The countdown is 7 weeks until November’s “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” (the Week of Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles).Tracking Spinning Week preparation is done between Bozeman and Bolivia through WhatsApp video calls. They are a hoot because Doña Maxima´s phone is passed around to whoever´s nearby, which could be her children, her grandchildren, women in the Club de Artesanas, the weavers of Huancarani, or a visiting neighbor. The reminder of the strong communal life in Independencia is always heartwarming.
Doña Maxima reported that 2 of the 3 sheep hides that she´s going to shear for Spinning Week are washed. She sounded quite smug about the quality of the fleece saying that it has beautiful long fibers and is very white. This week she plans to wash the third hide which will involve scouring it in a big pot outside over a wood fire, loading the heavy wet hide into a wheelbarrow, and trundling it down to the river for a thorough rinse. Doña Maxima chose her fleece while still on the hoof from her neighbor’s flock. The neighbor sells mutton at the white tiled meat counter in Independencia’s morning market.
Doña Maxima said that her sister Doña Narciza had also purchased hides from the same fleece purveyor. Doña Narciza lives in Huancarani and spends many hours a day herding her huge flock of ornery goats. Doña Alicia, a neighbor of Doña Narciza (and weaving rival for over 50 years), had asked Doña Maxima about purchasing hides. Doña Alicia pastures her flock of sheep daily but said the fiber quality is poor because so much of it is pulled out by the spiny trees and shrubs. She plans to take a look at Doña Maxima´s neighbor´s flock.
There are few black sheep in the flocks. Black yarn is used in the background of the pebble weave motifs in the traditional weavings, so all need a ball or two in their stash of natural and natural dyed handspun yarn. With a huge sigh, Doña Maxima stated that Doña Beatris had visited Oruro and brought back a spectacular black hide to prepare for Spinning Week. Oruro is situated at over 12,000 feet above sea level and that cold treeless environment produces superior fleece much coveted by the weavers of Independencia.
Doña Beatris splits her time between her family´s farm in their home community of Sanipaya and Independencia where her youngest is going to school. During the 4 years that the Bolivia team competed in Spinzilla Spinning Week, she organized the 6 Sanipaya spinners who were part of the team. Sanipaya is remote, and the women are shy. There is a Saturday market nearby and a high school, so the women rarely make the long trip to the big town of Independencia (population around 3,000). It is one of a dwindling number of communities that is still multi-generational and seems to maintain the most Quechua celebrations in the area.
Spinning Week provides Doña Maxima, Doña Beatris, and Doña Justina who captains the Huancarani team opportunities to assume leadership roles and that is empowering. The women are passionate about spinning, so it´s a week of socializing while doing something they love and have lived their lives sharing with one another. There was no fundraising last year and the Sanipaya spinners were disappointed in not been invited to participate. This year they are participating on the mixed team that includes 3 Huancarani spinners and the spinners living in Independencia. It is the first time 2 local teams will compete against each other. Please view the Spinning Week videos on the sidebar!
How You Can Be Involved
This is the second in a series of fundraising postings for the November 4-10 Spinning Week. We´ve raised $650 of the $1,200 needed for this year´s event. Any additional funding will go into the Club de Artesanas operating budget. It would be impossible to coordinate a once a year event without a local organization in place. Doña Maxima works year around managing the Club de Artesanas and the workshop/store which provides a headquarters for the spinners and weavers. Please make a donation using the button above to support La Semana de las Phuskadoras and the Club de Artesanas.
The purchase of a weaving allows for a continuous supply of orders to be sent to the women, and offers them a sense of security by being able to anticipate an income. The current inventory in the U.S includes weavings for weavers and designers who would enjoy working with the lengths of cloth and straps to create their own bags or incorporate into clothing. Ready made products include the zippered pouches and 2 sizes of yoga mat straps. Inquiries may be made through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for supporting the Bolivian spinners/weavers and their ancient textile traditions! Dorinda Dutcher, September 15, 2019.