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

Last Word Before Spinzilla

Doña Casimira and Doña Narciza Assembling Chuspas

Doña Casimira and Doña Narciza Assembling Chuspas

Blog postings happen just once a month because of the 8 hour bus ride from Independencia to Cochabamba where I can access the Internet via an Internet café or my laptop and wi-fi. I’m headed home early tomorrow, but had to post a huge THANK YOU to our Spinzilla TNNA sponsor Thrums/ClothRoads who has taken care of the funding we needed for prizes and transportation to the rural communities. We also owe a thanks to long time PAZA supporters Laverne Waddington and Dorothy Thursby-Stern. Any additional support this month will be added to the operating fund for the ongoing PAZA activities.

I can’t believe the next time I sit here using the hostel’s Wi-Fi I’ll be posting our Spinzilla spinning results. It’s the final countdown!

Dorinda Dutcher, September 4, 2014


Spinzilla Update, July 6th

Doña Narciza Receives Her Spinzilla Button

Doña Narciza Receives Her Spinzilla Button

To date 6 spinners from Independencia Bolivia have signed up to compete in the Spinzilla spinning contest.

Thanks to our WARP (Weave a Real Peace) connections that the Andean weavers will be competing. At the 2013 annual WARP conference Irene Schmoller, founder of Cotton Clouds, showed me the Spinzilla website. Our excitement quickly faded when we read that the spinning contest would only be open to U.S. teams its inaugural year. Cotton Clouds sponsored a 2013 team so when we met up at the 2014 WARP conference Irene enthusiastically exclaimed that we had to enter this year because Spinzilla was going global. With help from Liz Gibson a WARP member, social media consultant, and Spinzilla organizer we partnered with Cloth Roads as our TNNA (The NeedleArts Association) sponsor.

Irene at the PAZA Marketplace Table, WARP Conference, 2012

Irene at the PAZA Marketplace Table, WARP Conference, 2012

Marilyn Murphy, one of the Cloth Roads founders and a WARP member, met Doña Máxima, our team captain, at the Tinkuy International Weaving Conference in Cusco last November. Cloth Roads has purchased weavings from us at the WARP Marketplace to sell through their gorgeous online marketplace. Make a note of their website for gift shopping when you wish to make a socially conscious purchase of exquisite handcrafted items from cultures that are sadly on the wane.

Spinning and Socializing in Huancarani, 2013

Spinning and Socializing in Huancarani, 2013

The majority of the Independencia Spinzilla team will be women from the rural community of Huancarani. They spin and ply with a drop spindle while pasturing their sheep daily. Be warned that they are “professional” spinners and will be formidable competition.

The 5 rules the spinners must agree to prior to signing up on to the team are:

  1. Prepare the fleece in advance (they don’t use carding combs, to the untutored eye they pick fleece into an airy cloud that magically transforms into roving)
  2. The dates and hours in which the fleece must be spun
  3. The location and times for measuring the yarn
  4. Take responsibility for spinners who wish to participate but don´t leave their farms and pastures. This was included to accommodate the elder spinners.
  5. Consent for use of photos taken in conjunction with the contest

Vilma Teaches Katie Simmons, 3 Time Volunteer and Friend to Hand Spin

Vilma Teaches Katie Simmons, 3 Time Volunteer and Friend to Hand Spin

Club de Artesanas members Adviana and Vilma reluctantly decided it wasn´t practical to join the team, but both asked to be responsible for relatives. Nineteen year old Adviana has her hands full with a year old daughter who becomes more mobile daily and 3 year old Jason. She said that her grandmother, who helps her with her weavings, wished to participate. Vilma has 4 kids under the age of 8, mountains of laundry to hand wash daily, and a small store to run. She asked if her mother-in-law could take her place. Absolutely!

Doña Antonia Spinning on a Club de Artesanas Day

Doña Antonia Spinning on a Club de Artesanas Day

The women have discussed what to name the team and settled on Warmis Phuskadoras/Cloth Roads. “Warmis is Quechua for “Women”. Phuska is Quechua for drop spindle, and the “doras” part is a bit of Spanish indicating females doing the spinning. There are Andean men who hand spin, much to Doña Máxima´s amazement while in Cusco, but they don´t spin in this area.

We need to raise the funds for the $10 per participant entry fee ($250) and for 2 trips to Huancarani in October ($130). The first trip will be to track down some of the participants while they are pasturing and spinning to get photographs. The second trip will be the day after the contest ends to measure the yarn. If the funds raised exceed $380, we will be able to add prize categories for the event. THANKS! Dorinda Dutcher, July 6, 2014