Author: Dorinda Dutcher

Dorinda Dutcher dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Weavings for the Holidays

Doñas Deisy, Beatriz, Maxima, and Eulalia (with Llama Fiber Ch´uspa and Large Weaving)

Club de Artesanas members posed with their weavings last month prior to the weavings being transported to the U.S. Doña Eulalia is the only weaver who occasionally weaves with llama fiber.

Doña Beatris has woven the cloth for ch’uspas since a girl as the many rituals and celebrations of her home community of Sanipaya demand it. The ch’uspa in the photo is the first she has sold to PAZA because the requisites are natural dyed handspun yarn and attachment of the strap using a rolled border from the fold of the cloth to give the bag some width.

The ubiquitous hand crafted ch’uspas (shoulder bags) are timeless and defy fashion trends. There is little repeat market for the handspun, natural dyed, tightly woven wool bags because they are so enduring. When their day is done, they will harmlessly disintegrate back into the earth. Owners develop an attachment, perhaps because the weaver imparts a bit of her story as she warps the colors to her liking than weaves at her leaning frame loom stopping with each pass of the weft to pick out the Andean motifs. Although cloth may be woven for multiple ch’uspas each bag is unique once complete with strap and rolled edge border.

Ready to gift are:

  • Chuspas – $95
  • Zippered Pouches – 5 x 8”, $19/$20 w/wrist strap
  • Yoga Mat Straps – $22/$23

In the photo is Doña Arminda with the 1st ch’uspa she sold to PAZA and a large weaving. Her daughter, Jhoselin, holds a short faja, her 1st weaving on a leaning frame loom (and still in Independencia)

There is still time for anyone wishing to purchase woven cloth to make holiday gifts. The weavings may also be used as wall hangings and table runners.

  • Large Weaving – 63 x 9.5” $79
  • Medium Weaving – 51 x 7”, $50
  • Faja – 70 x 5”, $43
  • Strap – 78 x 1.5”, $22

In the photo 3 generations of weavers, Doña Maxima with a large weaving, Doña Vilma with a ch’uspa, and Lineth with her first weaving woven on a leaning frame loom.

This is the first time the U.S. inventory has been available for your holiday gift buying. The funds from your purchase will head back to Bolivia as a weaving order to ensure the weavers are able to buy uniforms and supplies when the school year begins in February.

Please direct orders and inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com. In Independencia, Dorinda still carries the 1st ch’uspa she bought from Doña Alicia in 2007. In the U.S., she carries a birthday gift ch’uspa woven by Doña Maxima in 2013. Newer bags with more dramatic hues repose in storage because even she can´t abandon old friends to promote the newer more vividly dyed ch’uspas. Dorinda Dutcher, November 14, 2022

Doña Deisy with her 1st Ch´uspa sold to PAZA, Doña Maxima, Doña Vilma, and Future Weaver Mira

Looking to 2023

2021 Spinning Week Prize Awarding, 1st Place Polleras on Right, 2nd Place Sweaters are 7 on Left

Last month, the weavers of the Centro de Artesania, Huancarani (CAH), the members of the Club de Artesanas (CdA), and Dorinda reviewed 2022 and discussed 2023. All skill-building workshops were possible thanks to those who supported PAZA this year. Any skill learned or strengthened is an irrevocable gift.

Arminda and Deisy Knitting 2022 Spinning Week 2nd Place Prizes, Long-Sleeved Sweaters

PAZA expenses average around $4,500 a year. The biggest expense is the beloved Spinning Week due to the prizes awarded to the 30 spinners in recognition of their spinning ability. This was the first year that the spinners knew that they would win a prize based on individual not team effort. Since, 2020, the 1st place prize has been a pollera (skirt). The increase in yarn spun this year indicated how coveted a pollera is as a prize. The 2nd place prizes have been a tank top, vest, and this year a sweater knit on a knitting machine. All prizes are made by members of the Club de Artesanas so that they earn income from skills they have learned or honed through Club activities.

Club Members with Shawl and Sweater Projects; Doñas Deisy, Vilma, Maxima, Eulalia, Arminda

Vilma has a monopoly on sewing the polleras, while Deisy and Arminda have made the knitting machine knit prizes the past 2 years. Next year Vilma will teach a 3-day class to Deisy and Arminda on use of the industrial sewing machine and practice in sewing the stretchy lycra pollera material. The final project will be a chica sized pollera. Arminda has 3 daughters, but only Maria Lis choses to don the traditional pollera, blusa, cardigan, and high heeled sandals the days she doesn’t wear the school’s sweat suit uniform. Vilma and Deisy’s daughters only wear polleras for traditional dance programs.

Abdiel in Vest Arminda Made from Leftover Yarn,

Doña Maxima Sewing on Spinning Week Prize

Doña Beatris and Doña Eulalia travel between their rural farms and town and spend less days at the Club workshop. Vilma will give both classes on the portable sewing machine. Doña Eulalia has learned to crochet and knit sweaters with knitting needles this year. Next year she´ll advance in complexity with patterns on the knitting machine. The Club projects allow members to make clothing for themselves and other family members.

The Club chicas enjoy crocheting, and they´re fast. PAZA supplies them yarn and they find patterns on their phones which they acquired for their studies during Covid. During Dorinda´s visits they attend baking classes to provide the Club snack. Jhoselin and Lineth, the 2 oldest chicas graduated to weaving on the rustic loom this year. A sample will be kept for them to refer to as they progress, the rest they´ll cut with help from their moms to make coin bags which will be for sale next year. Sarahi is anxious to graduate to the loom, which should happen during the school vacation early next year.

Jhoselin with her Crocheted Vest Project
Sarahi, Jhoselin, & Emily with 1st Weavings Sold

PAZA activities with the weavers of Huancarani connect them to a bigger world and provide them opportunities to leave the isolation of their farmsteads to gather. An ongoing problem has been workshop/meeting space. The entire adobe brick back wall of the abandoned classroom where their sewing and knitting equipment was stored and where PAZA held workshops in 2021 collapsed and disintegrated back into the earth earlier this year. They’ve been told by the Organización de Varones (Men) that the abandoned schoolroom where the unharmed equipment was moved is temporary. The room has no electricity, and no light enters through the broken windows covered with cardboard. As the Organización de Mujeres (Women) they’ve owned land where they built a clubhouse and operated a grain mill for decades. They haven´t set foot on it in years due to threats from the previous owner who lives next door and wants the land back. Infrastructure is outside of PAZA´s scope. PAZA does offer opportunities for the women to gather so they are able to discuss options. There is a solution, they just need encouragement to know they´re capable of finding it and taking action.

Former Workshop (Women in Front of Window in Top Photo)
Back View of Former Workshop

All 2023 PAZA activities including Spinning Week are dependent on donations. ´Tis the season for giving, please consider clicking on the donation button above to help women and chicas to help themselves. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, November 2, 2022, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

In the School Yard Discussing a Future for a Workshop/Clubhouse in Huancarani, October 2022

Spinning Week Record at 89,887 Meters

Measuring Yarn Spun in Sanipaya

Joyous Spinning Week is the celebration of the lifelong spinning skills of the Bolivian weavers working with PAZA. The day after the competition ended, the Huancarani measuring team loaded into Don Julio´s latest SUV. This one featured 2 rows of bench seats for passengers which filled up with Club members Arminda and Vilma with her 2 babes, Maribel who’s been involved with measuring in Huancarani for years, Dorinda, and a stack of plastic chairs. Doña Maxima always rides shotgun. PAZA pays the Bolivian team members for the day, it is tedious tiring work.

Maribel Measuring, Huancarani
Two Measuring Stations, Yarn Everywhere

Arriving at Huancarani´s center, all headed to the church porch to figure out a measuring set-up. Thick planks stacked on the porch were carried over to align with the porch´s edge. It was serendipity that the 1-meter mark made with a Sharpie was at a comfortable level for measuring out meter after meter while seated in a plastic chair. The person tallying the measurement count sat on a low bench and the 2 positions switched off between spinners. When Doña Cecilia showed up carrying a desk exactly 1 meter in width from the school, Don Julio abandoned his plank set-up for the desk with built in bench.

Doña Narciza, 4,350 Meters, Huancarani
Doña Eulogia, 4,396 Meters, Huancarani

Some of the 16 spinners came to socialize all day, those having livestock to shepherd were given priority. Many spin every day, although in comparing individual spinner´s results to past years, some were motivated during Spinning Week to increase their output in hopes of winning a pollera (skirt). Doña Narciza arrived with her drop spindle whirling plying yarn she´d dyed dark green with chilka leaves.

There was a lot of joking and laughter as all pitched in to help keep the yarn being measured from tangling as it was wound back into balls by its spinner. Vilma measured the spinners for polleras (1st place prize) and eyeballed all to write down a S, M, or L sweater (2nd place prize) size. There was a break for the communal lunch, and the measuring team was back on the road by 3:00pm.

Doña Justina, 4,420 Meters, Huancarani
Don Julio Measures, Daughter Vilma Tallies, Grandkids Play

The following day the Sanipaya measuring team included driver Don Julio, Doña Maxima, Deisy, and Dorinda. Vilma and her 2 babes joined the group so they could visit their abuela. The road climbs out of the Palca Valley up onto a ridge atop the world. On the way to Huancarani the clouds had puffed along at eye level. A day later cloud vapor shot out of the steep river valleys on both sides like volcanic plumes sculpting into whimsical shapes at their tops. There was little traffic but a lot of dust on the road during the 1.5-hour drive. On the way down the mountainside to Doña Beatriz´s house Vilma and babes were dropped off at her in-laws. A 2nd stop was made so that Deisy could hand off groceries to her grandmother who was patiently waiting at a trail.

Measuring Yarn, Sanipaya
Measuring for Spinning Week Prizes, Huancarani

Doña Beatriz has been a Club de Artesanas member since 2011. She attends when she´s in Independencia where she has a house, and her 15-year-old son lives during the school year. She has organized the Sanipaya spinners since the 1st Spinning Week competition in 2014. This year 9 of the 30 Spinning Week spinners live in Sanipaya. They have always been more subdued but as sincerely grateful for Spinning Week as the boisterous Huancarani spinners.

A table was carried from the kitchen to the covered porch and a meter marked off on 2 sides. Deisy marked off a bench and the 3 teams began measuring. Vilma arrived and pitched in with tallying results and then measured all the spinners for polleras and sweaters.  A nest was made between the measuring areas at abuela Doña Maxima´s feet and the babes entertained themselves and everyone else.

Will She Learn to Spin and Weave
How Long will They Continue to Spin and Weave

The Sanipaya spinners have always prepared lunch for the measuring team. Chicken, potatoes, and fava beans had been roasted in the wood burning oven and were served with a salad of lettuce, onion, and tomato. Salad is considered a festive dish. Salads have never been included at the communal lunches in Huancarani where each person contributes a dish typical of what they prepare every morning for family members headed to school, field, or pasture.

Lunch, Huancarani
Lunch, Sanipaya

Thursday morning the Club members measured their results, and all results were posted after lunch. There were some surprises. Club members Deisy and Arminda who did so well during their 1st Spinning Week competition last year were in 2nd place this year. Deisy said it was the quality of the fleece they´d bought at the last minute. In 2021, they´d bought long fibered fleece from a vendor during the 16 de Julio Fiesta. There were no fleece vendors this year at the Fiesta. After the pollera material shopping trip in Cochabamba, Doña Maxima was determined to win a pollera this year, she did. Doña Felicidad was this year’s top spinner a first for her having spun 4,728 meters. The 30 spinners spun 89,887 meters an increase from last year´s 83,960 meters.

Thank you Lyn and Jenny for your continued support of the Bolivian weavers and chicas. Dorinda Dutcher, October 19, 2022

Sanipaya Measuring Team, Vilma, Deisy, Dorinda, Doña Maxima and Grandbabes

Spinning Week 2022

Spinning Week Photo Day Gathering, Huancarani
Doñas Arminda, Deisy, Andrea, and Eulalia, Club de Artesanas

In 3 locations, 30 Bolivian spinners spent the first week of October whirling their phuskas (drop spindles) every possible waking moment. Doña Andrea, who was in town babysitting her grandkids joined the Club de Artesanas members on Tuesday morning with her youngest granddaughter in tow. The spinners set their phuskas aside long enough for a snack break Tuesday afternoon when their daughters´ baking class served up orange cake and on Thursday when herbal tea and oatmeal cookies were served.

Spinning Week Wednesday is the day that the Huancarani spinners gather to eyeball each other’s progress and the mid-competition photo day. PAZA contracted Don Maxima´s husband, Don Julio for transportation. Doña Eulalia hopped aboard for the ride to check on her family farm. Doña Arminda´s husband took the last seat and was dropped off at the crossroads of the unpaved main road and the “road” leading down the mountainside to Huancarani. He headed off on foot across the top of the world to do chores on his family´s farm in Sanipaya. A visit with Doña Narciza was the first stop. The road was cut to the west side of Huancarani about 5 years ago, and the steep curves have eroded a bit each year. The hair-raising ride ends in a field near her house. The first impression upon disembarking is the peace, then the bird song and the soughing of the wind. Looking to the west is a narrow profound valley and indistinct dots which are Sanipaya farmsteads.

Note the 2 Phuska´s Tucked into Doña Narciza´s Belt (right side)

Doña Narciza raced out thrilled for visitors and led the way back to her house. Her phuska was in hand and black roving wound around her wrist. She stopped by a 3-sides shed to show Doña Maxima the black sheep hides from which she´d cut and prepared the fleece. She´d cut fleece from a white hide, but wasn´t happy with the length of the fiber. She piled the white wool into a bag and hung it from a handy natural protrusion on the pole support of the shed. A bag of black wool went into an aguayo that she´d later sling on her back when she headed out to shepherd her goats. Goat jerky was drying on a line strung above.

Bagging White Fleece to Store, Black Fleece Was Wrapped in Her Aguayo for the Day of Spinning while Shepherding

She rushed Don Julio, Doña Maxima, and Dorinda into her yard and served plates of rice with vegetable bits and chicken. Llajua, the Bolivian salsa, of mashed tomatoes and chilies was served on the side. The yard was packed dirt with flowering shade trees. Doña Maxima stripped broad leaves from one tree to take home for medical use. Even though chickens wandered about hoping for a handout, it was a neat and restful space.

Doña Narciza Chasing Down the Kids to Return Them to the Corral (sticks on the right)

The visit was too brief because the goats needed food and water. Doña Narciza tucked 2 drop spindles into 1 side of her pollera (skirt) belt and a braided fiber warak´a (sling) on the other side. When she opened the corral gate a multi-colored stream of goats raced through the recently turned corn field to the dried grass beyond. She ran this way and that amid them collecting the kids less than 2 months old. They were put back in the corral because the babes nap and can be lost if they nestle into shady undergrowth. Doña Narciza´s voice was still ringing out as the group headed to the car for the next stop. Although her farm is peaceful, her loneliness was palpable. The vehicle stopped to greet Doña Felicidad who had decided to walk the miles to spin with Doña Narciza rather than joining the larger group.

Doña Narciza Asked for a Photo to be Developed with Her, Younger Sister, Doña Maxima, and her Goats. Note Fiber Braided Sling Hanging from her Belt

The second and last meeting spot was near the centrally located now abandoned farmstead of Doña Casimira who passed away in early 2020. She often won Spinning Week and her joy in spinning was caught in many photos. It´s apt that she´s so fondly remembered during Spinning Week. The sun was hot, so the group that had gathered headed to the nearest shady spot under trees on an old road. The morning whiled away in the camaraderie of spinning, chatting, and laughing. One hen wandered among the group, and 3-year-old Cristian discovered a recently laid egg tucked into the dry roadside grasses. Later to entertain himself he adorned his mother´s sombrero with flowers. The communal lunch was laid out on an aguayo. All dug into the pots of boiled corn, rice and or noodles with jerky or fried egg, and boiled potatoes. A few of the dishes had splashes of llajua providing heat and color. All too soon, the women headed off in different directions, their drop spindles whirling.

Doñas Verna, Angelica, and Eulogia Waiting for Spinning Group to Gather

Thank you, Susan, Margaret, Rob, Cloth Roads, and Gail, for making Spinning Week possible. Thank you to Lyn and Marjorie for making all PAZA activities possible. PAZA operates on a shoestring budget, so please consider clicking the “Donate” button above. Your contribution will help women and chicas help themselves through skill building in traditional and contemporary fiber arts. Dorinda Dutcher, October 12, 2022

Cristian Adorning His Mom´s Sombrero
Doña Dionicia Turned 91 During Spinning Week

Final Countdown to Spinning Week

Rainy Prize Awarding Day, Huancarani, 2020, Polleras on Left, Knit Tops on Right

Spinning Week in Independencia, Bolivia will begin Monday, October 3rd. Yesterday, was the annual Spinning Week Shopping Spree to purchase supplies to make 15 polleras (skirts) for the 1st place winners and cones of yarn to knit the 15 sweaters for the 2nd place winners. Doña Maxima, her daughter Zoraida, and 4 other family members were patiently waiting at the rendezvous point in Cochabamba´s huge vendor market, La Cancha. Dorinda arrived a few minutes late due to the turtle crawl through the hoard of mobile vendors and shoppers stretching out for blocks. Doña Maxima had insisted on meeting during one of La Cancha´s 3 weekly shopping days. Last year´s shopping spree on a quieter market day resulted in closed shops and a limited choice of yarn colors. The group plunged into the crowd, but it thinned out near the yarn booths. Doña Maxima and Zoraida had a ball discussing the merits of the rainbow of colors than bargaining until the deal was sealed at a price below the budget.

Zoraida, Doña Maxima, Zuni Eyeing Pollera Material Selection
Zuni Folding the 3 Meters of Cloth with Uncle Ademar

La Cancha is a maze, but Zoraida confidently led the way through back aisles to the area selling material for polleras. Shop after shop displayed bolts of vivid, somber, and jewel toned colors. Polleras are 3 meters (roughly yards) of pleated material, originally rough woven wool, the store-bought material is currently a synthetic with lycra. Doña Maxima and Zoraida were drawn to a shop that had 2-faced material with a brighter hue on the underside. They bargained the price down 40% less than what was budgeted! Working with the saleswoman they helped to measure and cut 10 lengths of cloth then couldn´t agree on another color. Zoraida´s 13-year-old daughter, Zuni, who has participated in PAZA events longer than she can remember, and Doña Maxima´s son, Ademar folded the cloth. Ademar took off with the bag of cloth to sit with Zoraida´s husband, Luis, who was patiently sitting and guarding the bag of yarn cones. He was also keeping an eye on their 5-year-old daughter, Ariana, who was having a ball running around.

The women and Zuni went from shop to shop until finding an incredible array of colors, including burgundy, but a shopkeeper who wouldn´t budge from her original price, which was PAZA´s budgeted price ($7.20/meter). Doña Maxima had her heart set on burgundy, which obviously wasn´t a color trending this year. Burgundy and 4 other colors were selected, and the lengths of cloth were quickly measured, cut, and folded. Doña Maxima is going to have to increase her spinning effort this year to win one of the first-place polleras.

Doña Maxima Measuring Doña Alicia for a Pollera, Huancarani

The next search was for inexpensive ($1.45/meter) cotton/synthetic material to color coordinate as the pollera´s sash. Zuni ran for the 1st bag of material while Zoraida and Doña Maxima conferred and made their 15 selections. Thread was the last item on the list. Zoraida guided the group back towards the entrance, and the material was once again matched in color. Luis is the 1st generation of his family to drive and own a vehicle. He led the way to the parking lot lugging the huge bag of yarn. Zuni was carrying the pollera cloth on her back in an aguayo. Max had a tight grip on Ariana´s hand. Ademar carried a mesh bag of all the other bits and pieces purchased to make the prizes. Zoraida followed happy but tired.

Arminda & Daughter, Jhoselin, Learning Weaving Motifs Together, Club de Artesanas

Jhoselin Checking Out Her Mother’s Knitting Project

The Club de Artesanas members will earn income by making the polleras and sweaters. An increase in those wages was budgeted per their request to $10 per sweater and $11.50 per pollera. Last year there was a larger gap between the 2 wages, and they learned that the knitting machine work was nearly as labor intensive as the machine and hand sewing of the polleras. A few Club members will earn income by helping to measure the Spinning Week results on the 2 days following the competition.

Thank you to Lyn, Susan, Margaret, Rob, Gail, and Cloth Roads (sponsor of original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team, 2014-2018) for supporting this year´s Spinning Week!  Spinning Week is PAZA´s biggest activity of the year, and this year only $782 of the $1,100 needed for expenses has been raised. Any donations received over the amount needed for Spinning Week will go toward the year-round Club de Artesanas which offers project-based contemporary and traditional fiber skill building activities to women and girls. PAZA also supports the weavers of Huancarani in their quest to preserve their weaving heritage.

Arminda’s Youngest, Anita, Embroidering
Club Dye Day

Wi-fi will not be available from Independencia, but the Spinning Week blogs will be written in Inde and posted in early November when author and wi-fi are reunited. E-mail and WhatsApp video chats are possible via cell phone. Dorinda Dutcher, from Cochabamba, September 25, 2022, dkdutcher (at) hotmail.com.

2022 Spinning Week & PAZA Change

Doñas Julia, Alicia, and Maxima, Spinning Week, Huancarani, 2015

July was Spinning Week registration for the Bolivian spinners. It was also a busy month on their farms with the once-a-year harvest of Andean grains, corn, and legumes such as tarwi known as Andean lupine. Spinning Week will be Monday, October 3rd through Sunday October 9th, which falls during a lull in the spinners´ agricultural calendar. They do not like change. They have witnessed so much in their lifetimes having been born into the famer subsistence lifestyle which their children escaped by heading out into a larger unfathomable world. What little the women can control they are adamant about controlling. Last year on short notice Spinning Week was changed from the 7-year-old practice of Monday through Sunday to Spin Together´s Saturday through Friday schedule. Beginning Spinning Week on Saturday, which is the sacred (church) day for the many Evangelico spinners was not well received. Because of the demand to return to a Monday through Sunday Spinning Week, the team Phuskadoras Internacionales will not be registering for Spin Together’s Spinning Week competition this year.

Doña Justina in her Tarwi Field, 2014
Corn Always Appears at Communal Lunches, 2011, More Plastic than Weavings as Food Containers Today

The 2021 Spin Together team Phuskadoras Internacionales (drop spindles only) consisted of the top 15 Bolivian spinners from 2020 and had 10 slots for foreign spinners. Only 3 foreign spinners joined the team, with one placing 7th. The video and photo exchanges on the team’s Face Book page wasn’t enough to connect the spinners. Last November, foreign team member, Stephane, had a rewarding video chat with Doña Maxima and Dorinda. She told Doña Maxima that watching one of Vilma´s Spinning Week videos helped her improve her ph´uska (drop spindle) spinning technique.

Spinning Week, 2014 (Watch Video in Sidebar)
Spin Week, 2016 (Watch Video in Sidebar)

This year during Spinning Week, PAZA would like to experiment with video chats via WhatsApp or Zoom. Dorinda will be in Bolivia to facilitate the timing, connecting and help with language translation. There is no wi-fi, so social media is accessed by purchasing cell phone data. The quality of the calls can´t be guaranteed, the weekly video chats with Doña Maxima vary from great to frozen pixelated frames. If there is interest in a video chat during a Club dye day, that can be arranged as well.

The PAZA blog began in 2010. Other than a few grants over the years it has been used as the chief source of fundraising to cover Club and Huancarani workshop expenses (around $4,500/yr). Those of you who are WARP members have generously supported since the blog’s beginning, and except for the 4 of you who visited Independencia, have not had the opportunity to interact with the weavers who you´ve supported for so long. It’s long past time to fix that.

Doña Maxima & Arminda Checking Out the Team’s FB Page Last Year
Doña Narciza Herded her Goats to Meet Up for Photo Day During Spinning Week in 2016

PAZA is going stronger than ever in Independencia, with dynamic women and chicas in the Club and engaged Huancarani weavers. The blog postings, fundraising, and sales of the weavings have declined because of the other demands on Dorinda’s time. The blog postings and fundraising for this year will be between now and mid-December to cover Spinning Week and sales of the weavings that will be traveling to the U.S. in early November. You still have time to commission a special-order weaving to be woven to your specifications. The weavings are the topic of the previous blog posting.

Deisy and Vilman, Club de Artesanas Dye Day, 2021
The Dye Day Results

If you would like to arrange for a video chat with the Bolivian spinners during Spinning Week, please contact Dorinda through her e-mail below. If you would like to join the Phuskadoras Internactionales, you may register to spin with the team. The Bolivians chose polleras (skirt) for the 1st place prize and long-sleeved cardigans for the 2nd place prize. All prizes will be made by the Club members. Your prize will be a small woven pouch made from the 1st weavings by either 14-year-old Lineth or 12-year-old Jhoselin. (Sarahi, who is 9, is unhappy she´s not yet strong enough to weave on the loom). It has been 10 years since PAZA has been able to motivate chicas to progress to the level of weaving required by Doña Maxima to weave on the leaning frame loom. Participating in a video chat or spinning with the team requires a donation. The amount is at your discretion. For those of you who enjoy the blog, but haven´t donated, the donation thank-you e-mail always includes more scoop than what makes it into a blog posting. There will be blog postings into the end of the year because Spinning Week is so much fun and provides so many tales and photo ops that need to be shared. Dorinda Dutcher, dkdutcher@hotmail.com, August 14, 2022

Lineth´s 1st Weaving, Using Her Mother´s (Vilma) Loom at Their Home
Doña Eulalia Offering Advice to Doña Arminda Who is Warping her Daughter, Jhoselin´s, 1st Weaving for the Loom

The Weavings

This posting is in response to questions received about the Bolivian weavings that recently arrived in the U.S. and are for sale.

Doñas Maxima & Antonia Warping a Loom
Doña Maxima at Her Leaning Frame Loom

The weavings are made from wool handspun and plyed with a drop spindle. Many of the Huancarani weavers have sold their flocks, so instead of spinning daily while shepherding they do their year’s worth of spinning during the Spinning Week competition which is the first week in October. Fleece can be purchased when vendors arrive from the highlands to sell during fiestas. In collaboration with the development work of PAZA the Huancarani weavers are working to rescue natural dye techniques. They dye their skeins with local plants and Bolivian cochineal. Two poles are notched to make their leaning frame looms.

Weavings For Sale for DYI Projects

Large Weaving, Medium Weaving, Faja, Strap

Thanks to backstrap weaver and instructor, Laverne Waddington, the Bolivian weavers have found a niche market with her weaving students. The foreign weavers showcase the traditional weavings in their design work.

There are 4 sizes of weavings for designing your own project. The edges are unfinished. From left to right are

  • Large Weaving, 63″ x 9.5″, $79
  • Medium Weaving, 51″ x 7″, $50
  • Faja, 70″ x 5″, $43
  • Strap, 78″ x 1.5″, $22
Doña Beatris with a Large Weaving that She Wove

The large weaving is the dimension used to cut and sew 6 zippered pouches. Another use would be to roll and sew the raw edges to make a lovely wall hanging. The weavers delight in seeing photos of how their weavings are used in DYI projects.  

They used handspans and arm lengths to measure their weavings prior to having to learn how to use a tape measure to weave to PAZA´s specifications. PAZA doesn´t change the dimension specifications of the weavings in the orders unless buyer feedback indicates that a permanent change is warranted. They have accepted special orders on occasion.

The medium size weavings are a new dimension that just arrived in the U.S. Doña Arminda joined the Club de Artesanas last year. She knew how to weave blankets (ph´ullus) which don´t incorporate motifs. Doña Maxima taught her how to weave figures. She learned to weave figures from Doña Maxima and it wasn´t long before she began weaving straps to fill PAZA orders. This is her first medium sized weaving, and she´s justifiably proud to be earning more income to care for her 4 children. Abdiel, her youngest, is in the background.

Because this is a new size weaving, feedback would be appreciated on how it´s used for DYI projects, and if the dimensions need to be tweaked.

Maribel and her Son Daniel With a Faja That She Wove

The faja dimensions were established by Laverne, who began ordering the weavings in 2014 for her backstrap weaving workshops.  She monitored the quality of the fajas and if the specifications were not met then she sent feedback accompanied by photos. Her assistance to raise the weaving quality for the foreign market was timely. The sales within Bolivia declined as the price of the weavings rose towards a price the weavers deemed to be a fair price, which is a market outside of Bolivia. They approve the price they receive for their weavings annually.

Another traditional use for a faja (belt) is to tightly wrap a newborn so the babe can be safely carried in an aguayo.

Vilma´s Youngest
Vilma Swinging Her Baby onto Her Back

The faja is the beige wrapping around the lower ¾ of Vilma’s youngest. The weavers usually personalize inexpensive factory made one-piece aguayos by crocheting on a border. If they find an unknown motif that they like in a machine made aguayo they will incorporate into their weavings. The older weavers still weave aguayos for Quechua celebrations. Those aguayos are 2 panels sewn together with a decorative stitch. The competitiveness they experienced as teens in weaving masterpieces to debut at Carnaval hasn’t diminished. Vilma, as a mother of 6 children under the age of 15 talked wistfully about weaving an aguayo, but her mother, Doña Maxima just smiled a knowing smile. There was almost a 30-year gap due to motherhood between the time Doña Maxima wove complex figures into aguayos as a teen and settled down to her loom to weave aguayos for her and her husband when he was elected mayor of Huancarani in 2015.

The straps are the dimension used to make the yoga mat straps for a 1/4” thick yoga mat. You can cut them to size for a DYI shoulder bag. When Doña Maxima determines that a new weaver has reached the skill level to receive PAZA orders she will assign a strap.

Woven Products

Ch´uspas (Shoulder Bags), $93

Doña Antonia with a Ch´uspa She Wove on the Left and a Large Weaving on the Right
Ch´uspas that Made Their Way to the U.S. and are For Sale
A Favorite Color Combination of Doña Eulalia

The ch´uspas are the only woven items that are not pre-ordered but selected on site in Independencia. Doña Eulalia wove cloth to cut and make 2 ch’uspas. The strap she wove for this ch’uspa has a figure running through it that she copied from one of Laverne Waddington´s books on weaving techniques. The ñawi (eye) is the motif for the rolled border that binds the strap to the bag and finishes the top edge.

When 2 or 3 ch’uspas are cut from the same weaving they are finished differently. All weavings are unique.

Zippered Pouches, 5” x 8” wide

With a Wrist Strap, $19

Without a Wrist Strap, $20

Doña Felicidad and Maxima with Pouches Made from Their Weavings
Selection of Pouches

Vilma earns income for her family by cutting the large weavings pictured above to sew 6 pouches. Doña Maxima usually weaves the wrist straps so that they coordinate with the pouches.

Yoga Mat Straps

Straps for a 1/8” thick yoga mat, $22

Straps for a 1/4” thick yoga mat, $23

The yoga mat straps have Velcro closures

Doña Maxima with a 1/4″ thick yoga mat
Selection of Yoga Mat Straps

Thank you for your interest in the Bolivian weavers, sales are key to the sustainability of their weaving tradition. For sales inquiries, please e-mail dkdutcher@hotmail.com. Dorinda Dutcher, April 23, 2022

Dye Days & Weavings For Sale

Results of Club de Artesanas Dye Day with Cochineal, Suyku, the Misiq’o Flower and the Misiq’o Shrub

The unique earthy jewel-toned palette of the Andean weavings is thanks to the local plant biodiversity and accessibility to native cochineal. After a decade of PAZA workshops to rescue natural dye techniques the Huancarani weavers usually dye and experiment with plant dye baths on their own or with their neighbors. Many drop off skeins with Doña Maxima in Independencia for cochineal dyeing by the Club de Artesanas members. Since 2007, Doña Narciza has been in the forefront of adding more colors into the warp of the weavings. Today, the weavings deserve a close look to appreciate the subtle color gradient changes.

During Dorinda´s visit in March, time was spent to bring the newer Club members up to date on the history of PAZA and the weavers collaboration on relearning natural dye techniques. Doña Maxima and Dorinda began teaching natural dye workshops in 2008 and often doing practice dye pots to keep one step ahead of their students. A Quechua speaking natural dye expert taught 2 intensive weekend workshops in 2010 which opened the door to mordants and a host of dye techniques. The dye workshops ended in Huancarani in 2017 with the expectation that the weavers knew enough to dye on their own instead of impacting the quality of a dye pot by overstuffing the workshop dye pots.

Vilma with Large Weaving that She Wove
Doña Toribia Wove This Medium Weaving (New Size)

Two Club goals that weren’t met in 2021 were to dye with the bark of the sumaraya tree and khesi misa the soot that accumulates in the straw roof over a cook fire. The same day that unmet goal was discussed, Club members Doñas Beatris, Arminda and Deisy hiked up the mountain to the Pajchanti cloud forest then struggled back down with 3 heavy tree limbs. At the following Club day, the women used machetes, knives, and an axe to peel away the outer bark and dig away chunks of the soft bright orange inner bark for the dye pot. The Club members hadn´t dyed with sumaraya since 2017. Googling and library searches for “sumaraya” over the years produced nothing until today´s search. Thanks to new Andean dye articles it appears to be or related to Yanali (Bocconia frutescens) (tree poppy).

The Club members are on the lookout for khesi misa which dyes skeins a deep chocolate brown. Straw roofs that need annual rethatching have been replaced with tin.

One dye day was spent with the dye stove simmering a pot of skeins in sumaraya and a 2nd pot of cochineal. The last dye bath was a combination of the two. A few Club members dropped underdyed pale pink cochineal dyed skeins into the sumaraya dye pot for brighter results.

Prepping the Sumaraya

The second Club dye day began with a morning drive up the mountain to harvest the vivid yellow misiq´o flower, branches from a seemingly unrelated shrub called misiq´o, and suyku. Because it wasn´t raining, Doña Arminda stayed home to wash the mountain of clothes generated by a family of six. Her amiable husband, Moises, an ambulance driver, joined the harvest crew. He scrunched up in the back of Doña Maxima´s family´s Rav4 and returned perched on 2 gunny sacks full of the fragrant harvest. Although the daily rains make it difficult to dry clothes on the line, the suyku easily harvested along the roadside had been washed clean. Only chicha vinegar and salt were added to the first suyku dye bath to produce a pale yellow green. The weavers darken the skeins at home with an ash water afterbath. Both Doña Bea and Dona Deisy admitted to being reminded that using ash water is a cold-water process after pulling disintegrating skeins from ash water that they had boiled.

Club Members and Spouses Preparing the Suyku Dye Pot

The misiq´o flower was at its peak for the year and flowering in clumps. If the weavers try to harvest too early the blooms are spread out, making for more walking and bending. It produces just 1 brilliant yellow orange dye bath. It´s the most labor-intensive plant to harvest so all the Club members picked flowers to add to the dye pot.

Doñas Vilma and Deisy with Cochineal and Sumaraya Dye Baths
Results of the 1st Sumaraya Dye Bath

The weavers are hoping to receive a PAZA order by the end of April, but that is dependent on sales of the current inventory. Over 2 years of PAZA weaving orders are finally consolidated in Montana. Weavings available for sale include ch´uspas (shoulder bags, $93), zippered pouches (5” x 8”) for $19 and with wrist straps for $20. The yoga mat strap for a 1/8” thick mat is $22 and for a 1/4 mat is $23.

There are 3 sizes of weavings with unfinished ends for DYI projects, although they can also be used as wall hangings. The 63 x 9.5” weavings ($79) are what Vilma cuts to sew 6 zippered pouches. There is a new medium size weaving ($50) that is 51 x 7”. Feedback is needed about the new dimension to determine if the size should be tweaked. The 70 x 5” fajas that Laverne Waddington uses in her backstrap weaving workshops are $43. Speaking of Laverne, the weavers have been using her pattern book to learn new figures to incorporate into their weavings. The 78 x 1.5” straps that can be used for shoulder straps or to make your own yoga strap are $22. Sales inquiries can be sent to dkdutcher@hotmail.com. Thank you for supporting the Bolivian weavers with your purchase.

Doña Eulalia Sold her Goats, Moved to Independencia, and Joined the Club (The school dorm isn´t available for teens, and she has 2 sons). She is Holding a Large Weaving, a Medium Size Weaving and Wearing a Chuspa
Doña Felicidad Picked up Her Skeins Dyed by the Club. She´s Holding a Ch´uspa she Wove on the Left, and a Pouch Made from One of Her Weavings

Thank you Lyn and Marjorie for your continued support of PAZA, the weavers, and the chicas! Dorinda Dutcher, April 12, 2022

Belated News, November Visit

Doña Narciza´s Natural Dyed Aguayo

The short visit to Independencia to check on the PAZA activities allowed for faces to be put to names and tales that hadn’t been communicated in video chats to be told. Arminda and Deisy, the 2 new Club de Artesanas (CdA) who joined last February were engaging and enthusiastic. They didn’t know how to weave the traditional Andean motifs last February and were selling straps to fill PAZA weaving orders by June. They earned additional income by helping out with Spinning Week measuring and knitting the Spinning Week 2nd place prizes which were vests. They willingly taught knitting machine workshops in Huancarani, which although paid was something the 2 Club members they had replaced didn’t want to do. Training local trainers has been an objective of the Club since it began in 2010. Although initially afraid that they’d shame their team, both did well during Spinning Week. During the visit, PAZA resources for kids were taken out of storage just in time for the summer vacation. There were up to 9 kids a day (including 3 boys) working on embroidery projects or drawing which pleased the moms.

Knitting Workshops, Huancarani

Doña Toribia Knitting, Doña Eulalia with Blusa

Doña Maxima shared her tale of participating in a fiber arts skill exam in September given by the national government. Her son carried PAZA´s short demo leaning frame loom (2 notched poles) to the sports arena. Max headed down the steep incline with an aguayo on her back that held her lunch, weaving and crochet supplies and a warp rolled between the 2 cross pieces which she would attach to the loom poles. Her large collection of handspun wool yarn in a wide range of hues and tones from local plant dyes and cochineal was used for the warp. Synthetic yarn was used for the weft and the crochet project.

She proudly related how the examiner kept returning during the timed weaving exam to ask about the natural dye process. Max has been teaching PAZA´s natural dye workshops since 2008, although at that time was learning alongside her students. She participated in weaving demonstrations in 2013 and 2017 at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco´s (CTTC) Tinkuy International Weaving Conferences where she answered questions about her weaving techniques. However, at her first Tinkuy experience in 2010 she was so shy that she clammed up and almost slid under the dinner table when asked a question about her weavings.

During the weaving exam, other weavers tried to lure the examiner to their work. None were weaving with local natural dyes, but with synthetic yarn, ironically trying to call the examiner´s attention to “the techniques of their ancestors”. Max´s ability to WOW the examiner with such a knowledgeable professional presentation can be credited to her hard work and her self-confidence developed through the years. To have been highly praised by a representative of the national government was unexpected but well-deserved. To be recognized in front of her peers for the work in which they have harassed her for political reasons was empowering. It was a feel-good moment and merits being shared with all of you who have supported the PAZA activities through the years. There´s been no word from the government about the exam results, and Max was vague about its purpose.

Doña Maxima and Arminda Checking out Dorinda´s Spinning Week FB Threads

A rather disturbing tale concerned a weaving order inquiry from the local cultural center. The Huancarani weavers didn´t even debate declining the order for 150 full-size ch´uspas (shoulder bags) to be completed within a month at a price of $15 a bag. The weavings made of natural dyed handspun yarn (most spun during Spinning Week) are cut to make 3 ch´uspas. The shoulder straps are than woven and each bag is assembled with a rolled border. The final touch is 2 to 3 pompons on the bottom. Each ch’uspa is roughly 40 hours of labor. The weavers set the PAZA price annually and it is $80. In 2007, at PAZA’s first craft fair with the weavers, the ch’uspas were crudely assembled and priced at $6 – $8.

November Meeting in Huancarani Discussing Spin Together Spinning Week and Planning Knitting Machine Workshops

Thank goodness that Doña Narciza hitched into Independencia to show off her just completed aguayo of natural dyed wool. The trip was against her husband’s wishes, as the rains had finally begun, and they needed to plant the corn crop the next day. It was no surprise that the combination of her vast stash of natural dyed fiber from all her experimenting with color, her eye for combining color, and her high-level technical skills created a stunning piece of art. Her daughter is trying to figure out how to make a living selling hand-made fiber products in Cochabamba. It would be wonderful if she could find a Bolivian market for the traditional weavings. The fate of the aguayo was unclear but it was headed to an event the daughter was attending in La Paz.

PAZA teaches skills which enable mothers to earn income to care for their families.

Vilma´s 2 youngest of 6, note faja binding the baby so she can be safely carried in an aguayo. Maribel on the left suffered unexpected family difficulties last year.

There are many stories to be told about the November visit, weavings to sell, and 2022 fundraising to be done since PAZA did not receive a grant for the year. PAZA responsibilities fall on Dorinda whose priority has been caring for her parents to keep them in their home. Another trip to Bolivia begins next week, which will add to the tales to be told. More weavings will be arriving in the U.S. including ch’uspas and a new dimension for DYI projects that needs to be evaluated (51” x 7”). Sales of the weavings are tentatively scheduled for April. Inquiries can be made prior to that at dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you, Lyn, for your stalwart support. Thank you, Rob, for your support of indigenous weavers and your efforts on the front line of Covid. Thank you, Emily, for your continued support of Max and the women of Independencia. More tales to come. Dorinda Dutcher, February 2, 2022

Spinning Week 2021

Spinning Week in Huancarani, Doña Maxima Center

Spinning Week 2021 is over, the results are tabulated, and planning for 2022 has begun. A huge group hug and thank you to the Spin Together volunteers who organized the virtual spinning event. The drop spindle Phuskadoras Internacionales team was composed of the 15 highest ranking Bolivian spinners from last year´s local competition and 3 American spinners. This was the first time that the Bolivian spinners who´ve worked with PAZA since 2007 have communicated directly through social media with an international fiber community. Although Vilma, Doña Maxima´s eldest, was the only one who posted to the team’s Facebook group page, it was a group effort to compose the postings. Two of the American team members responded in Spanish. It was a beginning and should expand to more robust communication next year.

Angelica, the Youngest Spinner, Huancarani
Sisters, Doña Maxima and Doña Narciza, Huancarani

In 2019, a couple of years after Spinzilla ended, it seemed like a good idea to split the 30 odd Bolivian spinners into 2 local competitive teams. Participation in this year’s Spin Together competition was timely as it provided a solution to a problem that´s grown since the 2nd team was formed.

The original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team is made up of spinners from the community of Huancarani. A few, including their organizer, Doña Justina, have always ranked in the top 5. The 3-year-old team, headed by Doña Maxima, is a mixed team of Club de Artesanas members, spinners of the community of Sanipaya, and a few Huancarani spinners.  The new team won for the 3rd year in a row by spinning 54,888 yards to the Warmis Phuskadoras team total of 36,931 yards. That´s a problem…

Deisy (left) Joined Club de Artesanas This Year and Won Spinning Week (4,431 meters)

In Huancarani, there was grumbling the 1st year, harsh criticism last year, and Doña Maxima said something must be changed this year. She couldn´t face her relatives and friends on the losing Huancarani team to tell them that the Sanipaya spinners would be winning the coveted polleras (skirts), the 1st place prize again. It was decided that the 1st place polleras will be awarded on merit not team affiliation. This will also serve to identify the Bolivian spinners who will be registered for the 2022 Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team.  

Doña Maxima wrapped up the busy week of rural travel and measuring Spinning Week results by traveling to Cochabamba to purchase the material for the polleras and yarn for the 2nd place vests. The Club de Artesanas members are starting work and will be earning income by sewing and knitting the prizes.

The Sanipaya Spinners are Formidable Competitors

The Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team is an example of how a passion can connect people of incredibly different backgrounds. Quechua is the language of the Incas; it is a pre-literate culture. The older Bolivian spinners were born into the remnants of the Spanish Crown feudal system, with no opportunity to go to school. All grew up in an ancient farmer subsistence lifestyle following a rich textile heritage reaching back to time immemorial. The American spinners are fiber artists who pursued and enjoyed non-traditional careers, that have not long been available to women. The Spin Together competition opened a portal between these worlds enriching the lives of the team members and those who followed the Facebook communications. Thank you Spin Together organizers! The Phuskadoras Internacionales team total will be announced after the Spin Together final results are published.

Thank you on so many levels to all of you who supported this year´s Spinning Week. Thank you, Lyn and Margaret, for your ongoing support of the Bolivian spinner/weavers.

Doña Narciza with her Kids, Note She´s Holding Her Phuska
Doña Narciza´s Natural Dyed Aguayo (Half Competed)

The next posting will be 1st hand tales, gossip, and scoop. I´ll be back from Bolivia with weavings available for purchase after Thanksgiving. Dorinda Dutcher, October 21, 2021