Spinzilla Team Captain, Doña Maxima Cortez, of the Cloth Roads Team WarmisPhuskadoras, along with her daughter Vilma and Doña Antonia had been checking on sheep skins at various local butcher´s for weeks. Three weeks before Spinning Week they finally found the fleece they wanted to spin during the competition. Each purchased 2 at 10 Bolivianos ($1.45) per sheep skin, which happens to be the same amount each spinner paidto register for Spinzilla.
Following their purchases half a day was dedicated to washing the sheep skins. The process began at Doña Maxima´s house where they mixed 2 cups of ash into a large pot of waterand brought it to a boil over a fire. The boiling mixture was poured into a large wash tub, and a short wide board was used to work the hot water through the wool. It took two pots of the water and ash mixtureto scour the 6 sheep skins. For the next step theyloadedthe heavy wet sheep skins into a wheelbarrow and headedto the Palca River a mile away. River access above the bridge provided a number of conveniently placed boulders that served for draping the sheep skins so that they could beat clingy debrisout of the fiber. The final step was to weight the sheep skins on the river bottom for a final rinse.The sheep skins were trundled back home to be dried in the sun in preparation for cutting off the wool.
Doña Maxima and Vilma spent all day during the Club de Artesanas (CdA) Tuesday prior to Spinzilla preparing their fleece for spinning. It took half a day to cut the fiber off one sheep skin using a sharp knife. As Doña Máxima cut the fleece off her sheep skin shewas surprised to find various tones of gray mixed in with the white. As she prepared the roving she separated out the colors to spin each separately. Most of the traditional weavings are warped with the gray yarn on the outside borders and to break up the color blocks of the dyed yarn. The columns of motifs are almost always woven with undyed black yarn for the figures on a background of natural white yarn. As Vilma closely examined her sheep skin prior to cutting off the fiber she was pleased with the fiber´s length and whiteness, although she could have done without the stickers.
After lunch the women followed the shade around the yard as they worked the fiber with their fingers into coils of roving. By day´s end they were tired but pleased with the proof of their efforts lying at their feet.On Thursday, both worked all afternoon to finish turning the fleece from their first sheep skin into airy coils of roving.
Doña Justina, the President of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) stopped by PAZA on Sunday to make the final arrangements with Doña Máxima for Spinzilla Spinning Week. Doña Justina will arrange for the 16 Huancarani spinners to meet in the soccer field on Wednesday for a photo session and for yarn measurement the following Monday. She said Doña Dionicia, who will turn 85 the last day of the competition, returned to Huancarani after last week´s Sunday market in Independencia with a heavy gunny sack of 6 sheep skins she´d purchased, although she has a flock of her own. Doña Paulina had gone to sell produce at a fair in Oruro last week and
returned with 2 gorgeous white sheep skins with long fibers. Doña Maxima said she´d tried to buy one, but Doña Paulina wasn´t interested in selling. Doña Paulina had also purchased ph´uskas (drop spindles) in Oruro to sell in Independencia at 5 Bs. (72 cents) each. The last ph´uska maker in Independencia died about 5 years ago.
Doña Justina shuddered at the suggestion that a Spinzilla participant could ask for help in preparing the roving. Doña Máxima said that the spinners have a proprietary interest in the quality of the yarn they spin and prefer to do all the preparation and spinning themselves. The quality of their spinning affects the quality of their weavings which are an integral part of their self-identity. They grew up weaving for home and farm use and continue to weave for the home.
They also weave to sell and thanks to the orders received this year through Laverne Waddington and her weaving workshop hosts and participants the sales have hit a record high!
Thank you Anne McGinn for supporting the Cloth Roads Team WarmisPhuskadoras! When the results come in the following teams will be pointed out as having spinners who have supported the Bolivian team: Team San Diego Country Spinners, Team Lydia Yarns Spinning, Team Shuttles, Team Webs, Team Sweet Georgia. Please let us know if you supported the Bolivian spinners but the name of your team is not included!
Thank you Teena Jennings for your continued support in so many ways! Thank you Lyn Lucas for your generosity and warm wishes.Dorinda Dutcher, October 3, 2016