Fiber Activities in Independencia

Arminda’s First Club Project

The once-a-week Club de Artesanas workshops have been productive. The 2 new members are young mothers and have been sewing and knitting clothing for their families by hand and machine. They’re encouraged by their husbands to participate in Club activities, in fact Daisy’s husband hitched a ride into the highlands at 6:00am one morning to harvest the flower masiq’o for a Club’s dye day. The Club is going to return to its original 2 day a week schedule of activities with a workspace for school-aged progeny to do their homework, including sewing projects. As with textile programs in the U.S., the quality of the fiber arts classes in the Independencia schools has diminished along with the status of textile skills. At the annual expositions there are fewer functional crocheted, knitted, and embroidered textiles and more lengths of cheaply purchased synthetic fabric with a hand painted stenciled design and labeled “tablecloth”.

The 2 new Club members are from the community of Sanipaya, and although exposed to the traditional weaving techniques they had not learned to weave. It seemed that they picked it up quickly from the weaving members in the Club until Daisy confessed that she unwove a strap three times in tears and frustration before seeking help from Doña Beatris. After overcoming that initial learning obstacle, she was on her way to weaving at a quality standard fit for the foreign market.

Vilma and Daisy Building Knitting Machine Skills
Doña Beatris Warping for a PAZA Order

Doña Maxima has been meeting with the Huancarani weavers when they are in Independencia for Sunday´s market day. They´d requested a cochineal dye day in Huancarani, but that was put on hold while Doña Maxima recovered from gall bladder surgery. Feeling ready to face the bumpy winding up and down drive to Huancarani she and her daughter Vilma traveled to Huancarani last Wednesday. The workshop was held on Doña Maxima´s property where a couple of rooms have been built and water is available at a spigot. She and Don Julio would have been empty nesters this year, except her youngest son had to sit out his senior year due to Covid but will graduate in December. They are considering returning to farm life in their home community.

The dye workshop attendance was small because many of the weavers had doubled their handspun yarn to 4-ply to weave wool blankets. The skeins will be dyed in bright synthetic colors and woven without motifs. Because the PAZA weaving orders have decreased over the past few years and there is no local market many weavers found other uses for their homespun yarn. A smaller group meant higher quality dye results. The last dye workshop in Huancarani was about 5 years ago and the dye baths were so overstuffed with skeins that nobody was happy with the results. That problem was solved by charging the weavers 14 cents per skein to have their dyeing done by the Club de Artesanas members in Independencia.

The weavers’ most anticipated annual event, Spinning Week, was discussed. The sequence of events follows the original Spinzilla Spinning Week schedule. The budget is estimated, and registration takes place in July. The spinners have 2 months to shear or purchase and prepare their fleece before the event begins the 1st week in October. The biggest expense is the prizes. There are 2 teams and all members of a 16-member team receive the same prize. The original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team was mainly made up of spinners from Huancarani, and they have not won the past 2 years since the 2nd team was formed.

Grinding Cochineal in Preparation for the Dye Bath
Washing Skeins in Preparation for Dyeing

The first-place prize last year was a pollera (skirt), which all the spinners coveted. The complaining continues, because a few of the Huancarani spinners were on the winning team and won a pollera. All would give anything to have the loudest complainer and highest producing spinner back. Doña Maxima said they spent time remembering Doña Casimira. Doña Justina lamented there was no way the team could ever win without her life-long friend and neighbor. It was suggested that perhaps the teams should be divided by placing all names in a sombrero. As a name is drawn out, the spinner would be assigned to a team, alternating the teams. One restriction on the prizes, is that they must be items that the Club de Artesanas members can make in the PAZA workshop thus earning some income.

There are weavings that need to be sold in the U.S. inventory, including 3 ch’uspas. Click this link to the last blog posting with those details. Hopefully, the 2 PAZA orders waiting for pick-up in Independencia will be in the U.S. in time for holiday sales. The PAZA fund for purchasing the weaving orders is tied up in inventory, so being able to place another order with the weavers is dependent on sales.

Thank you to Marjorie, Rob, and Lyn for your many years of support! The PAZA activities have continued this year thanks to a grant. Spinning Week and sales costs are not covered by that grant so are dependent on donations, and those expenses average about $1,400 a year. Donations may be made by using the “Donate” button on the PAZA blog site. Thank you for considering support of the Bolivian weavers by purchasing a weaving or donating. Dorinda Dutcher, May 13, 2021, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Doña Narciza with Her Weaving for PAZA´s February Order
Club de Artesanas, April Dye Day Results, Misiq´o Dyed Skeins (Orange) Behind the Cochineal Reds and Pinks

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