After COVID-19 reared its ugly head in early 2020 and many found themselves stuck at home looking for ways to keep their minds calm and hands occupied, analog activities like baking and knitting saw a resurgence.

Croche blanket from Lanas Meeeh
Photo credit T.S. Last

The following year became, for many, the year of knitting slow fashion clothing—a trend aimed at less mass manufacturing—in an attempt to calm nerves, reduce boredom and stimulate creativity. The British company LoveCrafts, with locations located in Ukraine, Germany and the U.S., reported a 166 percent jump in orders as people turned to sewing and knitting during COVID lockdowns.

One local yarn maker is using her craft to connect with clients and, in turn, creating ultra-personalized products.

Marta Marín, known as Tuca, spends a lot of time meeting with her clients, establishing a relationship over coffee and listening to their life stories. She creates her own yarn and hand dyes it, giving respect to South American cultures and traditions that are centuries old.

“Knitting, crocheting and weaving not only allows you to create a fabric but also establishes invisible ties with those who share in the activity,” she says.

Tuca is the owner of the yarn business Lanas Meeeh—lanas from the Spanish term for woolen yarn and Meeeh is her written version of the sound wool-bearing Alpacas make. She lives and operates her business both in Corrales and in her homeland of Chile.

Tuca recreates her clients’ stories by weaving and dying the wool fibers and conveying their accounts into the final product in a way that goes beyond just words. This translates into personalized yarn used for slow fashion clothing, a crocheted pillow or a woven wall hanging. She has recently partnered with Looking Glass Yarn in Santa Fe as a local dyer to create special patterns and colors for their customers.

The Journey into Yarn and Knitting

Tuca has her master’s degree in journalism and taught at Gabriela Mistral University in Santiago, Chile.

On a trip to Argentina with her husband, artist Alexander Sutulov, a chance encounter with an Indigenous woman on her way to market with her hand dyed wool was the beginning of Tuca’s interest in knitting, weaving and yarn spinning. Tuca purchased all of the woman’s yarn and in 2010 started her business Lanas Meeeh in Santiago.

Initially the wool Tuca was using was very thick.

“My friend told me I looked like I’m dancing with wolves,” Tuca says, while laughing.

She eventually started importing high quality wool from Peru and her business took off. She began weaving on different looms, creating blankets and runners. She then tried spinning wool.

“My spinning teacher was an Indian woman who started laughing about my spinning skills. She decided to give me her grandma’s spinning spoon because I was so unskilled. When I used the spoon, I put a fresh potato on the bottom part of the base,” Tuca says.

The weight of the potato made spinning easier. Yarn is formed by rubbing wool between the hands or against the thigh and collecting it on the spindle.

Tuca now imports baby alpaca and Merino sheep wools, as well as 100 percent Pima cotton from Peru. Merino wool is easy to wear against skin because it is thinner and softer than regular wool. The linen fibers used in her yarn come from Germany, Belgium and eastern Asia.

Besides keeping idle hands occupied, knitting can confer other health benefits too. A literature review of the evidence-based research on the health benefits of knitting shows that knitting has physical and mental health benefits, slows the onset of dementia, combats depression and distracts from chronic pain.

Textile arts like knitting can also teach mathematical concepts that can be difficult for students to understand, according to Melissa Gresalfi, an associate professor of math education at the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. Her KnitLab project is part of a study into the overlap between complex mathematics, problem solving and textile arts like knitting and crochet.

Tuca says she also personally experiences therapeutic benefits from making her creations.

“When you’re knitting, you’re meditating and relaxing. Why? Because in the top of your fingers you have an amazing quantity of sensory receptors,” she tells The Paper.

Creating Clients Stories in Yarn

After meeting and talking with Chilean master-dyer Paola Torres, Tuca fell in love with dying wool and began to dye yarn using her own colors. Torres has since joined Lanas Meeeh, both in the U.S. and Chile.

The richness and uniqueness of Lanas Meeeh’s yarn comes from Tuca’s ability to blend dyes. The way she uses her hands to artistically imprint a picture or a pattern would be nearly impossible to duplicate mechanically.

“I love to dye yarn. I have gone through quite a process of finding the right yarn and what you can spin in with it, and what threads you use to make your product unique. I use my hands a lot and it’s hard work. When I began to dye yarn, variegated or multicolor, I always noticed I could make a pattern. I have found that each dying is a narrative that comes from the hands of those who make it and that narrative becomes part of those who weave it,” she explains.

Besides creating for others, Tuca says she wants to connect with her surrounding community in New Mexico to pass along not only her knowledge, but to also spread the “community spirit around knitting that exists in Chile and bridge it over here to the United States.”

“I would like to share my skills and abilities,” she says. “I have a special sense or ability to work with color and texture. I’d love to teach how you can combine color, texture and knitting in an easy way.”

“Knitting, crocheting and weaving not only allows you to create a fabric but also establishes invisible ties with those who share in the activity,” Tuca says.“The fiber, the knitting meetings and activities created with our hands produces a special atmosphere that’s very friendly, very warm, and people find happiness. I want to bring the community spirit around knitting that exists in Chile and bridge it over here to the United States.”

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