Last month, the Club de Artesanas members presented a dye day workshop via ZOOM during a members’ only WARP Fireside Chat. If you are interested in textile preservation projects around the world, please check out the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) website. www.weavearealpeace.org.
The 4 dye pots were the focus of the presentation, but while they bubbled and boiled the Club members demonstrated other steps in the traditional weaving process.
Doña Deisy chose khesi misa (soot) as her dye topic. Khesi misa collects in the thatched roof over a wood burning fire. During a visit to her home community of Sanipaya she had used a broom to knock it loose from the roof of her grandmother’s kitchen. She grimaced at the memory as she told the other Club members about getting covered with dirty greasy soot and twigs. She soaked the soot overnight, then added 20 grams of alum after simmering it for ½ an hour. It wasn´t a pretty or fragrant dye pot, but the resulting milk chocolate brown skeins rinsed out odor-free bringing a smile from Deisy. Although khesi misa was a dye stuff the weavers were aware of when they began working with PAZA to rescue natural dye recipes in 2007, it’s hard to find today because most roofs are tin.
Doña Beatriz presented the palillo (turmeric) dye pot. Two kilos of turmeric root were purchased at a market stall in Cochabamba at 15 Bs./kilo ($2.20). Doña Bea mashed it and soaked it overnight. She added 20 grams of alum to the dye pot. A later dye pot combined the khesi misa and palillo dye pots to produce a dark orange dye. No mordants were added to that third dye bath.
Doña Arminda presented the suyku dye pot. The rainy season was 3 months late. By February, the roads are usually lined with tall stands of suyku topped with brilliant yellow clusters of blooms. Doña Maxima, Doña Beatriz, and Dorinda harvested on March 15th and were surprised to find only recent growth that was neither towering nor blooming. The leaves were stripped and soaked overnight then simmered for an hour prior to the presentation. Doña Arminda added 40 grams of alum in the 1st dye bath to produce a light yellow. Deciding to darken the 2nd dye bath she added 220 grams of millu de la playa. That local mineral salt just came into use by the weavers late last year.
The 3rd suyku dye bath received 15 grams of copper sulfate, purchased from the chemical store in Cochabamba, and 2 cups of chicha vinegar. Carnaval was a few weeks past, and chichi being that festival’s favored beverage had been brewed and stored by the 55-gallon barrel. It takes 4 days to prepare and lasts for 4 to 5 days before turning to vinegar.
Doña Maxima has been working with cochineal since it was first presented at a PAZA workshop in 2008. She soaked 300 grams of ground cochineal overnight. For the 1st dye bath, she added 50 grams of alum and 50 grams of cream of tartar. Desiring pink hues, the 2nd dye bath received 15 additional grams of alum. Fifteen grams of cream of tartar were added to the 3rd dye bath. The cochineal pot was not extinguished, and the Club members were thrilled with the bright pink the pot produced when they dyed with it a few weeks later.
During a lull with the dye pots, Doña Eulalia gave a spinning demonstration with her ph´uska (drop spindle). Roving is prepared by hand, not with carding combs. Doña Beatriz was shown spinning with the larger ph´uska used to ply 2 strands of yarn. The wool skeins are made up of 2 strands of yarn, but not plyed until after being dyed for better dye saturation. Doña Maxima had brought a black sheep hide to demonstrate how the fiber is removed with a knife.
Doña Beatriz lives closest, so she and Doña Maxima had carried the 12′ poles of her leaning frame loom to the PAZA workshop entryway. Vilma had held off finishing a weaving headed to the U.S., to demonstrate their traditional weaving technique. She untied it from her loom, rolled it up, and retied it to Doña Bea´s loom. Her daughters, Emily and Lineth, did the same with Emily´s first faja, and tied it onto PAZA´s short expo loom.
Jhoselin, Sarahi, and Maria Liz sat in the yard circled around a stake that Doña Arminda had pounded into the ground. They demonstrated the weaving motifs that Doña Maxima has taught them. Jhoselin, Sarahi, and Lineth have completed their first faja order for PAZA. A piece was cut so each of the chicas would have a sample of their first weaving. Vilma sewed the remainder into coin bags. Each of the chicas received a coin bag with the instructions to evaluate their peer market for sales.
PAZA is grateful that WARP offered this opportunity for the Club women and chicas to directly connect with a larger weaving world. It was also a chance to thank the WARP members who have supported the weavers through PAZA since 2010.
PAZA is struggling with fundraising to support its activities and marketing the weavings so will be making operational changes by this year´s end. Donations fund all Club de Artesanas and Centro de Artesania, Huancarani activities which strive to help the Bolivian weavers to care for their families through traditional and contemporary fiber skills. Please consider using the donate button at the top of the blog, thank you.
A blog posting about the weavings for sale will follow. They may be purchased by sending inquiries to Dorinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Lyn and Claire for your belief in PAZA and the years of support. Thank you Mary and Cathy for responding so generously to the WARP presentation. Dorinda Dutcher, April 13, 2023
Really like these detailed narratives.