Jubilant and exhausting sums up Monday and Tuesday’s measuring of yarn spun during Spinzilla Spinning Week. Three spinners including Team Captain Doña Máxima and her daughter Vilma turned in their ovillas (balls of yarn) for measuring and weighing on Sunday evening. The average ball of double strand yarn weighed 550 grams (1.21 lbs.) Vilma, who is the youngest spinner on the team at age 27, moved up from 24th place on the 2015 team to 15th place this year! Vilma said she is going to make up this week for the diet of soup her 4 children had to be satisfied with during Spinning Week.
The lack of a social media volunteer was sorely felt this year in lost photo opportunities as well as needing more help for the measuring. PAZA contracted Breny Ugarte to travel from her home in Cochabamba to help with the measuring on Sunday night and on Monday in the rural community of Huancarani. Breny is a Quechua speaker with roots in Independencia and a professional with a university degree. PAZA collaborated with the non-profit organization she worked with from 2008 to 2011, so the weavers know and respect her.
In Huancarani, Breny called a short meeting to review the objectives and rules of Spinzilla and to clarify anything that has gotten lost in the English to Spanish to Quechua translation in the past. Although it has been discussed every year, the spinners were still confused about the 15 Bs. they pay to participate. Ten Bs. ($1.45) is their contribution of the $10 entry fee. They said $10 is more than they could afford to pay and expressed their thanks again to those who supported the team. They also said they were proud to be a team of women who spin with drop spindles and part of an international competition.
Breny used a large ovilla to represent the Earth as she explained that during Spinning Week spinners in many parts of the world are spinning together. She said that Spinzilla would continue until enough yarn was spun to circle the Earth. Since many of the spinners rarely leave isolated Independencia and few have traveled further than Cochabamba trying to convey the concept of a larger world is presented in a different way every year. Spinzilla has brought much more to Independencia than just an opportunity to compete in a skill that has been part of their day for as long as they can remember.
Monday was a cool day and the sky was sullen but just a few sprinkles of the much needed rain fell. Two measuring teams worked across from each other on the wood table carted from Independencia. A third measuring team marked off a yard length on the edge of the church porch. Priority for measuring was given to the spinners who had flocks to herd. After the photo and weighing of the ovilla the measurer would measure 5 yards then say “cinco” to the person keeping the tally. The spinner rewound her ovilla after it was measured and most kept an eye on the measuring team. The ovillas were 2 strands of yarn which had been wound into the ovilla together off of 2 filled drop spindles. The plying will happen after the ovillas are wound into skeins to be washed or washed and dyed. The measuring for 14 spinners in Huancarani took 6 hours. When the measuring was finished all gratefully plopped onto the ground for a potluck picnic.
On Tuesday, Doña Máxima, Vilma, and Dorinda again loaded the table and plastic chairs into Don Vicente´s pickup truck for the longer ride to Sanipaya. Doña Beatriz, who is in the Club de Artesanas in Independencia when she is not in Sanipaya, had organized the 6 spinners in that community. The measuring was done on a raised covered earth porch at her home. It was obvious that Spinning Week was a welcome break in the monotony of the daily routine of their farmer subsistence lifestyle . The spinners had gathered in the morning to prepare lunch which was a colorful presentation of boiled potato, chuño (freeze-dried potato) with scambled egg, chicken in a savory broth with vegetables, and a salad of tomato and onion.
The spinners expressed many times their heartfelt thanks to all who helped make Spinzilla Spinning Week possible. Thank you Marilyn Murphy and Cloth Roads for sponsoring the Warmis Phuskadoras. A hug and thanks to the Spinzilla organizers who have brought this special event into the lives of the Andean spinners. The planning and actual event are empowering for the spinners. Furthermore, Spinzilla has given Doña Máxima in Independencia, Doña Justina in Huancarani, and Doña Beatriz in Sanipaya the opportunity to develop organization and leadership skills.
I am traveling to the U.S. next week for a couple of months and PAZA needs to sell the weaving inventory stored in the U.S. I hope to return to Independencia in December with another order for the weavers, but the revolving fund has stopped revolving… In the U.S. inventory are 2 sizes of yoga mat straps, chuspas (shoulder bags), 14” x 14” pillow covers, belts, guitar straps, camera straps, and zippered pouches. Please consider gifting an Andean weaving possibly spun with 2015 Spinzilla Spinning Week yarn this holiday season. Inquires can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, October 13, 2016