Cultural

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

It’s Spinning Week

Washing Sheep Hides in the Rio Palca

Doña Maxima

The Spin Together Spinning Week competition begins today. The 15 Bolivian spinners of the Phuskadoras Internacionales team have been working all month preparing fleece to spin. There are 3 U.S. spinners who joined the team and have been sharing their preparations via the team Facebook page. Communicating through FB is proving to be challenging. Doña Maxima has a FB account but has yet to post. Vilma, her daughter, did make 1 post with photos over a week ago. This year´s Spinning Week is a learning experience in social media communication. Many thanks to the 3 U.S. team members who are helping to forge this cultural exchange of international spinners.

Beating Out Debris from the Fleece

The Bolivian spinners are spinning on 2 teams of 15 for a total of 30 spinners. The top 15 spinners from 2020 are on the Spin Together Phuskadoras Internacionales team. Times change, and after assuming fleece would be trundled in wheelbarrows to the river for washing, it was learned that spinners, kids, and sheep hides were loaded into the truck of Don Julio, husband of Doña Maxima. In the photos, he can be seen working alongside the women in beating the debris out of the wet fleece. The skies opened up in a deluge as they finished. They were glad to be able to scramble to the truck instead of pushing heavy loads of wet sheep hides ½ a mile down the road in wheelbarrows.

Cutting the Fleece from the Washed Sheep Hide

During the Club de Artesanas meetings in September, Doña Maxima and the 5 members spent time on crochet or hand knitting projects and preparing fleece to spin. This week they will spin together on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, Doña Maxima will travel to Huancarani to meet with spinners at a couple of locations. That social event and measuring day help make Spinning Week a highlight of their year. Once the results are official the Club members can get to work on making the polleras (skirts) for the 1st place team members and knitted vests for the 2nd place team members.

Preparing Roving to Spin

Since the last posting the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine became available in Independencia. Don Julio works for the local school housing facility and arrangements were made for employee vaccines, because there were extra doses Doña Maxima also received the vaccine. Their adult children have appointments, whew! Because the majority of the weavers are vaccinated, and Dorinda can get the Pfizer booster, she will be traveling to Bolivia the end of October. The WhatsApp video chats have been great, but in-person exchanges are needed for all to fully comprehend the progress that has been made the past 2 years and the future direction for PAZA activities. Spin Together´s Spinning Week and the team Phuskadoras Internacionales has much potential yet to be realized. Hopefully by next year´s Spinning Week at least one foreign team member can travel to Bolivia to spin.

New weavings will be available for purchase by Thanksgiving. Thank you, Lyn, for your unwavering support of the Bolivian weavers. Dorinda Dutcher, October 2, 2021

Spin Together

Spinning Week 2020, Huancarani

The top 15 spinners from Spinning Week 2020 will be representing Bolivia in this year’s Spin Together competition! The 25-member team will be called the Phuskadoras Internacionales (International Women Who Spin with a Drop Spindle). If you spin with a drop spindle and would like to compete on the team, there are 10 available slots. Team registration will open on September 1st on the Spin Together website. This is going to be a truly international drop spindle spinning team!

Spinning Week 2019, Huancarani

Spinning Week starts noon on Saturday, October 2nd and ends at noon on Saturday, October 9th.  The Bolivian spinners registered in July by signing up on 1 of the 2 local teams. Perhaps the bragging rights for being on the Phuskadoras Internacionales team will encourage all to spin more competitively this year. There will be a Phuskadoras Internacionales Facebook group on Dorinda’s new account, as well as a thread on the Spin Together website. Doña Maxima doesn´t use FB, but some of the younger Club members do.  Although they don’t qualify for the Phuskadoras Internacionales team, they’ll hopefully post some photos directly from Bolivia in the upcoming weeks as the spinners prepare, compete, and measure the results. Most of the qualifying spinners are over 50. Doña Dionicia who´s always been one of the most active of the spinner/weavers did not register this year. She will turn 90 on October 9th.

In other news from Independencia, the Club de Artesanas members will be meeting twice a week in September. After months of working with the knitting machines, they asked PAZA for supplies to do crochet projects. They will be back at the knitting machines after Spinning Week knitting sweater vests as prizes for the 15 members of the 2nd place spinning team. Preparing fleece for Spinning Week will be an ongoing endeavor. Doña Maxima recently purchased a white fleece and a gray fleece. She promised to send photos the day the Club members load up their wheelbarrows and head to the river to wash the fleece they plan to spin. Some of the spinners who no longer spin daily because they don’t shepherd anymore depend on Spinning Week to do all their spinning for the year.

The Club de Artesanas members spent 2 days dyeing skeins. Leaves of the molle tree resulted in bright yellow and cochineal mordanted with alum and cream of tartar produced a bright red followed by red-orange in the 2nd bath, which was mordanted with citric acid. The 2nd dye day took more prep time to harvest and strip the leaves from chilka branches for dark green and suyku leaves and their dried flower tops for dark yellow and bronze. Doña Maxima reported that the mature leaves made for strong dye baths. In a voice tinged with regret, she said she’d explained to the 2 new members how they could play with color at home and darken the skeins with ash water. Daisy forgot it must be a cold-water rinse process and boiled a beautifully dyed skein in ash water which destroyed it.

August 6th Knitting Machine Workshop, Huancarani

Club members taught 4 knitting machine workshops in Huancarani in early August. Doña Eulalia gave the knitting machines another try after being intimidated by them during the June workshops. Doña Angelica was scared to apply the necessary force to move the carriage and stood shaking with fear at the knitting machine.  Her husband took her place. After she watched him knit a sweater, she had the confidence to complete a project. Doña Ines overcame fear of the machines and Doña Sebastiana overcame her shyness to attend the workshops. Both did extremely well. It was empowering for them to receive recognition as their weavings are borderline quality for acceptance for PAZA sales. Husbands supported the workshops by offering to herd the women´s flocks, instead of having to asked. There is no plan for PAZA to continue funding knitting machine workshops in Huancarani. It is now up to the women to figure out how to run their communal workshop. PAZA will consider future training requests.

Dye Day Results, Cochineal & Molle

Thank you to Marjorie, Lyn, Gail, and Margaret for answering the call and supporting Spinning Week! The budget needs were met even with the increase due to the $15 per participant fee for the 15 spinners on the Phuskadoras Internacionales team. Doña Maxima and the Club de Artesanas success in running this year´s workshops is due to years of planning and activities. It has all been funded and will continue to be funded by donations, thank you. Dorinda had hoped to spend Spinning Week in Independencia and pick-up the 2 languishing weaving orders to have them available for holiday sales. Alas, travel remains wishful thinking. Dorinda Dutcher, August 31, 2021

Doña Dionicia, Spinning Week 2019

Spinning Week Prep and Other News

Spinzilla Spinning Week 2017, Spinners Met in 3 Locations on Photo Day

July is registration month for Spinning Week which will be held October 11th through the 17th in Independencia, Bolivia. The Team Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) has won the past 2 years which is the sum of the years that team has existed. The Team Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) was formed in 2014 to compete in Spinzilla, the incredible volunteer organized international spinning competition that ended in 2017 (and that still tugs at the heartstrings).

The Warmis grumbled at the 2020 Spinning Week prize awarding ceremony because they wanted the 1st place prize of a pollera (skirt). Each spinner can sign up on the team of her choice under Captain Justina Vargas for the original Warmis team or Doña Maxima, Captain of the newer team. The 2021 first-place prize will once again be a pollera, and if there´s grumbling the spinners will have to figure out what they deem an equitable team assignment process for 2022.

Knitting Machine Workshops in Huancarani

In mid-May, Doña Maxima and Vilma traveled to Huancarani to meet up with weavers interested in turning the abandoned classroom full of sewing and knitting machines into a functioning workshop. The workshop was given a good scrub. A broken window had allowed birds to find a home and dust to blow in. Replacing the glass is a problem because it must make the long trip from the city. Broken windows are usually covered with tin or wood, but many of the women are near-sighted so good lighting is imperative. A couple of the participants dropped out because of poor eyesight.

Around 2015, PAZA purchased and gave away about 4 dozen pairs of reading glasses. Doña Dionicia wouldn´t wear them because she connected them with being educated. She grew up when rural Bolivia was still divided into land grants awarded by the Spanish Crown. The attitude of the hacienda patron of the Huancarani area was that education would be wasted on girls, and that taint of being undeserving lingers. Both Doña Narciza and Doña Justina had retained reading glasses because they use them for weaving and so were able to complete their knitting machine projects. When travel is possible, PAZA will deliver more reading glasses to the weavers.

Chulos and Tank Tops were the 1st Projects in Huancarani

The Huancarani workshops were planned as a series of four. Three were 3 held in June. There wasn´t any interest in sewing, but all completed chulos (caps) and tank tops or sweaters on the knitting machines. The participants brought lunch, but it was almost time to head home before the group would stop to eat. Because the workshops were productive and resulted in a tangible return, the women´s husbands were willing to take over shepherding duty on workshop days. Doña Maxima always traveled with one or two current or a former Club de Artesanas member to help with the training. Each workshop provided 2 to 3 daily wages.

There will be a 2nd series of knitting machine workshops in Huancarani. Now that the women have used their communal equipment they are motivated to meet with the Organización de Varones (Men) of Huancarani to arrange a formal agreement for use of the abandoned classroom. The women are aware that they need to participate in the annual municipal budget process that will take place next month. They know that PAZA operates on a shoestring and that local government financial support for economic development should be available to them.

Lunch

July is the coldest month of the year, so the Huancarani women asked that the next series of PAZA workshops be held in August. During July, the Club de Artesanas members in Independencia will meet twice a week to plan for the next series of Huancarani workshops and design the tank tops or vests that will be the 2nd place Spinning Week prizes. They are currently figuring out how to size a knitting machine project to a person´s measurements and incorporate necks into the design. Daisy knitted a sweater for her son and it was a big hit at school because it was a minature “man´s” sweater.

Although Spinning Week is 3 months away, PAZA always begins the fundraising effort when registration opens. Spinning Week expenses average about $1,000 a year and include transportation for 2 trips to Huancarani, 1 trip to Sanipaya, wages, prizes, and the annual feast. The participants pay 5 Bs. (73 cents) to register and provide lunch during Spinning Week gatherings.  Please consider supporting La Semana de la Phuskadora 2021. Spinning Week recognizes and salutes these last generations of weavers whose self-identity is so intrinsically tied to their spinning and weaving skills.

Thank you, Lyn Lucas for your continuing support and for the weaving order! Dorinda Dutcher, July 5, 2021

Fiber Activities in Independencia

Arminda’s First Club Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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