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

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