Do not be surprised if you are offered weavings behind closed doors by an adobe homeowner. Given the store's large volume and relatively slow turnover, secretive transactions are plentiful. But it's probably best to stick to the store for the best selection of island crafts.