The rains have fallen daily since early February so hopefully water won’t need to be rationed during the dry season. The school year started at the beginning of February, so Independencia went from a ghost town to action packed overnight. Carnaval week fell at the end of the month which gave water balloonists all month to practice.
The Club de Artesanas (CdA) spent a day collecting and preparing plant dyes and 2 days dyeing. The first dye day was devoted to cochineal due to the skeins the Huancarani weavers had dropped off with requests for reds and pinks. The dye pots for the 2nd dye day were loaded with leaves of local plants. The women of the CdA didn’t have to walk far to gather suyku, which was just starting to flower. Hitchhiking in vain the following day Dorinda trudged an hour up the mountain to a higher altitude where chilka grows prolifically along the road side. The rains had washed the road dust off the leaves so they were ready for the dye pot. A bit of suyku was gathered on the descent through its preferred altitude for growth. The local government has invested in heavy
equipment the past 5 years and uses it to widen the roads by pushing dirt, gravel, and roadside vegetation down the mountainside. Former plant collecting areas are inaccessible because of the drop off between the road and where the plants are now growing. The suyku seems to like disturbed soil and continues to proliferate along the roadside, except where it can’t get a foothold due to the ever growing erosion from the road maintenance practices.
The chilka leaves dyed the skeins a grey green when mordanted with millu, a mineral from the La Paz area that darkens dye baths. The dye was not as strong as it is during the dry season, so suyku was added to the 2nd dye bath with a few grams of copper sulfate and the result was a deep forest green. The dye in the suyku pot was strong enough for 4 dye baths resulting in a variety of yellow-greens and bronzes. Doña Máxima, Vilma, and Doña Antonia used a hand cranked cereal mill to grind the last of the 5 kilos of cochineal that PAZA purchased in 2012 at $36 a kilo. Inquiries have been made concerning the purchase of another 5 kilos, but a source has not been nailed down yet.
A number of the Huancarani weavers visited Sunday mornings after selling their peaches at the weekly market in Independencia. They are working on weavings to fill orders from students of Laverne Waddington’s upcoming workshops in Florida and Arizona. Maribel showed up one Sunday with a huge smile and her first completed weaving. Weaving finally clicked with her thanks to Laverne’s help using diagrams to learn the motifs in Huancarani in January. Maribel’s weaving fit the specifications for a yoga mat strap, so of course it was purchased by PAZA as motivation for her to continue. Doña Máxima explained the importance of introducing more colors in the weavings. Maribel had used the yarn her mother-in-law had provided her. PAZA gifted her 4 natural dyed skeins to begin her own stash. She will have to ply them. She can add to her collection by purchasing more CdA dyed skeins at cost or by buying spun skeins and paying the CdA to dye them for 28 cents a skein or she can dye her own. She is the 118th weaver to sell through PAZA since 2008. Alas, many of the other 117 weavers have migrated, retired from weaving, or passed away. Last year there were only 30 active weavers.
The CdA women were asked what projects they would like to work on this year. They asked for yarn to crochet shawls. A rural woman can never have enough shawls, especially if she has children. Kids always appear underdressed when it comes to bundling up in sweaters and coats. Moms usually carry at least one extra shawl to wrap up a shivering or slumbering child. Club members have to learn something new with each project so the women are looking at shawls of family and friends to find a granny square they wish to copy.
They asked about sewing projects, but without volunteer help in using the patterns a lot of material is wasted and clothing usually doesn’t fit properly. Unfortunately, there are no volunteers on the horizon, which is the CdA’s main resource for learning new fiber skills. It has been a couple of years since the CdA women have sewn the style of blouses they wear. Since they need to practice with the sewing machines blouses will be a 2017 project for the women. The blouse material can be purchased in Cochabamba whereas the flannel, quilt squares, and much of the material used for child and teen clothing is donated and carried down from the U.S.
Abigail and Jhesica, the 2 oldest teens in the Club are doing great taking turns as the CdA chicas trainer. They planned out 2 months of activities for Saturday mornings. Abigail was the trainer for the 1st Saturday of the session and coerced Dorinda into teaching a yoga class then Dorinda coerced them into helping with a birthday sign to send to her niece. The next rainy Saturday 6 chicas crowded into the library to make wire and bead jewelry, listen to an Enrique Iglesias DVD, chat, and giggle. The 2 younger siblings who were along played with blocks and puzzles. Last Saturday only 2 teens showed up and they stayed an extra 2 hours utterly engrossed in crocheting bracelets adorned with beads.
There will be only 3 PAZA participants at the Tinkuy in Cusco this November. Doña Máxima´s daughter Zoraida will not be able to make the trip because she is expecting her 2nd child later this year. Her 8 year old is wild with anticipation to finally have her long time wish for a sibling fulfilled.
Thanks to the orders from Laverne´s upcoming workshops, the weavers have been able to make it through the annual school supply and uniform buying frenzy without panicking about how to pay for it all. Thank you to Lyn Lucas, Irene Schmoller, Dorothy Thursby, and Susan Long for your ongoing support that allows PAZA to launch another year of Club de Artesanas (CdA) activities and to continue to help the Huancarani weavers towards their goal of preserving their weaving tradition and caring for their families thanks to their earnings from the sales of their weavings. Dorinda Dutcher, March 6, 2017