Author: Dorinda Dutcher

Dorinda Dutcher

Fiber Arts Skill Building

Huancarani Weavers Giving a Natural Dye Demo and Exhibiting Their Weavings at the Last Collaborative Craft Fair with a Bolivian NGO and the Independencia Local Government, 2009

In early 2007, the Huancarani weavers zeroed in on Dorinda, the newly arrived Peace Corps volunteer to Independencia, Bolivia. They knew that a foreign marketing partner was key to receiving a fair price for their traditional weavings. PAZA began that year as a Peace Corps project in collaboration with the weavers and foreign supporters. For years, Doña Maxima, her family, the weavers, Club de Artesanas members, and Dorinda participated in craft fairs in Independencia, Cochabamba, and La Paz until the expenses outweighed the benefits. Sales over the past decade have been through PAZA’s marketing efforts in the U.S. Alas, after all these years, the weavers still don’t have direct access to a market, nor can they rely on a steady income from sales.

Doña Maxima at the PAZA Booth, Cochabamba Craft Fair, 2013
Feria de la Chirimoya, 2015, Independencia, Doña Maxima Selling the Weavings, and the Club Chicas Selling the Jewelry and Cakes That They’d Made

One goal of the Club de Artesanas since its founding in 2010 has been to kindle the entrepreneurial flame by teaching skills that will lead to income generation through local sales and services. Between 2010 and 2018 foreign volunteers taught skill building workshops in knitting, crochet, sewing, jewelry making, and millinery. PAZA provided soap making, sewing, baking, and floor loom weaving workshops.

Kelsey, the First Club de Chicas (now Artesanas) Volunteer, Taught the Chicas How to Sew Their Skirts from a Pattern. After High School Graduation, Two of the Chicas Went on to Earn Income Through Sewing. Photo from 2010.

Between 2013 and 2016 the local government gifted treadle sewing machines, knitting machines, fabric, and yarn to the Organizaciones de Mujeres in rural communities. Instruction on the use, care, and maintenance of the equipment was not included. PAZA and the local Centro Cultural Ayopaya (CCA) have been teaching workshops in Independencia and the CCA has helped many of their students purchase knitting machines. PAZA is the only entity to take it a step further by training local trainers for rural outreach.

The Club members have not realized a local market for their Club project products. However, they have sewed, knitted, and crocheted clothing for their families while improving their skills with each project. The women began last year knitting school uniform sweaters for their children on the knitting machines. Vilma, Doña Maxima, and Arminda are earning income by teaching knitting machine classes in Huancarani this month.

Doña Deisy´s Club Projects Included Knitting Her Daughter´s School Uniform Sweater and Sewing the School Smock, 2022
The Club Members Designed Backpacks and Bags to Sell Locally, but Discovered that Locals Preferred the “Made In China” bags, 2019

The 5 communal Huancarani knitting machines were brought to the Club workshop in March for repair in preparation for the workshops. The cases hadn´t been properly secured so the knitting machines were filthy and beginning to rust. The Club members cleaned, oiled, and repaired the machines. Care and maintenance of the machines is the number one topic on this month’s workshop agenda. This is the second series of PAZA workshops in Huancarani. If the Huancarani weavers want future workshops or knitting machine repair, they will be responsible for paying the Club trainers.

Doña Justina Participating in PAZA Knitting Machine Workshop, 2023
Doña Felicidad and Doña Cirilia Knitting Long Sleeve Sweaters, 2023

Fifteen years ago, the year-end grade school exhibition was a riot of color of crocheted afghans, shawls, and embroidered tablecloths. Today, most of the exhibits are painted tablecloths. In 2014, the Club chicas designed and sewed evening dresses for a high school fashion show. This year the school district couldn´t find a sewing teacher. As each generation moves further away from the young developing fiber arts skills the ability to meet a basic need is lost. PAZA’s Club de Artesanas provides the atmosphere and opportunity for learning and refining fiber arts skills and keeping them alive.

7-Year-Old Anabel Loves to Embroider and PAZA Provides the Means and Environment, 2023
9-Year-Old Sister Maria Liz Prefers to Crochet and is Learning to Weave Traditional Motifs, 2023

PAZA´s bank account indicates that this blog posting must be a fundraiser. Please use the donate button on the blog website to help PAZA to continue purchasing project supplies, provide the twice a week Club workshops, and offer other activities such as the Huancarani knitting machine workshops. Expenses for 2023 are estimated at $6,300 with 20% of that being Spinning Week costs. So far this year, PAZA has received $960 in financial support. Thank you.

Jhoselin Crochets Clothes for Herself as Club Projects and is Learning How to Weave
Doña Eulalia, a Huancarani Weavers Joined the Club Last Year and Has Learned to Crochet and Knit Sweaters by Hand and on the Knitting Machine

A special thanks to Lyn, Claire, and Rob for your years of continued support. Thank you to Laverne and WARP for getting the word out about the weavings for sale. Mil gracias to the 15 of you who purchased weavings over the past month. Your added donations will go towards Doña Maxima´s Sunday wages so that she can open the PAZA workshop to meet with the Huancarani weavers who are in town for market day. Dorinda Dutcher, May 8, 2023.

Thank you from Maria Liz, Emily, all the Club Members, and the Huancarani Weavers for Supporting the Acquisition and Preservation of Fiber Arts Skills

Weavings Available for Purchase

Doña Beatriz with the Only Ch’uspa She´s Woven for PAZA and a Large Weaving. Doña Deisy and Doña Maxima in the background.

The Andean weavings are a one-of-a-kind work of art combining hand-spun wool, the color palette of the local dye plants and cochineal, and the weaver’s skill with ancient weaving techniques. The tight weave makes for an enduring textile. Please send inquiries to

Ch´uspas, $95, the Ubiquitous Andean Carry-All
Ch´uspitas, $48 and Small One $22, Woven by Doña Beatriz Who Prefers Weaving Ch’uspitas to the Larger Ch’uspas
Zippered Pouch, (5″ x 8″), $19
With Wrist Strap, $20
Doña Felicidad and Doña Maxima with Pouches, Large Weavings on Table

Weavings for DYI Projects Include from Left: Large Weavings, Medium Weavings, Fajas, and Straps
Large Weavings, (63″ x 9.5″), $79
Medium Weavings (51″ x 7″), $50
Fajas, (70″ x 5″), $43, Woven by the Chicas´ Moms

Straps (78 x 1.5″), $22; Yoga Mat Strap for 1/8″ Sticky Mat, $22, Yoga Mat Strap for 1/4″ Mat, $23

Huancarani Weavers Doña Eulogia with a Pouch, Doña Cerila with A Medium Size Weaving and Faja, and Doña Justina with a Large Weaving

The women worry about the future of their weaving heritage, but it is the sales of the weavings that motivate them and the chicas to find time to weave. To purchase a weaving please send your inquiry to Dorinda at Sales today will affect PAZA’s ability to place future orders. Thank you.

Vilma Sewing a Special-Order Yoga Mat Strap
Doña Narciza Showing the Ñawi (Eye) Motif on the Rolled Border She Wove to Assemble the Ch’uspa

Club Dye Day on Zoom

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.

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.

Tumeric Dye Pot, Khesi Misa Dye Pot, Skeins for the Dye Pots
Arminda Stirring the Suyku, Pot, Doña Bea Stirring the Tumeric, Doña Deisy Stirring the Khesi Misa, and Doña Eulalia Observing

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.

Stand of Suyku, March 14, 2015
Scarcity of Suyku Along Road, March 15, 2023

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.

Dorinda Zooming In on Doña Maxima and Cochineal Dye Bath #1

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.

Doña Deisy with Results of 2nd Cochineal Dye Bath
Coveted Bright Pink Results from a Later Dye Day

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.

Preparing Roving for the Presentation

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.

Vilma Tying Her Weaving onto Doña Beatriz´s Leaning Frame Loom
Doña Beatriz in Background, Doña Eulalia Standing, Doña Arminda Tightening Strap, and Vilma Preparing to Weave

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.

Sarahi Facing the Camera, Jhoselin on the Right, and Maria Liz on the Left Weaving with Synthetic Yarn that Creates Less Friction When Picking Out the Motifs than the Hand Spun Wool

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.

Hanging Behind Emily and Jhoselin are the Results of Suyku Baths #1, 2, 3 (dark green), then the Khesi Misa Dyed Skeins

A blog posting about the weavings for sale will follow. They may be purchased by sending inquiries to Dorinda at

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

Emily Weaving and Thankful to be able to Earn Spending Money
The Future of the Andean Weaving Tradition (Vilma´s 2 Youngest, Adorable, Entertaining, but What a Handful)

Club de Artesanas Dye Day

Natural Dyed Skeins Left to Right on Clothesline: Tumeric, Molle, Khesi Misa (Soot), 2013

During a WhatsApp video chat on Thanksgiving, the Club members were taking yellow skeins out of a dye pot of molle leaves. The molle trees grow in lower drier ecosystems than Independencia, and there are numerous trees about an hour walk down the mountain. For the 2nd dye bath, chilka leaves were added to the dye pot. The glossy fragrant dark green chilka leaves are readily harvested because the shrubs line the roads and pathways around Independencia and higher. The Club members had anxiously awaited the results of the dye pots because they´d used “millu de la playa (beach)”, as a mordant, for the first time.

Doña Maxima´s Sons Harvest Molle, 2009
Jhonathan Strips Leaves Before the Harvest is Carried up the Mountain, 2009

Left Skein, Dye Bath #1 with Molle Leaves, Dye Bath #2 Skeins Center & Right with Chilka Leaves Added, all Rinsed with Ash Water to Darken, November 24, 2022

Last March, during a discussion about local dyestuffs, Doña Beatriz mentioned that “millu de la playa” is used in dye pots in her home community of Sanipaya. In October, Doña Maxima queried her sister Doña Narciza how she had dyed the dark green ball of yarn she was plying during Spinning Week measuring day in Huancarani. Doña Narciza is the leader in natural dye experimentation and responded she had dyed the yarn with chilka leaves and a piece of “millu de la playa”, she´d been gifted by Doña Guillermina.

Ball of Yarn Dyed with Chilka and “Millu de la Playa” is Hanging from Doña Narciza´s Belt, Spinning Week 2022

After 2 references to “millu de la playa”, Doña Maxima was intrigued with the possibilities and somehow talked her irascible brother-in-law into collecting it from the riverbed far below Huancarani. It is a mineral salt that appears in the cracks of big rocks near the river but disappears in the rainy season. Don Erasmo knew where to find the “millu de la playa”, so didn´t waste time having to search for it. However, the long walk down to the river and the aerobic uphill return had to have been taxing. He did charge 50 Bs. ($7) for his efforts.

View of River Below Huancarani Farms
View of River Below Huancarani, Centro de Artesania, Huancarani Annual Meeting, 2016

During natural dye training workshops with an expert in 2010, PAZA weavers learned to use a mineral mordant called “millu” to darken dye baths. The duplication of the word “millu” is probably why it´s taken so many years to learn about “millu de la playa”. Since 2010, PAZA has purchased rocks of “millu” in the hechiceria (charm, ritual supply) section of the huge stall market in Cochabamba. It is hammered into powder before adding it to a dye bath. The “millu de la playa” did not darken the skeins dyed with molle and chilka. Future dye experiments will include comparing the results of millu, “millu de la playa”, and alum in separate dye pots with the same local dye plant.

Millu on the Left and “Millu de la Playa” on the Right
Millu Vendor in Cochabamba

The weavings of Independencia are woven from handspun wool. Many of the weavers no longer shepherd so don´t spin daily but spin their year´s supply during the Spinning Week competition in October. That yarn is then plyed, dyed, and woven either for PAZA orders, Quechua rituals, or home use. The rich palette of colors available to them is due to the biodiversity of dye plants unique to the area and Bolivian cochineal. As artists, they are continually experimenting and have built up their dyed skein stashes over the years. These unique weavings may be purchased for the holidays up until December 15th. Send inquiries to:

Doña Justina at Her Loom, Huancarani, 2013

Ready to gift are:

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

There is still time for anyone wishing to purchase woven cloth to make holiday gifts. The larger 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
From Left: Doña Deisy with Zippered Pouch, Doña Beatris with Chuspa, Doña Maxima with Zippered Pouch, Doña Eulalia with Chuspa and a Large Weaving

Thank you Lyn, Emily, and Nancy for your support of the weavers and chicas especially during this time of Giving Thursday requests! Dorinda Dutcher, November 30, 2022

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 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,

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)

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,, 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