ClothRoads

Jewelry Making In Huancarani

Doñas Alicia and Justina Making Their Bead Selection

Doñas Alicia and Justina Making Their Bead Selection

Thanks to the generosity of Ruraq Maki, the 4th annual jewelry making workshop was held beside the Huancarani soccer field in early September. Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki, contracted a vehicle which was packed with hitchhikers headed to their farms further into the rural countryside. The women were delighted for a social break from their daily labors while still having a productive day. Three men waiting to hitch a ride to Independencia joined in and made earrings for their wives.

Doña Narciza Plying Yarn to Weave Herself a Blanket

Doña Narciza Plying Yarn to Weave Herself a Blanket

Doña Narciza arrived on the verge of collapse having carried 25 pounds of corn kernels in her aguayo for the hour long walk from her farm. Dorinda had inquired about buying corn for flour and to make tortillas, and was properly embarrassed by the effort made to make the delivery. From her hand carry Doña Narciza produced a bowl of rice, potatoes, chuño, and eggs for the visitors still warm having been insulated in a weaving. She´d also packed a huge ball of natural dyed yarn that she attached to the sash of her pollera (skirt) to ply. It will be woven into a blanket. Although the weavers switched from brightly colored synthetic yarn and synthetic dyed local wool to weaving with natural dyed yarns in 2007 for their weavings to sell they continued to use the brightly dyed yarn for weavings for their homes and for rituals. Just in the past two years have weavers commented that they have chosen to use natural dyed yarns for home use.

Discussion for Improvement of the Yoga Mat Straps

Discussion for Improvement of the Yoga Mat Straps

After the jewelry making workshop there was an informal meeting to discuss the quality of the weavings and the upcoming Spinzilla spinning week. Some of the yoga mat straps ordered by PAZA were delivered with a lack of color contrast. Doña Máxima held up 2 examples where the colors ran together instead of standing out in the eye catching manner that the weavers usually warp. Doña Máxima had discussed the problem a few days prior with 4 of the Huancarani weavers who had visited the PAZA workshop during market day. Doña Julia who had attended that discussion thought to bring her balls of yarn, which she had to pack on her for the hour long walk to the jewelry workshop. The women gathered around when she upended her bag of yarn and took turns placing the natural dyed balls of yarn together to observe and comment on the effect of various color combinations.

Discussing Color Combinations

Discussing Color Combinations

There was a brief meeting concerning the upcoming Spinzilla spinning week. Doña Máxima, the Captain of the Cloth Roads/Team Warmis Phuskadoras, reminded the weavers to prepare their yarn. Weavers such as Doña Narciza and Doña Eulalia who have herds of goats instead of sheep will need to purchase sheepskins from other weavers. The sheepskins will be washed, sheared, and hand worked into roving. Carding combs are not used. The day was set for Doña Máxima, Dorinda, and a social media volunteer to travel to Huancarani during spinning week to take photos and check in with the participants to see if there are any concerns. Planning for the measuring of the handspun yardage was also discussed.

Amanda Instructing Doña Eulalia

Amanda Instructing Doña Eulalia

On the drive back to Independencia, Doña Eulalia´s goats were spotted miles away from the soccer field. Doña Máxima lamented that Doña Eulalia should have hitched a ride with us. Doña Eulalia stopped by the PAZA workshop the following Sunday to deliver 2 beautifully color coordinated yoga mat straps and was queried about her wayward goats. She said she searched for hours and returned home at dark without them. The following day she and her sons headed out and finally encountered them high on a mountaintop where a few of the females had given birth. She´d worried all night about predators and was delighted to find the entire herd not only intact but larger.

Amanda and Doña Máxima Team Teaching

Amanda and Doña Máxima Team Teaching

The weavers would like to thank the supporters from around the world whose contributions are making it possible for the Team Warmis Phuskadoras to compete in Spinzilla 2015 and for the local celebration of the event that will take place in Huancarani in December. Please click on the button above to support the team. So far $90 of the estimated $800 needed for the Spinzilla expenses has been raised Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, September 5, 2015

Spinzilla, Measuring Extravaganza, Bolivia

Spinning in Huancarani

Spinning in Huancarani

How much fleece can an Andean woman spin in a week? They learned as children and have spun almost every day of their lives. How to measure the fleece spun in a week? What’s a yard? Meters are used here.

The participants of Team Warmis Phuskadoras chose to end the competition on Saturday a day early. This year’s national election on Sunday October 12th (President Evo Morales won for his 3rd term of 5 years) required all the spinners from Huancarani to catch Saturday’s public transport (cargo trucks) to Independencia, thus ending quality spinning time.

Broomstick, Yarn, Many Hands. Photo Credit: Jonathan McCarthy

Broomstick, Yarn, Many Hands. Photo Credit: Jonathan McCarthy

Doña Máxima, team captain, arrived at the PAZA workshop/store early for Saturday´s measuring extravaganza. She bagged up all the weavings in the store to keep them safe from the moths that would invade once the lights were turned on. The room began to fill at 4:30 with spinners and their families. Experience has taught us that we just need to jump into new activities, figure it out as we go along, and then talk about improvements to do better in the future. Pre-planning is not successful until there is an understanding through practical experiences.

The Results of Doña Narciza´s Spinzilla Week

The Results of Doña Narciza´s Spinzilla Week

Broomsticks and tables became yardsticks and we began measuring with two teams of 3. After participating on a team the experienced branched out to form new teams. Each ball of yarn was weighed in grams and ounces then dropped in a bucket. One person measured by yards calling out “marca” or “cinco” every 5 yards to the recorder who made a tally mark. The spinner rewound her ball of yarn keeping a sharp eye on the measuring and on the recorder.

The 3rd Team Took Advantage of the Outdoor Space and Sunlight

The 3rd Team Took Advantage of the Outdoor Space and Sunlight

The third team formed outside while the sunlight lasted before moving into the “library” and marking the wood table to serve as a yardstick. The 4th team filled the remaining available space in the workshop, and the 5th team set up at the kitchen table.

The measuring was tedious and back straining, but the ambience was energizing.  I handed Doña Alicia a tally sheet and a pen, which she initially shied away from. Born during the final years of the hacienda system when girls were not considered worth educating she never went to school. As an adult she learned to sign her name to forego the humiliating experience of signing with a thumb print. Being a good sport, she took up pen and paper and proceeded to do an excellent job as recorder, which was an empowering experience for her.

Tally-Ho. Photo Credit: Jonathan McCarthy

Tally-Ho. Photo Credit: Jonathan McCarthy

It´s embarrassing to confess I failed at supplying a suitable tally system and sheets. We began with a small box on a spreadsheet, the tally ticks made were so small that it took 3 people counting and recounting to get an accurate total. Blank sheets of paper were supplied in various sizes, but team Captain, Doña Máxima, came up with the best method for counting up the tallies by using the squares on graph paper to make the ticks. I know you´re wondering why we didn´t use the 4 ticks with a diagonal slash to be able to quickly count in groupings of 5. My lame excuse is that the evening was too far along to change tally systems by the time I noted that the seemingly endless rows of tally marks were going to make for a counting nightmare.

Doña Julia Waiting for Her Yarn to Be Measured

Doña Julia Waiting for Her Yarn to Be Measured

Around 10:30pm as the measuring was coming to an end and the women and their husbands began talking about reorganizing Huancarani´s Organization of Women. My landlords were hosting their son´s German father-in-law who has supported a local non-profit organization for decades. The women had worked with he and the organization almost 20 years ago to obtain the gas powered grain mill in their Clubhouse. The Organization of Women has been in conflict for years and finally ceased to function over a year ago. In half an hour they´d elected a new Board, had me write and print a request for solar panels and an outdoor sink for their homes, and had selected weavings as gifts to accompany their request.

The evening of togetherness was an incredible experience for all of us. The patience of the women is inspirational. They waited their turn, pitched in, and made the most of an opportunity to socialize together. A huge thanks to the Spinzilla organizers, Team Warmis Phuskadoras sponsors ClothRoads and Thrums, LLC., and to Jonathan McCarthy for volunteering his time and skills. Jonathan is putting the finishing touches on a short video of Spinzilla´s Team Warmis Phuskadoras in Bolivia that will soon be available online.  Dorinda Dutcher, October 13, 2014

Evolution of the Weavings

Textile Fair, Charahuaytu, 2007

Textile Fair, Charahuaytu, 2007

Weavings are an integral part of the farmer subsistence lifestyle. Their importance as to the identity of a woman as weaver is diminishing along with that lifestyle. Today girls spend their day in the classroom not walking the countryside hand spinning while pasturing the family’s flock of sheep. The fierce competition between teen girls to weave exquisite aguayos to debut for dancing in Carnaval no longer happens. Aguayos (the Andean backpack) are still widely used, but tend to be machine made and inexpensive to purchase. The break in the passing of the weaving tradition from one generation to the next widens with each passing year.

The Weavers' First Craft Fair, Cochabamba, 2007

The Weavers’ First Craft Fair, Cochabamba, 2007

PAZA evolved from a request from the weavers of Huancarani in 2007 for assistance to rescue natural dye techniques and market their weavings. They were intrigued to learn more about cochineal after a non-profit organization had presented a one day workshop in their community. PAZA was the name of the Peace Corps partnership grant I wrote to be able to contract trainers for our first natural dye workshops. Our first sales effort was a one day fair in 2007 in Cochabamba where we stacked the textiles on the ground for lack of a table. The weavings were crudely assembled chuspas (shoulder bags) in natural wool colors or woven from bright synthetic yarn and knitted chulos (Andean caps with ear flaps). The price tags carried whatever price the weaver had requested, which was around $7 for a ch’uspa (minimum 40 hours of labor to produce) and $3 for a chulo. Since 2011, pricing has been formula based and they approve that pricing annually.

2014 Weavings for Laverne Waddington's Weaving Workshops

2014 Weavings for Laverne Waddington’s Weaving Workshops

Years of improving natural dye techniques, listening to commentary from potential buyers at fairs, and the feedback from fair trade buyers have resulted in the evolution of the weavings. Although we still take a few ch’upsas to fairs, the majority of the products for sell are professionally assembled in Cochabamba to target an external market. The Huancarani weavers no longer weave on speculation, but weave to a specification for an order. Providing the weavers the security of a payment upon completion of an order is possible thanks to the ongoing support from Ruraq Maki and ClothRoads who sell the weavings through their online stores, Laverne Waddington who places an order annually for traditional weavings to use in her weaving workshops, and WARP members who purchase woven products at the annual WARP Marketplace.

Doña Máxima Searched Her Memory for Weaving the Bird Motifs

Doña Máxima Searched Her Memory for Weaving the Bird Motifs

Since 2011, PAZA has tried to debut 2 new test products at the annual WARP Conference (Burlingame, California, May 29-31, 2015). Our failures in new product design outrank the successes, but lessons learned aid future design attempts. The first new products were bags that paired the textiles with leather, and the results were spectacular. Unfortunately, the majority of the cost went to the leather workshop instead of the weaver. After PAZA invested in contracting a weaving instructor for our floor loom it was warped with bayeta spun yarn to weave wool cloth to back pillow covers. The yarn kept breaking which frustrated Doña Máxima and Doña Antonia who were doing the weaving. They never complained, but it took them 8 months to weave a short length of cloth. The results were poor due to the quality of the wool. Purchased bayeta had been dyed and used in the interim, but the majority of the pillow covers remain in inventory for lack of sales.

Doña Máxima´s Woven Bird Motifs

Doña Máxima´s Woven Bird Motifs

Amanda Smiles, founder of Ruraq Maki, has worked with volunteer designers in San Francisco the past few years and has brought patterns for test bags during her past 2 annual visits. Those bags can be viewed or ordered on the RM online store. Topics of conversation during her 2013 visit bounced between new product design and how to motivate pre-teens and teens to learn how to weave. Amanda hit upon the idea of a yoga mat strap after we lamented the lack in sales of guitar straps. The beauty of the guitar straps is that they require a variety of traditional woven figures and the labor is less time consuming but the price to the weaver is higher then what the market will bear for the larger weavings used to make the popular zippered bags. It is the weaving of the figures that is being lost. Rural women continue to weave functional items for the home, such as blankets (phullus), but they forgo weaving figures in order to weave quickly.

Hopefully the yoga mat straps will sell well and provide us with a product we can use to motivate the young to learn to weave, rescue woven figures that are disappearing, and encourage more rural weavers to improve their skills from functional to artistry. Dorinda Dutcher, October 6, 2014  

 

 

Zippered Bags, Photo Credit: Marissa Barnhard

Zippered Bags, Photo Credit: Marissa Barnhard

Yoga Mat Straps, Photo Credit: Ruraq Maki

Yoga Mat Straps, Photo Credit: Ruraq Maki

    

 

 

     

Thrums/ClothRoads – Team Warmis Phuskadoras, September

Doña Eulalia Prepping Fleece, 2010

Doña Eulalia Prepping Fleece, 2010

The registration of 25 spinners for the Thrum/ClothRoads – Warmis Phushkadoras Spinzilla team is complete. Thanks to Ruraq Maki who provided the transportation to Huancarani and a jewelry making workshop we were able to meet with the weavers on August 27th to talk about the contest.

The majority of the weavers arrived with their phuskas (drop spindles) whirling as they spun or plyed while walking to the soccer field from their farms. As I mentioned before they are going to be formidable competition because they’ve spent the majority of their lives with their phuskas in hand or close by.

Doña Narciza Arrived to Late to Make Earrings so Plyed Yarn While Chatting

Doña Narciza Arrived to Late to Make Earrings so Plyed Yarn While Chatting

The women currently spin 3 weights of yarn. The finest yarn is used for the weavings made into ch’uspas (shoulder bags) and PAZA products. The yarn woven into tapa bancas (bench covers) is heavier. Those weavings are also used to hold padding on the horses when they can pack cargo. The heaviest density is for weaving blankets. Last year we had an elder spin yarn to weave bayeta (unpatterned cloth) on the floor loom, and it was spun finer than the chuspa weight yarn. It kept breaking, so the women lost interest in weaving it and the floor loom is once again gathering dust. Historically, bayeta was woven by men on floor looms and made into pants for men and the polleras (skirts), but it is a fading memory only seen during fiestas. Doña Máxima remembers 3 bayeta weavers in Huancarani when she was growing up.

Spinzilla Planning Meeting, Doña Máxima is Translating into Quechua

Spinzilla Planning Meeting, Doña Máxima is Translating into Quechua

We lacked only 3 team members when we left Huancarani. The women suggested that each participant receive a small memento of the event to avoid envy when the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes are awarded. They said that´s what´s done at the Feria de la Chirimoya, Independencia´s harvest fair, in May.

Doña Dionicia Prepping Fleece, She´s the Eldest Weaver, but not the Eldest Spinner

Doña Dionicia Prepping Fleece, She´s the Eldest Weaver, but not the Eldest Spinner

Each competitor receives a machete or pitchfork and waits with bated breath for the announcement of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, prizes. Suggestions for prizes were a metal cup or plate. It´s difficult to think of a small prize related to their weavings since nothing is purchased. My thoughts are to have a cup stamped with the Spinzilla logo.  Any suggestions?

Group Photo Receiving Official Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani Documents, 2012

Group Photo Receiving Official Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani Documents, 2012

Doña Máxima reviewed the rules with the weavers including that they begin spinning with empty phuskas on Monday, October 6th. The women were shocked that there would be 1,400 spinners and couldn´t believe some of them would be men. Men don´t hand spin in this part of Andean Bolivia. The opportunity to participate in Spinzilla is opening a bigger world to them, and they´re excited to begin.

Doña Alicia Arrived at the Workshop Plying Yarn to Weave a Blanket

Doña Alicia Arrived at the Workshop Plying Yarn to Weave a Blanket

The last blank on our sign-up sheet was filled on September 2nd. Nineteen of the spinners hale from the community of Huancarani, and of those 2 including the Captain, Doña Máxima Cortez, live in Independencia and are in the Club de Artesanas (CdA). Four of the spinners are from the community of Sanipaya, including CdA member Doña Beatris Flores who splits her time between her community and Independencia. The 2 youngest CdA members don’t have time to spin but signed up eager substitutes (a mother-in-law and a grandmother) who both reside in Sanipaya.  Doña Paulina Quiroz will represent the community of Chuñavi Chico and has been involved in PAZA activities since 2008. Club member Doña Martha Mamani commutes between Independencia and her farm in Lirimarca which is a 2 hour ride in the back of a cargo truck followed by a 3 hour walk (she keeps a burro where the truck drops her off to pack in the groceries).

Doña Ines Gets a Hand Winding a Skein for a Dye Workshop, 2010

Doña Ines Gets a Hand Winding a Skein for a Dye Workshop, 2010

A huge thank you to the Team Warmis Phuskadoras TNNA sponsor Marilyn Murphy partner of Thrums and ClothRoads for giving the women this opportunity to compete in Spinzilla 2014. It will be interesting to see what repercussions vibrate throughout the municipality of Independencia when the word gets out that hand spinning skills are valued and honored at an international level.

Thanks to Lyn Lucas, Shiriin Barakzai, Dorothy Thursby-Stern, and Nancy Meffe (Weaving for Women of the World) we were able to submit our $250 participant fee, and continue our ongoing PAZA activities. We still need to raise $200 for purchasing the prizes and transportation for 2 trips to Huancarani and if necessary extending the trip to Sanipaya for measuring the yarn on October 13thDorinda Dutcher, September 2, 2014