Spinning Week 2021

Spinning Week in Huancarani, Doña Maxima Center

Spinning Week 2021 is over, the results are tabulated, and planning for 2022 has begun. A huge group hug and thank you to the Spin Together volunteers who organized the virtual spinning event. The drop spindle Phuskadoras Internacionales team was composed of the 15 highest ranking Bolivian spinners from last year´s local competition and 3 American spinners. This was the first time that the Bolivian spinners who´ve worked with PAZA since 2007 have communicated directly through social media with an international fiber community. Although Vilma, Doña Maxima´s eldest, was the only one who posted to the team’s Facebook group page, it was a group effort to compose the postings. Two of the American team members responded in Spanish. It was a beginning and should expand to more robust communication next year.

Angelica, the Youngest Spinner, Huancarani
Sisters, Doña Maxima and Doña Narciza, Huancarani

In 2019, a couple of years after Spinzilla ended, it seemed like a good idea to split the 30 odd Bolivian spinners into 2 local competitive teams. Participation in this year’s Spin Together competition was timely as it provided a solution to a problem that´s grown since the 2nd team was formed.

The original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team is made up of spinners from the community of Huancarani. A few, including their organizer, Doña Justina, have always ranked in the top 5. The 3-year-old team, headed by Doña Maxima, is a mixed team of Club de Artesanas members, spinners of the community of Sanipaya, and a few Huancarani spinners.  The new team won for the 3rd year in a row by spinning 54,888 yards to the Warmis Phuskadoras team total of 36,931 yards. That´s a problem…

Deisy (left) Joined Club de Artesanas This Year and Won Spinning Week (4,431 meters)

In Huancarani, there was grumbling the 1st year, harsh criticism last year, and Doña Maxima said something must be changed this year. She couldn´t face her relatives and friends on the losing Huancarani team to tell them that the Sanipaya spinners would be winning the coveted polleras (skirts), the 1st place prize again. It was decided that the 1st place polleras will be awarded on merit not team affiliation. This will also serve to identify the Bolivian spinners who will be registered for the 2022 Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team.  

Doña Maxima wrapped up the busy week of rural travel and measuring Spinning Week results by traveling to Cochabamba to purchase the material for the polleras and yarn for the 2nd place vests. The Club de Artesanas members are starting work and will be earning income by sewing and knitting the prizes.

The Sanipaya Spinners are Formidable Competitors

The Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team is an example of how a passion can connect people of incredibly different backgrounds. Quechua is the language of the Incas; it is a pre-literate culture. The older Bolivian spinners were born into the remnants of the Spanish Crown feudal system, with no opportunity to go to school. All grew up in an ancient farmer subsistence lifestyle following a rich textile heritage reaching back to time immemorial. The American spinners are fiber artists who pursued and enjoyed non-traditional careers, that have not long been available to women. The Spin Together competition opened a portal between these worlds enriching the lives of the team members and those who followed the Facebook communications. Thank you Spin Together organizers! The Phuskadoras Internacionales team total will be announced after the Spin Together final results are published.

Thank you on so many levels to all of you who supported this year´s Spinning Week. Thank you, Lyn and Margaret, for your ongoing support of the Bolivian spinner/weavers.

Doña Narciza with her Kids, Note She´s Holding Her Phuska
Doña Narciza´s Natural Dyed Aguayo (Half Competed)

The next posting will be 1st hand tales, gossip, and scoop. I´ll be back from Bolivia with weavings available for purchase after Thanksgiving. Dorinda Dutcher, October 21, 2021

It’s Spinning Week

Washing Sheep Hides in the Rio Palca

Doña Maxima

The Spin Together Spinning Week competition begins today. The 15 Bolivian spinners of the Phuskadoras Internacionales team have been working all month preparing fleece to spin. There are 3 U.S. spinners who joined the team and have been sharing their preparations via the team Facebook page. Communicating through FB is proving to be challenging. Doña Maxima has a FB account but has yet to post. Vilma, her daughter, did make 1 post with photos over a week ago. This year´s Spinning Week is a learning experience in social media communication. Many thanks to the 3 U.S. team members who are helping to forge this cultural exchange of international spinners.

Beating Out Debris from the Fleece

The Bolivian spinners are spinning on 2 teams of 15 for a total of 30 spinners. The top 15 spinners from 2020 are on the Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team. Times change, and after assuming fleece would be trundled in wheelbarrows to the river for washing, it was learned that spinners, kids, and sheep hides were loaded into the truck of Don Julio, husband of Doña Maxima. In the photos, he can be seen working alongside the women in beating the debris out of the wet fleece. The skies opened up in a deluge as they finished. They were glad to be able to scramble to the truck instead of pushing heavy loads of wet sheep hides ½ a mile down the road in wheelbarrows.

Cutting the Fleece from the Washed Sheep Hide

During the Club de Artesanas meetings in September, Doña Maxima and the 5 members spent time on crochet or hand knitting projects and preparing fleece to spin. This week they will spin together on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, Doña Maxima will travel to Huancarani to meet with spinners at a couple of locations. That social event and measuring day help make Spinning Week a highlight of their year. Once the results are official the Club members can get to work on making the polleras (skirts) for the 1st place team members and knitted vests for the 2nd place team members.

Preparing Roving to Spin

Since the last posting the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine became available in Independencia. Don Julio works for the local school housing facility and arrangements were made for employee vaccines, because there were extra doses Doña Maxima also received the vaccine. Their adult children have appointments, whew! Because the majority of the weavers are vaccinated, and Dorinda can get the Pfizer booster, she will be traveling to Bolivia the end of October. The WhatsApp video chats have been great, but in-person exchanges are needed for all to fully comprehend the progress that has been made the past 2 years and the future direction for PAZA activities. Spin Together´s Spinning Week and the team Phuskadoras Internacionales has much potential yet to be realized. Hopefully by next year´s Spinning Week at least one foreign team member can travel to Bolivia to spin.

New weavings will be available for purchase by Thanksgiving. Thank you, Lyn, for your unwavering support of the Bolivian weavers. Dorinda Dutcher, October 2, 2021

Spin Together

Spinning Week 2020, Huancarani

The top 15 spinners from Spinning Week 2020 will be representing Bolivia in this year’s Spin Together competition! The 25-member team will be called the Phuskadoras Internacionales (International Women Who Spin with a Drop Spindle). If you spin with a drop spindle and would like to compete on the team, there are 10 available slots. Team registration will open on September 1st on the Spin Together website. This is going to be a truly international drop spindle spinning team!

Spinning Week 2019, Huancarani

Spinning Week starts noon on Saturday, October 2nd and ends at noon on Saturday, October 9th.  The Bolivian spinners registered in July by signing up on 1 of the 2 local teams. Perhaps the bragging rights for being on the Phuskadoras Internacionales team will encourage all to spin more competitively this year. There will be a Phuskadoras Internacionales Facebook group on Dorinda’s new account, as well as a thread on the Spin Together website. Doña Maxima doesn´t use FB, but some of the younger Club members do.  Although they don’t qualify for the Phuskadoras Internacionales team, they’ll hopefully post some photos directly from Bolivia in the upcoming weeks as the spinners prepare, compete, and measure the results. Most of the qualifying spinners are over 50. Doña Dionicia who´s always been one of the most active of the spinner/weavers did not register this year. She will turn 90 on October 9th.

In other news from Independencia, the Club de Artesanas members will be meeting twice a week in September. After months of working with the knitting machines, they asked PAZA for supplies to do crochet projects. They will be back at the knitting machines after Spinning Week knitting sweater vests as prizes for the 15 members of the 2nd place spinning team. Preparing fleece for Spinning Week will be an ongoing endeavor. Doña Maxima recently purchased a white fleece and a gray fleece. She promised to send photos the day the Club members load up their wheelbarrows and head to the river to wash the fleece they plan to spin. Some of the spinners who no longer spin daily because they don’t shepherd anymore depend on Spinning Week to do all their spinning for the year.

The Club de Artesanas members spent 2 days dyeing skeins. Leaves of the molle tree resulted in bright yellow and cochineal mordanted with alum and cream of tartar produced a bright red followed by red-orange in the 2nd bath, which was mordanted with citric acid. The 2nd dye day took more prep time to harvest and strip the leaves from chilka branches for dark green and suyku leaves and their dried flower tops for dark yellow and bronze. Doña Maxima reported that the mature leaves made for strong dye baths. In a voice tinged with regret, she said she’d explained to the 2 new members how they could play with color at home and darken the skeins with ash water. Daisy forgot it must be a cold-water rinse process and boiled a beautifully dyed skein in ash water which destroyed it.

August 6th Knitting Machine Workshop, Huancarani

Club members taught 4 knitting machine workshops in Huancarani in early August. Doña Eulalia gave the knitting machines another try after being intimidated by them during the June workshops. Doña Angelica was scared to apply the necessary force to move the carriage and stood shaking with fear at the knitting machine.  Her husband took her place. After she watched him knit a sweater, she had the confidence to complete a project. Doña Ines overcame fear of the machines and Doña Sebastiana overcame her shyness to attend the workshops. Both did extremely well. It was empowering for them to receive recognition as their weavings are borderline quality for acceptance for PAZA sales. Husbands supported the workshops by offering to herd the women´s flocks, instead of having to asked. There is no plan for PAZA to continue funding knitting machine workshops in Huancarani. It is now up to the women to figure out how to run their communal workshop. PAZA will consider future training requests.

Dye Day Results, Cochineal & Molle

Thank you to Marjorie, Lyn, Gail, and Margaret for answering the call and supporting Spinning Week! The budget needs were met even with the increase due to the $15 per participant fee for the 15 spinners on the Phuskadoras Internacionales team. Doña Maxima and the Club de Artesanas success in running this year´s workshops is due to years of planning and activities. It has all been funded and will continue to be funded by donations, thank you. Dorinda had hoped to spend Spinning Week in Independencia and pick-up the 2 languishing weaving orders to have them available for holiday sales. Alas, travel remains wishful thinking. Dorinda Dutcher, August 31, 2021

Doña Dionicia, Spinning Week 2019

Spinning Week Prep and Other News

Spinzilla Spinning Week 2017, Spinners Met in 3 Locations on Photo Day

July is registration month for Spinning Week which will be held October 11th through the 17th in Independencia, Bolivia. The Team Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) has won the past 2 years which is the sum of the years that team has existed. The Team Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) was formed in 2014 to compete in Spinzilla, the incredible volunteer organized international spinning competition that ended in 2017 (and that still tugs at the heartstrings).

The Warmis grumbled at the 2020 Spinning Week prize awarding ceremony because they wanted the 1st place prize of a pollera (skirt). Each spinner can sign up on the team of her choice under Captain Justina Vargas for the original Warmis team or Doña Maxima, Captain of the newer team. The 2021 first-place prize will once again be a pollera, and if there´s grumbling the spinners will have to figure out what they deem an equitable team assignment process for 2022.

Knitting Machine Workshops in Huancarani

In mid-May, Doña Maxima and Vilma traveled to Huancarani to meet up with weavers interested in turning the abandoned classroom full of sewing and knitting machines into a functioning workshop. The workshop was given a good scrub. A broken window had allowed birds to find a home and dust to blow in. Replacing the glass is a problem because it must make the long trip from the city. Broken windows are usually covered with tin or wood, but many of the women are near-sighted so good lighting is imperative. A couple of the participants dropped out because of poor eyesight.

Around 2015, PAZA purchased and gave away about 4 dozen pairs of reading glasses. Doña Dionicia wouldn´t wear them because she connected them with being educated. She grew up when rural Bolivia was still divided into land grants awarded by the Spanish Crown. The attitude of the hacienda patron of the Huancarani area was that education would be wasted on girls, and that taint of being undeserving lingers. Both Doña Narciza and Doña Justina had retained reading glasses because they use them for weaving and so were able to complete their knitting machine projects. When travel is possible, PAZA will deliver more reading glasses to the weavers.

Chulos and Tank Tops were the 1st Projects in Huancarani

The Huancarani workshops were planned as a series of four. Three were 3 held in June. There wasn´t any interest in sewing, but all completed chulos (caps) and tank tops or sweaters on the knitting machines. The participants brought lunch, but it was almost time to head home before the group would stop to eat. Because the workshops were productive and resulted in a tangible return, the women´s husbands were willing to take over shepherding duty on workshop days. Doña Maxima always traveled with one or two current or a former Club de Artesanas member to help with the training. Each workshop provided 2 to 3 daily wages.

There will be a 2nd series of knitting machine workshops in Huancarani. Now that the women have used their communal equipment they are motivated to meet with the Organización de Varones (Men) of Huancarani to arrange a formal agreement for use of the abandoned classroom. The women are aware that they need to participate in the annual municipal budget process that will take place next month. They know that PAZA operates on a shoestring and that local government financial support for economic development should be available to them.

Lunch

July is the coldest month of the year, so the Huancarani women asked that the next series of PAZA workshops be held in August. During July, the Club de Artesanas members in Independencia will meet twice a week to plan for the next series of Huancarani workshops and design the tank tops or vests that will be the 2nd place Spinning Week prizes. They are currently figuring out how to size a knitting machine project to a person´s measurements and incorporate necks into the design. Daisy knitted a sweater for her son and it was a big hit at school because it was a minature “man´s” sweater.

Although Spinning Week is 3 months away, PAZA always begins the fundraising effort when registration opens. Spinning Week expenses average about $1,000 a year and include transportation for 2 trips to Huancarani, 1 trip to Sanipaya, wages, prizes, and the annual feast. The participants pay 5 Bs. (73 cents) to register and provide lunch during Spinning Week gatherings.  Please consider supporting La Semana de la Phuskadora 2021. Spinning Week recognizes and salutes these last generations of weavers whose self-identity is so intrinsically tied to their spinning and weaving skills.

Thank you, Lyn Lucas for your continuing support and for the weaving order! Dorinda Dutcher, July 5, 2021

Fiber Activities in Independencia

Arminda’s First Club Project

The once-a-week Club de Artesanas workshops have been productive. The 2 new members are young mothers and have been sewing and knitting clothing for their families by hand and machine. They’re encouraged by their husbands to participate in Club activities, in fact Daisy’s husband hitched a ride into the highlands at 6:00am one morning to harvest the flower masiq’o for a Club’s dye day. The Club is going to return to its original 2 day a week schedule of activities with a workspace for school-aged progeny to do their homework, including sewing projects. As with textile programs in the U.S., the quality of the fiber arts classes in the Independencia schools has diminished along with the status of textile skills. At the annual expositions there are fewer functional crocheted, knitted, and embroidered textiles and more lengths of cheaply purchased synthetic fabric with a hand painted stenciled design and labeled “tablecloth”.

The 2 new Club members are from the community of Sanipaya, and although exposed to the traditional weaving techniques they had not learned to weave. It seemed that they picked it up quickly from the weaving members in the Club until Daisy confessed that she unwove a strap three times in tears and frustration before seeking help from Doña Beatris. After overcoming that initial learning obstacle, she was on her way to weaving at a quality standard fit for the foreign market.

Vilma and Daisy Building Knitting Machine Skills
Doña Beatris Warping for a PAZA Order

Doña Maxima has been meeting with the Huancarani weavers when they are in Independencia for Sunday´s market day. They´d requested a cochineal dye day in Huancarani, but that was put on hold while Doña Maxima recovered from gall bladder surgery. Feeling ready to face the bumpy winding up and down drive to Huancarani she and her daughter Vilma traveled to Huancarani last Wednesday. The workshop was held on Doña Maxima´s property where a couple of rooms have been built and water is available at a spigot. She and Don Julio would have been empty nesters this year, except her youngest son had to sit out his senior year due to Covid but will graduate in December. They are considering returning to farm life in their home community.

The dye workshop attendance was small because many of the weavers had doubled their handspun yarn to 4-ply to weave wool blankets. The skeins will be dyed in bright synthetic colors and woven without motifs. Because the PAZA weaving orders have decreased over the past few years and there is no local market many weavers found other uses for their homespun yarn. A smaller group meant higher quality dye results. The last dye workshop in Huancarani was about 5 years ago and the dye baths were so overstuffed with skeins that nobody was happy with the results. That problem was solved by charging the weavers 14 cents per skein to have their dyeing done by the Club de Artesanas members in Independencia.

The weavers’ most anticipated annual event, Spinning Week, was discussed. The sequence of events follows the original Spinzilla Spinning Week schedule. The budget is estimated, and registration takes place in July. The spinners have 2 months to shear or purchase and prepare their fleece before the event begins the 1st week in October. The biggest expense is the prizes. There are 2 teams and all members of a 16-member team receive the same prize. The original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team was mainly made up of spinners from Huancarani, and they have not won the past 2 years since the 2nd team was formed.

Grinding Cochineal in Preparation for the Dye Bath
Washing Skeins in Preparation for Dyeing

The first-place prize last year was a pollera (skirt), which all the spinners coveted. The complaining continues, because a few of the Huancarani spinners were on the winning team and won a pollera. All would give anything to have the loudest complainer and highest producing spinner back. Doña Maxima said they spent time remembering Doña Casimira. Doña Justina lamented there was no way the team could ever win without her life-long friend and neighbor. It was suggested that perhaps the teams should be divided by placing all names in a sombrero. As a name is drawn out, the spinner would be assigned to a team, alternating the teams. One restriction on the prizes, is that they must be items that the Club de Artesanas members can make in the PAZA workshop thus earning some income.

There are weavings that need to be sold in the U.S. inventory, including 3 ch’uspas. Click this link to the last blog posting with those details. Hopefully, the 2 PAZA orders waiting for pick-up in Independencia will be in the U.S. in time for holiday sales. The PAZA fund for purchasing the weaving orders is tied up in inventory, so being able to place another order with the weavers is dependent on sales.

Thank you to Marjorie, Rob, and Lyn for your many years of support! The PAZA activities have continued this year thanks to a grant. Spinning Week and sales costs are not covered by that grant so are dependent on donations, and those expenses average about $1,400 a year. Donations may be made by using the “Donate” button on the PAZA blog site. Thank you for considering support of the Bolivian weavers by purchasing a weaving or donating. Dorinda Dutcher, May 13, 2021, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Doña Narciza with Her Weaving for PAZA´s February Order
Club de Artesanas, April Dye Day Results, Misiq´o Dyed Skeins (Orange) Behind the Cochineal Reds and Pinks

A Glance Back and Looking Forward

Marleny Earning Income Knitting the 2nd Place Spinning Week Prizes, Sept 2020

February is the beginning of the Bolivian academic year and has become the opportune time for the Club de Artesanas (CdA) annual registration. The Club was sorry to see Claudia and Marleny leave after bringing their 30-something perspectives and humor to two years of Club activities. Although they´d grown up around weavers in their home community of Sanipaya, they didn’t learn to weave until joining the Club. They were quick learners and within a year were weaving to a quality standard for the foreign market. Doña Maxima commented on the quality of Claudia´s weavings, that combined the fineness of the handspun yarn spun by Claudia´s mother and Claudia´s increasing weaving skill. They spent much of the past year on their family farms in Sanipaya, but participated in PAZA activities including Spinning Week, personal fiber arts projects, PAZA´s 1 weaving order, and earning income by sewing and knitting the Spinning Week prizes. Both women owned knitting machines and shared their skills with the other Club members so all could earn an income knitting the sleeveless tops that were the 2nd place Spinning Week prizes.

Maribel’s 1st Aguayo Woven with Help from her Mother-In-Law, 2019

For 2021, Doña Maxima and the 3 remaining Club members have welcomed Maribel, who was the youngest weaver in Huancarani. Maribel and her husband moved to Independencia so that their son Daniel could begin 1st grade. Maribel´s family lives in Independencia and she´d been a Club member for a few months before moving to Huancarani while she and her husband, still in their teens, tried to figure out life as a couple and as new parents. She´s received a lot of “press” in this blog because of her success story in becoming a weaver over the past 5 years. Maribel is the Secretary for the Centro de Artesanía Huancarani (CAH) fulfilling a much-needed role in writing and maintaining the legal records.

Maribel, CAH Secretary, Annual Meeting, Huancarani, 2020

The 2nd vacant Club membership was filled by Arminda, a friend of Maribel’s and a young mother of four. The members of the Club always have ongoing fiber arts projects and through the years they have knitted, crocheted, and sewn clothing for their children. Arminda comes from a remote mountain community close to Cochabamba, so has no family support in Independencia. She had no knowledge of weaving motifs and learned so quickly from Doña Maxima that she´s already been paid for weaving a strap for the February PAZA weaving order. She was thrilled with the payment which enabled her to buy school supplies for her eldest daughter. Arminda´s husband will not support a child he didn’t father, which unfortunately is all too common in the rural Andes. A PAZA weaving order is always placed in February to ensure the weavers have cash in hand to purchase school supplies.

Not Having Classes, Chicas Participated in Club Activities, 2020

Because of the Covid quarantine the Club members held only 2 dye days last year, and didn´t dye any skeins for the Huancarani weavers. The new Club members lack natural dyed skeins, but they are dyeing as this blog is being written. Yesterday suyku was collected from the higher elevations for dye pots in gold, bronze, and green. The 2nd dye pot was with cochineal with alum as the mordant for a hue range from red to pink. At the request of the Huancarani weavers a cochineal dye workshop will be scheduled later this month in that community.

Pouches, Fajas, Straps, and Yoga Mat Straps Currently Available for Sale

The Bolivian weavings that are in the U.S. inventory are available for purchase during the month of March. Inquiries may be by contacting dkdutcher@hotmail.com. The finished products include 5” x 8” zippered pouches ($17) ($18 with wrist strap) and yoga mat straps ($22 for 1/8” depth mat) ($23 for ¼” depth mat). The lengths of cloth available for weavers who’d like to create their own products are the 70” x 5” fajas ($41) used in Laverne Waddington’s classes and 78” x 1.5” straps ($21).

Spinning Week Prizes, 1st Place Polleras (Skirts on left), 2nd Place Blusas (on right), Huancarani, 2020

The weavers of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani held their annual meeting in January to approve pricing for 2021. They also feasted and held the Spinning Week prize awarding ceremony. Hopefully, travel is possible this year so that the PAZA orders can be picked-up and more photos taken and tales collected.

PAZA´s bank account reached an alarming low last year. It was difficult to ask for support for Bolivian weavers when the entire world was finding too much need close to home.

Today’s Dye Day Results

Thanks to the support of an old friend, PAZA received a grant for 2021 that ensures the Club and rural activities will continue. Funds will need to be raised for Spinning Week. The grant enables PAZA to purchase new workshop equipment including a 2nd knitting machine and to

replace two failing portable sewing machines. Thank you, Lyn Lucas, for your ongoing support; you were PAZA’s “rock” last year. Thank you to PAZA’s new friends in Anchorage for your interest and support of the Bolivian weavers. Dorinda Dutcher, March 2, 2021

In Memory of Doña Casimira

Spinning Week, 2015, She Won Spinning 3,330 Yards

PAZA has said a bittersweet farewell to Huancarani weaver Doña Casimira, who passed away of unknown causes in January. She had an indomitable spirit having outlived 3 husbands and at the age of 69 was living alone and working her farm. Some years ago, her adult children tried to move her to the Chapare, the tropical eastern side of the state of Cochabamba, but her roots pulled her back to the Andes. Late last year they tried again and took her to her daughter´s house in the tropics for a visit from which she would not return.

Happy with Natural Dye Workshop Results, 2011 (on left)

Doña Maxima broke the unexpected news and eulogized Doña Casimira by her skills as a spinner and weaver. They are the last generations who will describe each other in those terms, it is how they´ve identified themselves and related to each other their entire lives. Doña Casimira was one of the 10 founders of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani and hung in there during the 2 years it took for PAZA to facilitate the process to be established as a legal entity under the State of Cochabamba.

Spinning Week, 2014 (in middle)

She won Spinning Week 3 years out of 7 and ranked in the top 5 of the spinners the other years. In 2020, she came in second, spinning 4,541 meters which is her 2nd highest results. She was displeased about the Huancarani team taking 2nd place the past 2 years, and quite vocal about preferring a pollera (skirt) to the 2nd place blusa (knitted sleeveless top). The prize awarding ceremony didn´t take place until after she left for the tropics. The blusas were fitted to the recipient, a color of their choosing, and more work than the polleras, so in the end she probably would have been pleased with her prize. However, her remarks were enough to begin dialog about how to better mix up the teams for equitable strengths and weaknesses for Spinning Week 2021.

Laverne Waddington´s Workshop, Huancarani, 2017 (in pink sweater)

Her spinning was fine and consistent which resulted in her weavings being fine. She warped color combinations which were striking and unique. It was obvious she had a love for weaving, but it competed with the daylight hours needed for farm chores, so she was not a prolific weaver. Anyone who has purchased one of her weavings should hold it dear. She was born into a hard life the year before the Agrarian Reform ended the feudal system established by the Spanish crown. Although the world has seen many changes since 1951, that can´t be said for those living the farmer subsistence lifestyle in the remote corners of it. One can’t help but wonder how her talents and creativity would have been realized if she’d been born into different circumstances. Doña Casimira, you will be missed. May your well-deserved rest be in peace. Dorinda Dutcher, February 27, 2021

Often used photos of Doña Casimira weaving in front of her home, 2010

Spinning Week Tales

Doña Sebastiana, Mid-Week, Huancarani

The 7th Annual Semana de las Phuskadoras (Week of the Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) began the first Monday in October The median age of the team Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) is 57, and they all live in the rural community of Huancarani. Their spinning and weaving rivalries date back to pre-adolescence and have not mellowed with the years. Few have smart phones and the mountainous region makes for poor cell phone service so they can’t check in on each other virtually.

Gathering Mid-Week, East Side of Huancarani

In 2014, the first year of Spinning Week the spinners asked that a meeting be organized mid-week so that they could check each other’s progress. That mid-week check evolved from meeting at the church to a morning gathering on the west side of Huancarani, and an afternoon gathering on the east side. Spinners living on the west side with no shepherding responsibilities pile into the truck contracted by PAZA to head to the east side for a communal lunch and social afternoon before walking and spinning their way back home.

After the week of spinning, the measuring began in Huancarani. Doña Maxima, coordinated the logistics and contracted her husband to do the driving. Her daughter Vilma and Vilma’s 3 daughters rode along as well. Vilma was paid to work all day measuring and her 2 oldest girls who in past years were in school helped with the measuring and took turns tending their new baby sister. Maribel who is the youngest spinner and weaver in Huancarani was also paid to help out. Besides the 16 members of the Warmis Phuskadoras, there were 5 Huancarani spinners on the competing team, the Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Women Who Spin with a Drop Spindle). The total of 21 spinners spun 49,148 meters (39”), but because the yarn was doubled, the measuring teams only had to measure half that amount. The measuring is done 1 meter at a time along 2 sides of the measuring table, or between marks on a wall or any available piece of furniture. It´s an all-day activity, but fun so those who can arrive early and stay until the end.

Doña Rufina, Right, 1st Place, Sanipaya

The following day the truck was again loaded up in Independencia with the measuring paraphernalia including the table and chairs plus beef to be cooked for lunch. There is no refrigeration in the rural communities, so the beef delivery was a treat for the 6 spinners in Sanipaya. Doña Beatris splits her time between her farm and her home in Independencia where her son lives to attend school. In 2014, when the Cloth Roads sponsored Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras was formed, not enough spinners registered to fill the 25-member team.

Doña Casimira, Right, 2nd Place, Huancarani

Doña Beatris who´s a member of the Club de Artesanas said she had friends in Sanipaya who wanted to join the team. She has organized that group through the years; and hosts the measuring team at her home. The 2 newest members of the Club de Artesanas live in Independencia but have spent much of the COVID quarantine on their family farms in Sanipaya. They were there for measuring day, so by day´s end all of the Spinning Week yarn had been measured.

The results for each spinner were tallied on a notebook page, with a tally mark made for every 5 yards measured. Doña Maxima photographed each page with her cell phone and sent the photos to Dorinda in the U.S. to calculate the results. A photo of the results was returned.

Tally Sheet, 1 Mark for 5 Yards, 1 Square Equals 25 Yards

The team Phuskadoras Alegres won by spinning 42,748 meters (close to a yard). In 2018, the measuring was changed from yards as required by Spinzilla to the metric system used in Bolivia. Doña Rufina, from Sanipaya who is Doña Beatris´s mother came in first place for the 2nd year in a row by spinning 4,900 meters. The team Warmis Phuskadoras spun a total of 37,562 meters. Doña Casimira took 1st place on that team by spinning 4,541 meters. She has won 3 out of 7 competitions and her best year was 2017 when she spun the-all-time high of 5,072 yards. She admitted to taking a day off from spinning this year.

Measuring Day, Huancarani

Spinning Week will wrap up in December when all the Huancarani spinners receive their prizes after the annual Centro de Artesania, Huancarani meeting and feast. Between now and then the Club de Artesanas members are busy making the prizes which are polleras (skirts) for all members of the 1st place team and knitted sleeveless tops for the 2nd place team members.

Thank you Lyn Lucas for your ongoing support of the Bolivian weavers. The PAZA activities continue monthly and that comes at a cost. Please consider using the “Donate” button on the blog to support the activities that encourage the weavers to continue to spin and weave maintaining their textile heritage. Thank you, Dorinda Dutcher, November 14, 2020

The Spirit of Spinzilla Echoes in the Andes

Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2016

The two teams of Bolivian spinners are adamant that there will be a Spinning Week the first week of October. Few have flocks anymore, so instead of shepherding and spinning daily they depend on Spinning Week to spin a year’s worth of yarn for their natural dyed traditional weavings. Planning and thinking about La Semana de las Phuskadoras (The Week of the Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) is providing a joyful distraction from civil unrest and COVID worries. The spinners have decided on this year’s prizes for the 2 teams, and they aren’t a repeat of past awards.

Petticoats Have Been Awarded Twice, Huancarani, 2016

The prize for each spinner on the 1st place team will be a pollera (traditional skirt). Each pollera takes 3-4 meters of material, depending on the number of pleats. The prize for the 2nd place team and abuelitas, who always spin but never want to register as a participant, will be a knitted sleeveless top. The members of the Club de Artesanas will make all the prizes, and they´re thrilled to be able to earn some income. The Club members have crocheted many tops as projects, but that´s not practical for income generation.

Club Members Have Wanted a Knitting Machine for Years. Reyna & Mary’s Crochet Projects, 2015

For years, Vilma, Doña Maxima´s daughter and long-time Club member, has been making polleras to sell so will serve as the Club’s trainer. She learned from her husband who had worked in his sister´s workshop in the city. Vilma began earning income by sewing polleras for rural women who had been gifted pollera material by the municipal government. Two new members of the Club own knitting machines which they bought through a development program run by the local cultural center. They will serve as the Club’s trainers for the other members. Doña Maxima has arranged for PAZA to purchase a knitting machine through the cultural center.

Distributing Gifts of Petticoat & Pollera Material, Pucara, 2009

She is borrowing a fourth knitting machine from the Organization of Mujeres de Huancarani, and that is a monumental step forward. The annual municipal budget has a line item for the development of women’s crafts.  In 2008, a Bolivian non-profit organization led the women leaders of all the municipal Organizations of Mujeres through the process to increase that budget substantially and spend it effectively. That one instance of training wasn’t sufficient for the women to continue being proactive in managing their annual budget. Over the next few years the budget decreased and government officials decided how the funds would be spent. All of the Organizations of Mujeres received treadle, electric, and industrial sewing machines and knitting machines, although electricity is still not accessible to all parts of the rural communities. For a number of years the members of the Organizations received material for polleras, blouses, and petticoats as well as synthetic yarn. What was never included was training to use the equipment. Much of it has sat abandoned for years.

Doña Maxima Eyeing Her Gifts of Material, Huancarani, 2010

Storage for the equipment belonging to the Organization of Mujeres de Huancarani is an empty schoolroom. Because of former President Evo Morales anti-foreigner rhetoric the Organizations of Mujeres quit working with PAZA in 2010, although Doña Maxima is a member. Today, the Organization of Mujeres in Huancarani is no longer active. Doña Maxima deemed that the time was ripe to start putting the equipment to use. She asked to borrow the knitting machine with the promise to return it and teach classes. Although PAZA´s objectives have always been to train local trainers and empower women through the fiber arts it is Spinning Week that has proven to be the perfect activity for meeting those objectives and reaching more women. Their current challenge is to determine how to safely hold Spinning Week in these times of COVID.

Doña Dioncia Sorting Out Snarled Yarn, Measuring Day, Huancarani 2015

PAZA and the rural women are eternally grateful for what began in 2014 when Cloth Roads sponsored the Warmis Phuskadoras so that the team could enter Spinzilla. Thank you to those of you who dreamed up and organized Spinzilla as well as to those who participated as sponsors and spinners. Laughter rings off the mountains as it continues in spirit as an extraordinarily fun week of spinning camaraderie in the Bolivian Andes.

The 1st Group of Club Chicas Learned to Weave. Of the 2nd Group, Only Veronica Attempted to Learn, 2017

How to encourage the Club´s chicas to advance their weaving skills has been under consideration. Zuni, Doña Maxima´s granddaughter, has expressed a desire to weave to sell now that she´s learned numerous motifs using body tension to weave narrow straps. All of the weavings that PAZA buys must be woven on a leaning frame loom. Last week it was decided that any of the chicas who complete their first project on a leaning frame loom to Doña Maxima´s satisfaction will receive a cash prize. Doña Maxima is working on the dimensions for that project and the amount to be awarded. As a girl, it was young Maxima´s spirit of competition with the other girls in Huancarani that motivated her to progress as a weaver.

Vilma Sews the Yoga Mat Straps & Pouches, PAZA Workshop, 2016

A belated thank you to all of you who purchased weavings in May! You helped to greatly reduce the inventory so that the funds collected were returned to Bolivia in July with a new weaving order. There are still zippered pouches ($17, $18 with wrist strap), fajas (70” x 5” lengths of cloth, $41), straps, (75” x 1.5”, $20), and yoga mat straps ($22 for a ¼” thick sticky mat, and $23 for a 1/8” thick mat) for sale. Hopefully, one day Zuni´s weavings will be in the U.S. inventory

An All Time Favorite Photo, Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2014

Meeting the Spinning Week budget is looking promising as $650 of the projected $800 has been received. Thank you Patty, Irene, Margaret, Constance, Rob, Sandra, and Sue for your generosity in these uncertain times to ensure that the expenses don´t impact PAZA´s other activities. Any financial support that exceeds Spinning Week´s budget will go towards the purchase of the knitting machine ($175), supplies for the training workshops, and the monthly operating expenses for the Club de Artesanas which are averaging $220 per month this year. If you’d like to support La Semana de las Phuskadoras and the Club, please use the donate button on the blog. Thank you. It was great fun going through the photo archives for this posting. Dorinda Dutcher, September 1, 2020, http://www.pazaboliviablog.com

Club de Artesanas & Spinning Week

The First Club Workshop was a Spinnig Class, 2010

The birth of the Club de Artesanas in 2010 was the silver lining following the politically motivated public humiliation of Doña Maxima, a local, and Dorinda, an American, which ended collaboration with the municipal government of Independencia. The partnership was a continuation of Dorinda’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer and was a program offering a series of natural dye workshops in rural communities and assistance in the sales of traditional weavings.

Volunteer Kelsey Introduced the Chicas to Sewing Patterns and All Made Skirts, 2010

Three of the original four chicas in the Club were interviewed in the first documentary listed in this blog’s sidebar. They all learned to weave, and although they had a sewing class in high school they made many of their clothes on the Club’s sewing machines and through Club crochet projects. The volunteer program began at the same time, and the exposure to foreigners and working on projects not otherwise available to them was empowering. They were 11 to 12 years old when they joined the Club, and turned their interest to other

Reyna with a Completed Club Project, 2013

activities around the age of 16. All of them graduated high school, which is notable due to the lingering belief that there is little value in education girls. They all left Independencia and two of them earn an income through sewing. Reyna was the only original teen who wore the traditional pollera and blouse. She earned a wage on Saturdays during her senior year as the trainer for the younger girls in the Club. After graduation she switched to jeans before moving to the city, and later migrated to Argentina.

For 8 years, the Club had a lot of foreign influence, and the time seemed right in 2018 to turn it over to Doña Maxima and the members. The Club members continue to meet once a week. Dorinda (PAZA) continues to fundraise to cover the expenses of rent, Doña Maxima´s wage, and the Club´s activities and projects.

Weaving Circle, 2020

Three new 30-something members have joined since 2018, and although they’d had exposure to traditional weaving all their lives in their home communities of Sanipaya, they learned to weave from Doña Maxima. Thanks to the generous support of followers of this blog who responded to the last blog and placed orders for weavings, an order and funds were sent to Independencia in July. Two of the new Club members have attained the quality standard required for the orders.

Doña Marleny Grinding Cochineal, 2019

The 3 day natural dyeing extravaganza during Dorinda´s April 2019 visit was an intensive learning experience for the new members. Because skeins were dyed for the Huancarani weavers all have enough dyed skeins for 2020. Cochineal was purchased in 2019, and ground in a grain mill in anticipation of another round of dye days during the rainy season of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, that did not happen and the Club met virtually between March and late June.

Zuni Crochets, and Doña Bea Lays Out Her Cubrecama (Bed Cover) Pieces, 2020

In July, the Club began meeting again in the PAZA workshop with 4 to 5 women and 4 chicas in attendance. The time has been split between sewing and crochet projects and traditional weaving. Zunilda (Zuni), who is Doña Maxima´s 11 year old granddaughter and Zoraida´s daughter has shown the most interest in the Club activities. As a toddler and little girl she slept away many an afternoon on a makeshift bed under PAZA´s vendor tables at craft fairs in Cochabamba. Her family lives in the city, but they have spent most of the past 6 months in Independencia. Zuni has woven numerous narrow weavings to learn the motifs, and announced that she´s ready to weave to sell, and would like to earn 130 Bs. by weaving a strap. The weavings purchased by PAZA have to be woven on a standing frame loom because using body tension to weave tends to lead to uneven edges. To encourage Zuni to tackle the standing frame loom, and so that she can serve as an example for the other chicas, a price will be set and funds sent to purchase her initial attempts.

Doña Claudia Warping a Weaving for a PAZA Order

Two of the new Club members participated in La Semana de las Phuskadoras (The Week of Women Who Spin) last year. They were on the team Phuskadoras Alegres with the 6 long-time participants of Sanipaya. It appears that the event will eventually become a competition between the spinners of Huancarani and those of Sanipaya, which can be viewed in the far distance to the north of Huancarani. The team Phuskadoras Alegres won last year. It was the first time the original Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras had local competition.

Zuni Weaving with Assistance from Doña Claudia

This year’s Spinning Week is scheduled for October 5th to the 11th.  Of the 2 teams of 16 spinners, there are only 3 slots remaining to be filled. It is the second time the event will be managed by Doña Maxima, Doña Justina, Doña Beatris and members of the Club with no foreign influence. The budget is set for $800, and the organizers are tasked with figuring out what to do about prizes this year. The recognition of the spinners’ skills through the tangible awarding of prizes is important. The participants of the first place team will win a prize worth 100 Bs. ($14.50), and the value of the 2nd place prizes is set at 30 Bs. ($4).

The Club´s Annual Fiesta de Don Jorge, 2019

Support for the Club de Artesanas and Spinning Week may be made by using the “Donate” button on the blogsite, https://pazaboliviablog.com/. Thank you Lyn Lucas for your unwavering support of PAZA that has allowed the Club to carry on through the years. Thank you and hugs to George Dutcher (Don Jorge) who’s been supportive in so many ways. Thank you and hugs to Joyce Dutcher for contributing to the “Family Fund” that is used exclusively for placing and purchasing the weaving orders.  Dorinda Dutcher, August 22, 2020