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

Rustic Loom Tales

Doña Narciza’s Passion for Weaving, 2014

Weavers in the Andean highlands enjoy the meditative comfort of their long practiced skill in quiet moments free of home and farm chores, children, and other distractions. Their rustic looms (leaning frame) are propped up outside against a wall for light and to accommodate the 12 foot length. If the space isn’t sheltered with an eave or a roof as in a 3-sided shed, then the weaver doesn’t weave during the rainy season. The looms are quickly and simply made by trimming and notching 2 saplings and cutting them to equal lengths of around 12 feet. There are few photos in the PAZA archives and most were staged because of the rare opportunities of finding a weaver at her loom. PAZA’s first visit to Doña Narciza´s home on the far east side of Huancarani wasn´t until Spinzilla Spinning Week 2014 provided a reason and it was possible because a crude road had been bulldozed to that area. She had 2 chuspa straps of llama fiber on her loom. You can see in her expression her joy in weaving, a passion established early in life.

Vanishing Sight of a Weaving in Progress, Kami, 2007

When one gets a glimpse of a weaving in progress, it’s most often a phullu (blanket). They are the easiest and quickest to weave, as the yarn is thick and there are no motifs. The handspun wool is dyed with cheap aniline dye and runs when washed. For generations, a rural woman’s reputation was established while a girl based on her spinning and weaving skills. There are no secrets in the small rural communities, so any woman known to not weave at the least phullus for her family was branded a sluggard.

Doña Maxima´s 2010 Weaving Is In PAZA´s Textile Collection

Weaving the finer weavings on the rustic loom requires upper body strength to beat down the weft with a “wichuna” which is a carved llama bone tool. Doña Maxima has struggled with health issues since prior to the birth of

Doña Maxima, 2013 Tinkuy, Cusco, Peru

her 4th child who turned 20 this month. In 2010, PAZA took photos of her at her loom weaving what was to be her last weaving for 3 years. Her recovery from minor surgery was slow and at times she was uncertain as to whether she´d ever weave again. Good fortune smiled on her and by 2013 she felt strong enough to weave and to travel. In November of that year she was invited by the Center of Traditional Textiles to do a weaving demonstration at the 2013 Tinkuy International Weaving Conference in Cusco, Peru.

Doña Margarita Had Set Up Supports for Her Loom, Chuñavi Chico, 2011

In 2011, a Bolivian nonprofit organization encouraged PAZA to pursue “Hecho a Mano” (Made By Hand) certification for the traditional weavings. The government certification process required an inspection, and it took 3 months before an inspector could make the long bus trip requiring an overnight to Independencia. PAZA was working with 3 rural communities at that time and Chuñavi Chico being the closest was chosen for the inspection site. It was a wonderful photo opportunity because the weavers had been asked to be at their looms for the walk through. The inspector, being city-born, was duly impressed with the intensive hands on process from sheep to weaving. Unfortunately, an inspection for recertification to ensure no mechanization had been added to the process was required every 6 months. The agency had neither the funding nor the manpower for a second visit to certify an eons old traditional “Hecho a Mano” craft.

With each passing year, there are fewer rural weavers further reducing the chances of getting a photo of a weaving in progress. In 2006, Dorinda purchased 2 used and faded phullus for $22 each to use as rugs on the cold cement floors from her landlady Doña Filaberta. She no longer wove, and the poles of her loom laid in a storage shed until her husband repurposed them to serve as a railing on the way to the outdoor water closet.

Faja in Progress, Doña Toribia´s Potato Storage Shed, Huancarani, 2008

Thank you to those of you who have inquired as to how the weavers are doing and what can be done to support them. During the weekly video chats with Doña Maxima she reels off a list of names of weavers who have asked if PAZA has sent a weaving order. Many adult children returned to the family farms prior to the national lockdown. Marleny, a member of the Club de Artisans, told Doña Maxima that her parents are accommodating her siblings and 22 grandchildren on the family farm in Sanipaya. Although the bartering system is still in common use, some staples and seed for next year’s crops will require a cash transaction. After 2 months in quarantine and the return of unemployed adult children and their families to the farms, there is little cash remaining in rural households.

PAZA would like to be able to send a weaving order by July, but must sell inventory already in the U.S. to be able to fund an order. Like so many supporters of artisans in communities in need around the world, PAZA was heavily relying on craft fair sales this year, specifically the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) Marketplace  which was scheduled for May in Bozeman. Dorinda was the 2020 WARP Meeting Planning Chair and continues with the planning for next year.

Weavings For Sale in U.S.

The finished products are zippered pouches ($17, or $18 with wrist strap) and yoga mat straps ($22 for 1/8”  sticky mat or $23 for ¼” thick exercise mat). The weavings for DIY projects are straps (78×1.5”, $21), fajas (used in Laverne Waddington’s classes and are 70” x 5”, $41), and larger weavings used for the zippered pouches (63” x 9.5”, $73). The total cost of the weavings is returned to Bolivia. Ninety percent of the cost was paid to the weavers, and they set pricing annually. Ten percent helps pay the rent for PAZA´s workshop/store and Doña Maxima´s wage on Sundays to open the store and attend to the rural weavers. Please send purchase inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you Lolita for your recent PAZA support and thank you Ginny – enjoy the weavings! Dorinda Dutcher, May 21, 2020

Quarantine in Independencia

Doña Maxima & Vilma Collecting Suyku, 2019

In the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, March arrived like a lamb and roared out like a lion. When Dorinda bade farewell to Doña Maxima and the weavers following November’s Spinning Week, the plan was to reunite in April for the annual intensive dyeing sessions that takes advantage of the rainy season dye plants. Doña Maxima and the Club de Artesanas members did make a trip to the higher altitudes when the misiqó flower was at its peak and easily harvested in clumps and the suyku plant was still in bloom for a dye pot of the leaves and another of the flowers.

Produce Section, Sunday Market

Sundays are market day in Independencia, and Doña Maxima attends the PAZA workshop/store because the Huancarani weavers are in town. It´s always a good day for a WhatsApp video chat with Doña Maxima and maybe one or more of the weavers. During a call on Sunday, March 15th, Doña Maxima was aware of the Coronavirus, but her only comment on the topic was to report that because schools was cancelled her daughter Zoraida and 2 granddaughters had arrived from the city for an extended stay. A week later it was Doña Maxima who made the call due to heightened awareness and anxiety of the Coronavirus. She reported that Independencia was jammed with vehicles from the cities, filled with supplies and folks headed to their rural communities and family farms.

Sunday Shoppers on Market Day

On March 22nd Bolivia´s interim President Jeanine Añez, instituted a national quarantine through April 4th. The borders closed at midnight and a curfew was set. The curfew allows 1 person per household to leave the house for family errands between 7am and noon. The police patrol the streets and a steep fine for breaking the curfew is set at 1,000 Bs. ($144).

Katie’s 2011 Volunteer Year & Original Club de Chicas Above Road to Sanipaya

On Saturday, March 28th, Doña Maxima made a video call to express her worry that the trucks would not be arriving from the countryside with produce for Sunday´s market. Due to the quarantine, it was inevitable that there would be no Sunday market. In trying to accept that reality of this extraordinary time she did not want to believe the news until it could be verified from her own experience. She called from her home on Sunday to report that there was no Sunday market and that no cargo trucks had arrived with the vendors and produce. After a lifetime of Sunday markets, her expression asked, “How can this be?” It is fall in the Southern Hemisphere and the beginning of harvest. The impact of the Coronavirus may be devastating for the Andean agriculture based economy.

Sanipaya Road, 2008

The Club de Artesanas members formed a WhatsApp group a year ago, and used that method of communication to “meet” the first Tuesday of the quarantine and share their projects. Last week Club members, Claudia and Marleny along with their children headed on foot to their family farms in the distant community of Sanipaya. It´s a long walk up the mountains, along the range, and down into Sanipaya, so they could not have carried much more than food and beverages to sustain their efforts.

Farming in Sanipaya, 2019

Today, Doña Maxima´s daughter Vilma called to check in. Although the 2 families only live a block apart they have to maintain the curfew. She said that 3 local truck drivers have been given a special dispensation to haul staples such as rice, noodles, and cooking oil from the cities. They have not been able to carry sufficient gas canisters to meet the demand for cooking stoves. Vilma said some of her family escaped the curfew last night in her father´s truck to go to Huancarani to collect firewood and harvest potatoes on their farm. The other 2 items that are becoming scarce are gasoline and the telephone company´s credit scratch cards required for phone service.

Doña Maxima Helping Her Neighbor Mary with Firewood Load, 2009

Vilma stated that the city of Oruro is quarantined so tightly that, “not even a fly is flying”. Time will tell if the decisive strict lockdown measures of interim President Añez´s government were in time. On March 22, there were 22 reported cases of Coronavirus in Bolivia. As of today there are 132 reported cases with 9 deaths, although with such a large rural population without health posts it´s possible the actual figures will tell a different story.

Five years ago, neither Doña Maxima nor Dorinda had a smart phone (Doña Maxima got hers first). Both are thankful to be able to check on each other through a video chat. The resilience of humans will weather this crisis, and the silver lining is it has forced us to reach out to each other regularly connecting us with our humanity.

Passengers Offload and Slop Through the Mud on Narrow Corners

A huge thank you to Ginny Chrisenton a PAZA supporter who sent the following link of Noarly, a Dutcher motorcycle adventurer’s, foray through Independencia. Ginny spotted Doña Maxima in the video (it took Dorinda 2 viewings). There is footage of Noarly driving down the street past the Sunday market. Since Dorinda´s first visit in 2006, the dirt road from Independencia to the tarmac has been greatly improved by the widening of many of the curves. There are still 3 scary landslide spots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jp_3z5dxWI&list=UUEIs9nkveW9WmYtsOcJBwTg&index=5&t=0s

Thank you to Lyn Lucas for your long years of support for the Bolivian weavers. Thank you Marjorie for you gentle hint that the blog was been idle much too long. And to Jane and her Angel a great big hug. And to all please be safe, Wishing You Good Health! Dorinda Dutcher, April 3, 2020, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Spinning Week Measuring, Sanipaya

Plow Team, Sanipaya

Doña Beatris, long-time member of the Club de Artesanas, splits her time between Independencia and farming in her home community of Sanipaya. She has organized the Sanipaya based Spinning Week participants for the 5 out of 6 years that they´ve participated. Doña Bea was in Sanipaya when blockades were thrown up at the crossroads to protect the community the evening word spread that marauding motorcycle groups were moving through the countryside burning vehicles and public works built during President Evo Morales’s +13 years in office. The Sanipaya blockades were up for a week.

Carrying the Measuring Equipment to Doña Bea´s

The red Toyota truck with Don Julio at the wheel, Doña Maxima riding shotgun, and Vilma, Claudia, and Dorinda in the backseat was on the road to Sanipaya the morning after the blockades were lifted. The bed of the truck held the measuring table, chairs, short stools, a couple of men headed to Huancarani and Vilma´s husband. Sanipaya lies another 45 minutes west of the turnoff to descend to Huancarani. Not so long ago, Sanipaya offered schooling through high school, today there are only 2 teachers who teach up through 4th grade. Older students must study at one of the two schools in Independencia. Piles of rocks and downed trees that had formed the blockades remained on the road in 3 places with a path cleared for motor cycles and small vehicles to pass around one end.

Doña Maxima and Claudia Measuring

The measuring paraphernalia was quickly unloaded and carried across a path through a plowed field to Doña Bea´s house. Vilma´s husband trotted down the mountainside to join his parents in harvesting potatoes. Birds sang and flitted overhead under the sunny sky, the peaceful pastoral vista soothing after the long week of wild rumors and political tension in town.

Doña Bea Resting a Hand on 1 of her 2 Looms

Doña Maxima, Claudia, and Dorinda made up two measuring teams, and Vilma and Don Julio made up a third, as Doña Bea had a table that conveniently measured 1 meter in length. It was during the chatting, laughing, and measuring that the team “Sin Nombre” (without a name) became the team Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Spinners of Drop Spindles). The gathering was all the more merry because it had been cancelled a week prior and the possibility arose that the yarn would have to travel to Independencia at some point to be measured. All the spinners like to keep an eye on the measuring and tallying as they rewind their yarn into balls or skeins. The Sanipaya spinners weren´t invited to compete in last year´s Spinning Week which was a transitional year from being a sponsored Spinzilla team to what is developing into a competitive local event.

Fava Bean Purchase

Doña Bea prepared a lunch spread of boiled potatoes, noodles, fried eggs, and a salad of thin sliced onions and 4 cans of sardines. After lunch, all helped move the furniture used for measuring to the truck. Doña Maxima did some grocery shopping. She purchased an aguayo full of fava beans from team member Doña Reyna. The truck headed downhill to load 100 pounds of potatoes purchased from Vilma´s in-laws. Claudia had run down earlier and was across the road on her family´s farm digging carrots. Watching her struggle back uphill gave some sense of the steepness of the mountainside.

Doña Bea´s mother, Doña Rufina, is a formidable spinner and has placed 2nd or 3rd in past Spinning Week competitions. In Huancarani and in Sanipaya the spinners talked about the help she gets from her husband. He does all the chores and helps her clean the debris out of the fleece and align it for spinning. For the first time she won first place. There was also talk of Doña Juana´s husband´s insistence in taking over her chores during Spinning Week. The team Phuskadoras Alegres spun 42,528 meters of yarn beating the team Warmis Phuskadoras by 6,137 meters.

Vilma Loading Up a Gift of Potatoes for Dorinda

Doña Maxima is worried about how she is going to break the news to the team Warmis Phuskadoras that they came in second, and the prize will be a sweater. Although Warmis Phuskadoras spinner, Doña Casimira won 2nd place overall, 3 strong spinners from Huancarani were on the winning team. There are going to be problems and discussion, but problem solving has become an important component of Spinning Week. The increase from one to two local teams was a big change this year, and the experience will be discussed and improvements made for next year.

2019 Champion, Doña Rufina, 4,944 meters

Thus wraps up Spinning Week 2019 in the Andean highlands. Thanks again to those of you who made it possible! Although Spinning Week is just 1 week a year, the expenses go on year round. The weekly meetings of the Club de Artesanas in Independencia under Doña Maxima´s management provide the organizational structure for Spinning Week. You are encouraged to use the “Donate” button above in support of the spinners and their efforts to sustain their weaving tradition. Thank you.

Dorinda Dutcher, November 25, 2019

Spinning Week Results, Huancarani

On Sunday November 10th, the final day of Spinning Week, many of the spinners from the rural community of Huancarani who were in Independencia for market day stopped by the PAZA workshop/store. More than a few commented on tired fingers from the endless whirling of their drop spindles. All were looking forward to meeting the following day at the Catholic Church in Huancarani for the measuring of the yarn.

PAZA contracted Don Julio, Doña Maxima´s husband, and their 4×4 red Toyota pickup for transport to Huancarani. The truck headed up and out of Independencia with Vilma and Dorinda in the backseat of the cab, and the measuring table, chairs, buckets for holding balls of yarn, low stools, and Toby the dog in the truck bed. Following a week of rain and cool temperatures, the climbing dirt road towards Huancarani had dried except for puddles in deep rutted flat sections. Crossing creeks on the descent into Huancarani was exciting, and the drive came to a halt at a landslide blocking the road just above the flat area where the soccer field, school, church, Organization of Men´s meeting house, and medical post are located. A few men showed up with shovels and pick axes and the women pitched in throwing rocks into the ravine below. It wasn´t long before the truck was driven across the loose rock and down to the church, although all passengers chose to head down on foot.

It was the 6th Spinning Week for the participants, so all knew the routine and in short order the measuring began. The results of 20 spinners were to be measured including the entire Warmis Phuskadoras team of Huancarani and the 4 Huancarani spinners on the Phuskadoras

Two Help Doña Toribia Untangle a Bird´s Nest

Alegres team. PAZA paid a day wage to Vilma and Maribel rather than depend on volunteers to measure out the tens of thousands of yards of handspun yarn. Don Julio pitched in, so there were 4 measuring teams. He and Maribel marked off 1 meter lengths on the walls of the church and measured while the owner of the yarn being measured rewound her yarn into a skein or a ball. Another spinner volunteered to mark the results. Doña Maxima, Vilma, and Dorinda worked at the measuring table which was marked off at a meter on two sides. Two measured while the third sat at the head of the table and tallied. At times the measurers would get well ahead of the spinner rewinding the yarn and someone always stepped in to help keep the pile of yarn from becoming a tangled bird´s nest.

Doña Eulalia Rewinding 3,255 Meters of Yarn

The yarn was measured meter by meter and the person measuring hollered out “cinco” for every 5 meters measured. The person recording the results made a tally mark per holler. During the 4 years the team competed in Spinzilla Spinning Week the results were measured in yards. Last year Doña Maxima organized an unofficial Spinning Week and since Bolivia uses the metric system it was probably automatic to measure in meters not yards.

It´s not a first come first to be measured system, because an allowance is made for those with flocks to be measured first. Doña Eulalia was quite anxious to get her goats headed out to pasture. However, it took almost an hour to measure her yardage because out of the 32 spinners on the 2 teams she placed 5th  with a total of 3,255 meters. Unfortunately, for the home team, she spun on the mixed community team, the Phuskadoras Alegres. Maribel´s mother-in-law, Doña Andrea (and sister to Don Julio) was the only spinner who spun black wool. Doña Dionicia, the eldest spinner, was the only spinner who spun a thicker yarn to weave tapa bancas (cover the benches).

Doña Andrea Getting Help from Her Grandson, Daniel

Since the first Spinning Week in 2014, three spinners have vied for the #1 position. Doña Casimira only lost the top spot once and that was in 2016 to Doña Justina. The other top contender is Doña Rufina of Sanipaya. The total for the Warmi Phuskadoras team totaled 36,391, and all had a lively curiosity regarding the total yardage of the other team. A trip to Sanipaya was scheduled for the next day to measure the results of the 7 spinners living there as well as the efforts of the spinners residing in Independencia. At stake was the first prize of a petticoat, which all seemed to prefer over a new cardigan.

Doña Casimira Spun 4,004 Meters This Year

On the drive home Vilma listened to the news on her cell phone, it was the despedida (farewell) of President Evo Morales. The leader of the Movimiento a Socialismo (MAS) party and President for +13 years had abruptly departed Bolivia on a Mexico Air Force airplane having accepted asylum in that country. The move stunned his populous base of indigenous supporters, and rural Andean Independencia is MAS country. Protests and blockades in the cities had rocked the country since the suspicious results of the October 20th national election. The Organization of American States reviewed the results and discovered fraud. The plan to head to Sanipaya the next day to measure yarn was put on hold as rapidly changing events spanned the next week. Dorinda Dutcher, November 23, 2019 

 

Spinning Week Photo Day

Spinning Week in the Andes

This year’s Spinning Week was held November 4th through the 10th in Andean Independencia Bolivia. Doña Justina resides in Huancarani and was captain of the 16 member Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles). Her duties were to communicate with her team to remind them of the day to begin and end as well as where to meet for Wednesday´s photo day and the November 11th measuring day. The second team was captained by Doña Maxima and was composed of the 6 members of the Club de Artesanas, 6 women from the rural community of Sanipaya, and 4 Huancarani weavers. The Club members live in Independencia, but 3 have roots in Huancarani and the other 3 in Sanipaya. It took until  measuring day in

1st Stop with Doñas Julia, Alicia, Maxima, and Vilma

Sanipaya for the team to settle on the name “Phuskadoras Alegres” a mix of Quechua and Spanish which roughly translates as “Happy Spinners of Drop Spindles”. It is a special week of socializing and sharing a craft that has been passed through generations of women through the millenniums. It is a merry week of giggles, chuckles, and deep belly laughs and no big feast to prepare which is a shared task during all traditional celebrations.

CdA´s Vilma, Claudia, and Doña Maxima

Photo day is a highlight of Spinning Week in Huancarani. PAZA contracted Doña Maxima´s husband, Don Julio, owner of a red Toyota 4×4 for transport to Huancarani. Claudia, a Club member who´d never been to Huancarani made the trip along with Doña Maxima, Vilma, and Dorinda. It´s dry season so the road/trail to the east side of the community was passable. Doña Alicia and Doña Justina´s older sister, Doña Julia were spinning and waiting. Doña Narciza showed up a bit later, walking along an up and down trail and spinning. The view to the east was of the farmsteads of Sanipaya, so near yet so far with the intervening mountain valleys.

Walking the Ravine Path

After an hour of spinning and chatting, the women scattered to their homes for a variety of reasons before meeting back up to ride to the other side of the community to spin and socialize. Doña Narciza headed at a brisk walk back to her home with Claudia and Vilma trailing further and further behind. The truck headed down the road towards Doña Narciza´s house coming to an abrupt halt at a steep ravine where the road had sloughed off leaving a narrow foot path. Independencia had run out of eggs and Claudia returned wearing Doña Narciza´s aguayo (woven Andean “backpack”) and carrying a colander full of eggs that were purchased by the Independencia dwellers. Vilma was carrying a live rooster, who was spotted a few days later happily resettled in Doña Maxima´s yard lording over her hens. Doña Narciza stayed behind to attend to a few tasks before joining everyone and continuing on to Independencia in the truck.

1st Group Walking and Spinning to Meet up with the 2nd Group

The truck backtracked and picked up Doña Alicia and Doña Julia then bumped across the rough road to where the majority of farmsteads are located. Don Julio headed off  to use a friend’s tractor to plow his mother´s corn field. It was a cool overcast day, with rain showers passing through the surrounding mountains. The altitude is such that at times clouds rose majestically from the river valley below to join the clouds above.

Vilma Measuring Her Aunt Narciza for a Petticoat

The first place team will win petticoats and the second place team will win sweaters. Vilma measured all the women at the waist and for length for the petticoats which will be sewn by the Club de Artesanas members. Initials will be embroidered into the waistbands. All the women were sized for a sweater and chose a color from a variety of markers. Doña Maxima will head to Cochabamba after the results are in to purchase the sweaters.

Doña Antonia Spinning With 1 Eye on Her Flock

Doña Maxima and Dorinda headed down the mountain to take photos of Doñas Toribia, Dionicia, and Antonia who were pasturing their flocks. Doña Eulalia was out of sight, but her white goats were visible as specks on the mountainside further west. The sun had come out for the trudge back up the mountain, but happily all had decided it was lunchtime and appetite does make the best sauce. Lunch was communal as always with pots, plastic containers, and cloth filled with boiled potatoes, noodles, rice, and fried eggs. The corn kernels had been boiled with ash to remove the casing, and were still warm. The flavor was not sweet but a hearty corn flavor reminiscent of a fresh tortilla (which are not made in Bolivia).

Such a fun day, and all too soon the spinners began heading home walking singularly or in small groups. Doña Narciza climbed into the bed of the pickup and settled in beside her rooster and spun all the way to Independencia.

Thank you to Marjorie, Margaret, Lyn, Claire, Liz, Kristen, Mary, Rose, and Maja for your gifts that made Spinning Week possible. It brought such joy to these dedicated Bolivian spinners. Dorinda Dutcher, November 22, 2019

Spinning Week Prep, Step #1

Spinning Week, 2016 (Spinzilla)

The countdown is 7 weeks until November’s “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” (the Week of Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles).Tracking Spinning Week preparation is done between Bozeman and Bolivia through WhatsApp video calls. They are a hoot because Doña Maxima´s phone is passed around to whoever´s nearby, which could be her children, her grandchildren, women in the Club de Artesanas, the weavers of Huancarani, or a visiting neighbor. The reminder of the strong communal life in Independencia is always heartwarming.

Rinsing Fleece in the River

Doña Maxima reported that 2 of the 3 sheep hides that she´s going to shear for Spinning Week are washed. She sounded quite smug about the quality of the fleece saying that it has beautiful long fibers and is very white. This week she plans to wash the third hide which will involve scouring it in a big pot outside over a wood fire, loading the heavy wet hide into a wheelbarrow, and trundling it down to the river for a thorough rinse. Doña Maxima chose her fleece while still on the hoof from her neighbor’s flock. The neighbor sells mutton at the white tiled meat counter in Independencia’s morning market.

Navigating Heavy Load of Wet Wool Up to Road

Doña Maxima said that her sister Doña Narciza had also purchased hides from the same fleece purveyor. Doña Narciza lives in Huancarani and spends many hours a day herding her huge flock of ornery goats. Doña Alicia, a neighbor of Doña Narciza (and weaving rival for over 50 years), had asked Doña Maxima about purchasing hides. Doña Alicia pastures her flock of sheep daily but said the fiber quality is poor because so much of it is pulled out by the spiny trees and shrubs. She plans to take a look at Doña Maxima´s neighbor´s flock.

Doña Maxima Cutting Fleece from Hide, 2016

There are few black sheep in the flocks. Black yarn is used in the background of the pebble weave motifs in the traditional weavings, so all need a ball or two in their stash of natural and natural dyed handspun yarn. With a huge sigh, Doña Maxima stated that Doña Beatris had visited Oruro and brought back a spectacular black hide to prepare for Spinning Week. Oruro is situated at over 12,000 feet above sea level and that cold treeless environment produces superior fleece much coveted by the weavers of Independencia.

Fleece Buying Frenzy When Highland Weavers Visited in 2009

Doña Beatris splits her time between her family´s farm in their home community of Sanipaya and Independencia where her youngest is going to school. During the 4 years that the Bolivia team competed in Spinzilla Spinning Week, she organized the 6 Sanipaya spinners who were part of the team. Sanipaya is remote, and the women are shy. There is a Saturday market nearby and a high school, so the women rarely make the long trip to the big town of Independencia (population around 3,000). It is one of a dwindling number of communities that is still multi-generational and seems to maintain the most Quechua celebrations in the area.

Black Yarn Under Discussion, Spinning Week 2016

Spinning Week provides Doña Maxima, Doña Beatris, and Doña Justina who captains the Huancarani team opportunities to assume leadership roles and that is empowering. The women are passionate about spinning, so it´s a week of socializing while doing something they love and have lived their lives sharing with one another. There was no fundraising last year and the Sanipaya spinners were disappointed in not been invited to participate. This year they are participating on the mixed team that includes 3 Huancarani spinners and the spinners living in Independencia. It is the first time 2 local teams will compete against each other. Please view the Spinning Week videos on the sidebar!

How You Can Be Involved

Measuring Spinning Week Results, Sanipaya, 2016

This is the second in a series of fundraising postings for the November 4-10 Spinning Week. We´ve raised $650 of the $1,200 needed for this year´s event. Any additional funding will go into the Club de Artesanas operating budget. It would be impossible to coordinate a once a year event without a local organization in place. Doña Maxima works year around managing the Club de Artesanas and the workshop/store which provides a headquarters for the spinners and weavers. Please make a donation using the button above to support La Semana de las Phuskadoras and the Club de Artesanas.

Fleece on the Hoof

The purchase of a weaving allows for a continuous supply of orders to be sent to the women, and offers them a sense of security by being able to anticipate an income. The current inventory in the U.S includes weavings for weavers and designers who would enjoy working with the lengths of cloth and straps to create their own bags or incorporate into clothing. Ready made products include the zippered pouches and 2 sizes of yoga mat straps. Inquiries may be made through dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you for supporting the Bolivian spinners/weavers and their ancient textile traditions! Dorinda Dutcher, September 15, 2019.

Abuelitas Prepare Your Drop Spindles!

Spinning Week in the Andes

This month is the official kick-off of “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” (“The Week of Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles”) in Independencia, Bolivia. Registration opened on July 7th and will close at the end of the month. Spinning Week will be November 4th through the 10th, and for the first time 2 local teams of 16 will compete against each other.

History

Between 2014 and 2017, the ClothRoads Spinzilla team “Warmis Phuskadoras” were the only Latin American representatives. The Andean spinners consistently placed in the upper 40%, competing against

Mid-Week Check-In

spinners and spinning wheels from around the world. The Spinzilla founders organized the spinning competition as a way to raise awareness of the joys of spinning and to encourage a global connection of spinners. Thanks to the personal notes and financial support from spinners on other Spinzilla teams and PAZA supporters the Bolivian spinners learned of the existence of the big fiber world outside of their isolated mountain communities.

This year, the spirit of competition that goes back to childhood is going to reach new heights as the 2 local teams square off against each other. Their spinning and weaving skills are an integral part of the farmer subsistence lifestyle and are the core of their self-identity. It will be a competition where the “abuelitas” (little grandmothers) rule.

Annual Prize Awarding of Petticoats in 2017

Whether Spinning Week is international or local the spinners are adamant that the event be held annually. To help them recognize their merit in a tangible sense each team member is awarded the same prize. They vote on the prize each year and it is always their choice, personal, and something they rarely have the ability to buy for themselves. The prizes chosen this year are petticoats for the first place team and cardigans for the second place team.

Logistics

Spinning Week Encouraged Maribel to Learn to Spin and Weave

The “Semana de las Phuskadoras” is estimated to cost $1,200 which will cover the prizes, local wages, logistics, and transportation for the visits to the 2 rural communities involved. Trips to the communities are made for the mid-week Spinning Week check-in, measuring the results, and the prize awarding and annual feast. Any funds raised over the cost of Spinning Week will help meet the challenge of raising the monthly operating expenses of $175/month.

Doña Casimira Always Places in the Top 3

The two “Semana de las Phuskadoras” team captains will be Doña Maxima Cortez who is the PAZA Coordinator and manages the Club de Artesanas in Independencia and Doña Justina Vargas who does an excellent job of managing the Spinning Week logistics in the rural community of Huancarani.

Dorinda Dutcher began PAZA as a Peace Corps project in 2007 when she began working with the spinners at their request. She moved back to the U.S. in 2018, but maintains a home in Independencia and will be on hand to provide oversight of this year’s event.

Support

Doña Maxima Preparing Roving for Spinning Week

You can help to make the Spinning Week competition a success and support the Bolivian spinners in two ways:

  1. Donate by clicking on the “Donate” button above. Any amount is most welcome.
  1. Purchase a weaving which will provide cash flow to the spinners as well as building their sense of self- esteem in knowing that their skills will allow them to care for their families. Inquiries may be made by contacting Dorinda Dutcher, dkdutcher@hotmail.com. Information about the weavings: https://pazaboliviablog.com/2019/04/13/bolivian-weavings-have-arrived/

Spinning Week Provides the Women a Rare Opportunity to Socialize

Updates on the “Semana de las Phuskadoras” and the spinners and weavers will be posted regularly to this blog. Dorinda will personally respond to all forms of support as well as inquiries for further information or weaving orders. We thank you in advance for your help in keeping this global connection intact and look forward to November’s Spinning Week. Finally, thank you to the BritSpin spinners for encouraging the Bolivian team to register – maybe next year! Dorinda Dutcher, July 20, 2019, dkdutcher@hotmail.com