Spinzilla

Spinning Week Tales

Doña Sebastiana, Mid-Week, Huancarani

The 7th Annual Semana de las Phuskadoras (Week of the Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) began the first Monday in October The median age of the team Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) is 57, and they all live in the rural community of Huancarani. Their spinning and weaving rivalries date back to pre-adolescence and have not mellowed with the years. Few have smart phones and the mountainous region makes for poor cell phone service so they can’t check in on each other virtually.

Gathering Mid-Week, East Side of Huancarani

In 2014, the first year of Spinning Week the spinners asked that a meeting be organized mid-week so that they could check each other’s progress. That mid-week check evolved from meeting at the church to a morning gathering on the west side of Huancarani, and an afternoon gathering on the east side. Spinners living on the west side with no shepherding responsibilities pile into the truck contracted by PAZA to head to the east side for a communal lunch and social afternoon before walking and spinning their way back home.

After the week of spinning, the measuring began in Huancarani. Doña Maxima, coordinated the logistics and contracted her husband to do the driving. Her daughter Vilma and Vilma’s 3 daughters rode along as well. Vilma was paid to work all day measuring and her 2 oldest girls who in past years were in school helped with the measuring and took turns tending their new baby sister. Maribel who is the youngest spinner and weaver in Huancarani was also paid to help out. Besides the 16 members of the Warmis Phuskadoras, there were 5 Huancarani spinners on the competing team, the Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Women Who Spin with a Drop Spindle). The total of 21 spinners spun 49,148 meters (39”), but because the yarn was doubled, the measuring teams only had to measure half that amount. The measuring is done 1 meter at a time along 2 sides of the measuring table, or between marks on a wall or any available piece of furniture. It´s an all-day activity, but fun so those who can arrive early and stay until the end.

Doña Rufina, Right, 1st Place, Sanipaya

The following day the truck was again loaded up in Independencia with the measuring paraphernalia including the table and chairs plus beef to be cooked for lunch. There is no refrigeration in the rural communities, so the beef delivery was a treat for the 6 spinners in Sanipaya. Doña Beatris splits her time between her farm and her home in Independencia where her son lives to attend school. In 2014, when the Cloth Roads sponsored Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras was formed, not enough spinners registered to fill the 25-member team.

Doña Casimira, Right, 2nd Place, Huancarani

Doña Beatris who´s a member of the Club de Artesanas said she had friends in Sanipaya who wanted to join the team. She has organized that group through the years; and hosts the measuring team at her home. The 2 newest members of the Club de Artesanas live in Independencia but have spent much of the COVID quarantine on their family farms in Sanipaya. They were there for measuring day, so by day´s end all of the Spinning Week yarn had been measured.

The results for each spinner were tallied on a notebook page, with a tally mark made for every 5 yards measured. Doña Maxima photographed each page with her cell phone and sent the photos to Dorinda in the U.S. to calculate the results. A photo of the results was returned.

Tally Sheet, 1 Mark for 5 Yards, 1 Square Equals 25 Yards

The team Phuskadoras Alegres won by spinning 42,748 meters (close to a yard). In 2018, the measuring was changed from yards as required by Spinzilla to the metric system used in Bolivia. Doña Rufina, from Sanipaya who is Doña Beatris´s mother came in first place for the 2nd year in a row by spinning 4,900 meters. The team Warmis Phuskadoras spun a total of 37,562 meters. Doña Casimira took 1st place on that team by spinning 4,541 meters. She has won 3 out of 7 competitions and her best year was 2017 when she spun the-all-time high of 5,072 yards. She admitted to taking a day off from spinning this year.

Measuring Day, Huancarani

Spinning Week will wrap up in December when all the Huancarani spinners receive their prizes after the annual Centro de Artesania, Huancarani meeting and feast. Between now and then the Club de Artesanas members are busy making the prizes which are polleras (skirts) for all members of the 1st place team and knitted sleeveless tops for the 2nd place team members.

Thank you Lyn Lucas for your ongoing support of the Bolivian weavers. The PAZA activities continue monthly and that comes at a cost. Please consider using the “Donate” button on the blog to support the activities that encourage the weavers to continue to spin and weave maintaining their textile heritage. Thank you, Dorinda Dutcher, November 14, 2020

The Spirit of Spinzilla Echoes in the Andes

Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2016

The two teams of Bolivian spinners are adamant that there will be a Spinning Week the first week of October. Few have flocks anymore, so instead of shepherding and spinning daily they depend on Spinning Week to spin a year’s worth of yarn for their natural dyed traditional weavings. Planning and thinking about La Semana de las Phuskadoras (The Week of the Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles) is providing a joyful distraction from civil unrest and COVID worries. The spinners have decided on this year’s prizes for the 2 teams, and they aren’t a repeat of past awards.

Petticoats Have Been Awarded Twice, Huancarani, 2016

The prize for each spinner on the 1st place team will be a pollera (traditional skirt). Each pollera takes 3-4 meters of material, depending on the number of pleats. The prize for the 2nd place team and abuelitas, who always spin but never want to register as a participant, will be a knitted sleeveless top. The members of the Club de Artesanas will make all the prizes, and they´re thrilled to be able to earn some income. The Club members have crocheted many tops as projects, but that´s not practical for income generation.

Club Members Have Wanted a Knitting Machine for Years. Reyna & Mary’s Crochet Projects, 2015

For years, Vilma, Doña Maxima´s daughter and long-time Club member, has been making polleras to sell so will serve as the Club’s trainer. She learned from her husband who had worked in his sister´s workshop in the city. Vilma began earning income by sewing polleras for rural women who had been gifted pollera material by the municipal government. Two new members of the Club own knitting machines which they bought through a development program run by the local cultural center. They will serve as the Club’s trainers for the other members. Doña Maxima has arranged for PAZA to purchase a knitting machine through the cultural center.

Distributing Gifts of Petticoat & Pollera Material, Pucara, 2009

She is borrowing a fourth knitting machine from the Organization of Mujeres de Huancarani, and that is a monumental step forward. The annual municipal budget has a line item for the development of women’s crafts.  In 2008, a Bolivian non-profit organization led the women leaders of all the municipal Organizations of Mujeres through the process to increase that budget substantially and spend it effectively. That one instance of training wasn’t sufficient for the women to continue being proactive in managing their annual budget. Over the next few years the budget decreased and government officials decided how the funds would be spent. All of the Organizations of Mujeres received treadle, electric, and industrial sewing machines and knitting machines, although electricity is still not accessible to all parts of the rural communities. For a number of years the members of the Organizations received material for polleras, blouses, and petticoats as well as synthetic yarn. What was never included was training to use the equipment. Much of it has sat abandoned for years.

Doña Maxima Eyeing Her Gifts of Material, Huancarani, 2010

Storage for the equipment belonging to the Organization of Mujeres de Huancarani is an empty schoolroom. Because of former President Evo Morales anti-foreigner rhetoric the Organizations of Mujeres quit working with PAZA in 2010, although Doña Maxima is a member. Today, the Organization of Mujeres in Huancarani is no longer active. Doña Maxima deemed that the time was ripe to start putting the equipment to use. She asked to borrow the knitting machine with the promise to return it and teach classes. Although PAZA´s objectives have always been to train local trainers and empower women through the fiber arts it is Spinning Week that has proven to be the perfect activity for meeting those objectives and reaching more women. Their current challenge is to determine how to safely hold Spinning Week in these times of COVID.

Doña Dioncia Sorting Out Snarled Yarn, Measuring Day, Huancarani 2015

PAZA and the rural women are eternally grateful for what began in 2014 when Cloth Roads sponsored the Warmis Phuskadoras so that the team could enter Spinzilla. Thank you to those of you who dreamed up and organized Spinzilla as well as to those who participated as sponsors and spinners. Laughter rings off the mountains as it continues in spirit as an extraordinarily fun week of spinning camaraderie in the Bolivian Andes.

The 1st Group of Club Chicas Learned to Weave. Of the 2nd Group, Only Veronica Attempted to Learn, 2017

How to encourage the Club´s chicas to advance their weaving skills has been under consideration. Zuni, Doña Maxima´s granddaughter, has expressed a desire to weave to sell now that she´s learned numerous motifs using body tension to weave narrow straps. All of the weavings that PAZA buys must be woven on a leaning frame loom. Last week it was decided that any of the chicas who complete their first project on a leaning frame loom to Doña Maxima´s satisfaction will receive a cash prize. Doña Maxima is working on the dimensions for that project and the amount to be awarded. As a girl, it was young Maxima´s spirit of competition with the other girls in Huancarani that motivated her to progress as a weaver.

Vilma Sews the Yoga Mat Straps & Pouches, PAZA Workshop, 2016

A belated thank you to all of you who purchased weavings in May! You helped to greatly reduce the inventory so that the funds collected were returned to Bolivia in July with a new weaving order. There are still zippered pouches ($17, $18 with wrist strap), fajas (70” x 5” lengths of cloth, $41), straps, (75” x 1.5”, $20), and yoga mat straps ($22 for a ¼” thick sticky mat, and $23 for a 1/8” thick mat) for sale. Hopefully, one day Zuni´s weavings will be in the U.S. inventory

An All Time Favorite Photo, Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2014

Meeting the Spinning Week budget is looking promising as $650 of the projected $800 has been received. Thank you Patty, Irene, Margaret, Constance, Rob, Sandra, and Sue for your generosity in these uncertain times to ensure that the expenses don´t impact PAZA´s other activities. Any financial support that exceeds Spinning Week´s budget will go towards the purchase of the knitting machine ($175), supplies for the training workshops, and the monthly operating expenses for the Club de Artesanas which are averaging $220 per month this year. If you’d like to support La Semana de las Phuskadoras and the Club, please use the donate button on the blog. Thank you. It was great fun going through the photo archives for this posting. Dorinda Dutcher, September 1, 2020, http://www.pazaboliviablog.com

Club de Artesanas & Spinning Week

The First Club Workshop was a Spinnig Class, 2010

The birth of the Club de Artesanas in 2010 was the silver lining following the politically motivated public humiliation of Doña Maxima, a local, and Dorinda, an American, which ended collaboration with the municipal government of Independencia. The partnership was a continuation of Dorinda’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer and was a program offering a series of natural dye workshops in rural communities and assistance in the sales of traditional weavings.

Volunteer Kelsey Introduced the Chicas to Sewing Patterns and All Made Skirts, 2010

Three of the original four chicas in the Club were interviewed in the first documentary listed in this blog’s sidebar. They all learned to weave, and although they had a sewing class in high school they made many of their clothes on the Club’s sewing machines and through Club crochet projects. The volunteer program began at the same time, and the exposure to foreigners and working on projects not otherwise available to them was empowering. They were 11 to 12 years old when they joined the Club, and turned their interest to other

Reyna with a Completed Club Project, 2013

activities around the age of 16. All of them graduated high school, which is notable due to the lingering belief that there is little value in education girls. They all left Independencia and two of them earn an income through sewing. Reyna was the only original teen who wore the traditional pollera and blouse. She earned a wage on Saturdays during her senior year as the trainer for the younger girls in the Club. After graduation she switched to jeans before moving to the city, and later migrated to Argentina.

For 8 years, the Club had a lot of foreign influence, and the time seemed right in 2018 to turn it over to Doña Maxima and the members. The Club members continue to meet once a week. Dorinda (PAZA) continues to fundraise to cover the expenses of rent, Doña Maxima´s wage, and the Club´s activities and projects.

Weaving Circle, 2020

Three new 30-something members have joined since 2018, and although they’d had exposure to traditional weaving all their lives in their home communities of Sanipaya, they learned to weave from Doña Maxima. Thanks to the generous support of followers of this blog who responded to the last blog and placed orders for weavings, an order and funds were sent to Independencia in July. Two of the new Club members have attained the quality standard required for the orders.

Doña Marleny Grinding Cochineal, 2019

The 3 day natural dyeing extravaganza during Dorinda´s April 2019 visit was an intensive learning experience for the new members. Because skeins were dyed for the Huancarani weavers all have enough dyed skeins for 2020. Cochineal was purchased in 2019, and ground in a grain mill in anticipation of another round of dye days during the rainy season of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, that did not happen and the Club met virtually between March and late June.

Zuni Crochets, and Doña Bea Lays Out Her Cubrecama (Bed Cover) Pieces, 2020

In July, the Club began meeting again in the PAZA workshop with 4 to 5 women and 4 chicas in attendance. The time has been split between sewing and crochet projects and traditional weaving. Zunilda (Zuni), who is Doña Maxima´s 11 year old granddaughter and Zoraida´s daughter has shown the most interest in the Club activities. As a toddler and little girl she slept away many an afternoon on a makeshift bed under PAZA´s vendor tables at craft fairs in Cochabamba. Her family lives in the city, but they have spent most of the past 6 months in Independencia. Zuni has woven numerous narrow weavings to learn the motifs, and announced that she´s ready to weave to sell, and would like to earn 130 Bs. by weaving a strap. The weavings purchased by PAZA have to be woven on a standing frame loom because using body tension to weave tends to lead to uneven edges. To encourage Zuni to tackle the standing frame loom, and so that she can serve as an example for the other chicas, a price will be set and funds sent to purchase her initial attempts.

Doña Claudia Warping a Weaving for a PAZA Order

Two of the new Club members participated in La Semana de las Phuskadoras (The Week of Women Who Spin) last year. They were on the team Phuskadoras Alegres with the 6 long-time participants of Sanipaya. It appears that the event will eventually become a competition between the spinners of Huancarani and those of Sanipaya, which can be viewed in the far distance to the north of Huancarani. The team Phuskadoras Alegres won last year. It was the first time the original Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras had local competition.

Zuni Weaving with Assistance from Doña Claudia

This year’s Spinning Week is scheduled for October 5th to the 11th.  Of the 2 teams of 16 spinners, there are only 3 slots remaining to be filled. It is the second time the event will be managed by Doña Maxima, Doña Justina, Doña Beatris and members of the Club with no foreign influence. The budget is set for $800, and the organizers are tasked with figuring out what to do about prizes this year. The recognition of the spinners’ skills through the tangible awarding of prizes is important. The participants of the first place team will win a prize worth 100 Bs. ($14.50), and the value of the 2nd place prizes is set at 30 Bs. ($4).

The Club´s Annual Fiesta de Don Jorge, 2019

Support for the Club de Artesanas and Spinning Week may be made by using the “Donate” button on the blogsite, https://pazaboliviablog.com/. Thank you Lyn Lucas for your unwavering support of PAZA that has allowed the Club to carry on through the years. Thank you and hugs to George Dutcher (Don Jorge) who’s been supportive in so many ways. Thank you and hugs to Joyce Dutcher for contributing to the “Family Fund” that is used exclusively for placing and purchasing the weaving orders.  Dorinda Dutcher, August 22, 2020

Rustic Loom Tales

Doña Narciza’s Passion for Weaving, 2014

Weavers in the Andean highlands enjoy the meditative comfort of their long practiced skill in quiet moments free of home and farm chores, children, and other distractions. Their rustic looms (leaning frame) are propped up outside against a wall for light and to accommodate the 12 foot length. If the space isn’t sheltered with an eave or a roof as in a 3-sided shed, then the weaver doesn’t weave during the rainy season. The looms are quickly and simply made by trimming and notching 2 saplings and cutting them to equal lengths of around 12 feet. There are few photos in the PAZA archives and most were staged because of the rare opportunities of finding a weaver at her loom. PAZA’s first visit to Doña Narciza´s home on the far east side of Huancarani wasn´t until Spinzilla Spinning Week 2014 provided a reason and it was possible because a crude road had been bulldozed to that area. She had 2 chuspa straps of llama fiber on her loom. You can see in her expression her joy in weaving, a passion established early in life.

Vanishing Sight of a Weaving in Progress, Kami, 2007

When one gets a glimpse of a weaving in progress, it’s most often a phullu (blanket). They are the easiest and quickest to weave, as the yarn is thick and there are no motifs. The handspun wool is dyed with cheap aniline dye and runs when washed. For generations, a rural woman’s reputation was established while a girl based on her spinning and weaving skills. There are no secrets in the small rural communities, so any woman known to not weave at the least phullus for her family was branded a sluggard.

Doña Maxima´s 2010 Weaving Is In PAZA´s Textile Collection

Weaving the finer weavings on the rustic loom requires upper body strength to beat down the weft with a “wichuna” which is a carved llama bone tool. Doña Maxima has struggled with health issues since prior to the birth of

Doña Maxima, 2013 Tinkuy, Cusco, Peru

her 4th child who turned 20 this month. In 2010, PAZA took photos of her at her loom weaving what was to be her last weaving for 3 years. Her recovery from minor surgery was slow and at times she was uncertain as to whether she´d ever weave again. Good fortune smiled on her and by 2013 she felt strong enough to weave and to travel. In November of that year she was invited by the Center of Traditional Textiles to do a weaving demonstration at the 2013 Tinkuy International Weaving Conference in Cusco, Peru.

Doña Margarita Had Set Up Supports for Her Loom, Chuñavi Chico, 2011

In 2011, a Bolivian nonprofit organization encouraged PAZA to pursue “Hecho a Mano” (Made By Hand) certification for the traditional weavings. The government certification process required an inspection, and it took 3 months before an inspector could make the long bus trip requiring an overnight to Independencia. PAZA was working with 3 rural communities at that time and Chuñavi Chico being the closest was chosen for the inspection site. It was a wonderful photo opportunity because the weavers had been asked to be at their looms for the walk through. The inspector, being city-born, was duly impressed with the intensive hands on process from sheep to weaving. Unfortunately, an inspection for recertification to ensure no mechanization had been added to the process was required every 6 months. The agency had neither the funding nor the manpower for a second visit to certify an eons old traditional “Hecho a Mano” craft.

With each passing year, there are fewer rural weavers further reducing the chances of getting a photo of a weaving in progress. In 2006, Dorinda purchased 2 used and faded phullus for $22 each to use as rugs on the cold cement floors from her landlady Doña Filaberta. She no longer wove, and the poles of her loom laid in a storage shed until her husband repurposed them to serve as a railing on the way to the outdoor water closet.

Faja in Progress, Doña Toribia´s Potato Storage Shed, Huancarani, 2008

Thank you to those of you who have inquired as to how the weavers are doing and what can be done to support them. During the weekly video chats with Doña Maxima she reels off a list of names of weavers who have asked if PAZA has sent a weaving order. Many adult children returned to the family farms prior to the national lockdown. Marleny, a member of the Club de Artisans, told Doña Maxima that her parents are accommodating her siblings and 22 grandchildren on the family farm in Sanipaya. Although the bartering system is still in common use, some staples and seed for next year’s crops will require a cash transaction. After 2 months in quarantine and the return of unemployed adult children and their families to the farms, there is little cash remaining in rural households.

PAZA would like to be able to send a weaving order by July, but must sell inventory already in the U.S. to be able to fund an order. Like so many supporters of artisans in communities in need around the world, PAZA was heavily relying on craft fair sales this year, specifically the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) Marketplace  which was scheduled for May in Bozeman. Dorinda was the 2020 WARP Meeting Planning Chair and continues with the planning for next year.

Weavings For Sale in U.S.

The finished products are zippered pouches ($17, or $18 with wrist strap) and yoga mat straps ($22 for 1/8”  sticky mat or $23 for ¼” thick exercise mat). The weavings for DIY projects are straps (78×1.5”, $21), fajas (used in Laverne Waddington’s classes and are 70” x 5”, $41), and larger weavings used for the zippered pouches (63” x 9.5”, $73). The total cost of the weavings is returned to Bolivia. Ninety percent of the cost was paid to the weavers, and they set pricing annually. Ten percent helps pay the rent for PAZA´s workshop/store and Doña Maxima´s wage on Sundays to open the store and attend to the rural weavers. Please send purchase inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you Lolita for your recent PAZA support and thank you Ginny – enjoy the weavings! Dorinda Dutcher, May 21, 2020

Spinning Week Prep, Step #1

Spinning Week, 2016 (Spinzilla)

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.

Rinsing Fleece in the River

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.

Navigating Heavy Load of Wet Wool Up to Road

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.

Doña Maxima Cutting Fleece from Hide, 2016

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.

Fleece Buying Frenzy When Highland Weavers Visited in 2009

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.

Black Yarn Under Discussion, Spinning Week 2016

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

Measuring Spinning Week Results, Sanipaya, 2016

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.

Fleece on the Hoof

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 dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

Thank you for supporting the Bolivian spinners/weavers and their ancient textile traditions! Dorinda Dutcher, September 15, 2019.

Abuelitas Prepare Your Drop Spindles!

Spinning Week in the Andes

This month is the official kick-off of “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” (“The Week of Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles”) in Independencia, Bolivia. Registration opened on July 7th and will close at the end of the month. Spinning Week will be November 4th through the 10th, and for the first time 2 local teams of 16 will compete against each other.

History

Between 2014 and 2017, the ClothRoads Spinzilla team “Warmis Phuskadoras” were the only Latin American representatives. The Andean spinners consistently placed in the upper 40%, competing against

Mid-Week Check-In

spinners and spinning wheels from around the world. The Spinzilla founders organized the spinning competition as a way to raise awareness of the joys of spinning and to encourage a global connection of spinners. Thanks to the personal notes and financial support from spinners on other Spinzilla teams and PAZA supporters the Bolivian spinners learned of the existence of the big fiber world outside of their isolated mountain communities.

This year, the spirit of competition that goes back to childhood is going to reach new heights as the 2 local teams square off against each other. Their spinning and weaving skills are an integral part of the farmer subsistence lifestyle and are the core of their self-identity. It will be a competition where the “abuelitas” (little grandmothers) rule.

Annual Prize Awarding of Petticoats in 2017

Whether Spinning Week is international or local the spinners are adamant that the event be held annually. To help them recognize their merit in a tangible sense each team member is awarded the same prize. They vote on the prize each year and it is always their choice, personal, and something they rarely have the ability to buy for themselves. The prizes chosen this year are petticoats for the first place team and cardigans for the second place team.

Logistics

Spinning Week Encouraged Maribel to Learn to Spin and Weave

The “Semana de las Phuskadoras” is estimated to cost $1,200 which will cover the prizes, local wages, logistics, and transportation for the visits to the 2 rural communities involved. Trips to the communities are made for the mid-week Spinning Week check-in, measuring the results, and the prize awarding and annual feast. Any funds raised over the cost of Spinning Week will help meet the challenge of raising the monthly operating expenses of $175/month.

Doña Casimira Always Places in the Top 3

The two “Semana de las Phuskadoras” team captains will be Doña Maxima Cortez who is the PAZA Coordinator and manages the Club de Artesanas in Independencia and Doña Justina Vargas who does an excellent job of managing the Spinning Week logistics in the rural community of Huancarani.

Dorinda Dutcher began PAZA as a Peace Corps project in 2007 when she began working with the spinners at their request. She moved back to the U.S. in 2018, but maintains a home in Independencia and will be on hand to provide oversight of this year’s event.

Support

Doña Maxima Preparing Roving for Spinning Week

You can help to make the Spinning Week competition a success and support the Bolivian spinners in two ways:

  1. Donate by clicking on the “Donate” button above. Any amount is most welcome.
  1. Purchase a weaving which will provide cash flow to the spinners as well as building their sense of self- esteem in knowing that their skills will allow them to care for their families. Inquiries may be made by contacting Dorinda Dutcher, dkdutcher@hotmail.com. Information about the weavings: https://pazaboliviablog.com/2019/04/13/bolivian-weavings-have-arrived/

Spinning Week Provides the Women a Rare Opportunity to Socialize

Updates on the “Semana de las Phuskadoras” and the spinners and weavers will be posted regularly to this blog. Dorinda will personally respond to all forms of support as well as inquiries for further information or weaving orders. We thank you in advance for your help in keeping this global connection intact and look forward to November’s Spinning Week. Finally, thank you to the BritSpin spinners for encouraging the Bolivian team to register – maybe next year! Dorinda Dutcher, July 20, 2019, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

PAZA Evaluation and Future

PAZA Store/Workshop, Doña Maxima Tagging Skeins for Dyeing, Doña Narciza Finishing a Chuspa

Is there anything more wonderful than a joyous homecoming? The bus ride from Cochabamba to Independencia at the end of the rainy season is spectacular with the vivid green of wheat fields and pale green of the high mountain grasses that will soon fade to drab tans. Bright yellow flowering shrubs reaching 8’ tall line the road descending into the Palca River Valley where a growing Independencia is nestled.

Spigot by the Church, Huancarani

PAZA has been in transition since April 2018 when Doña Maxima took over management of the Independencia activities and Dorinda relocated back in the U.S. The time had come to evaluate if PAZA will continue and if so how. There was a happy reunion between Dorinda and the Huancarani weavers who had come to town for market day. Many brought handspun skeins of wool for the upcoming Club de Artesanas dyeing extravaganza.  A year ago, the PAZA workshop/store was relocated a few doors down from its former location and Dorinda´s home for 12 years. The walls of the new smaller space were lined with equipment and supplies. The little bit of free space in the middle of the room was packed with women sitting on low stools and spilling out the door.

Waiting and Spinning

A meeting of the weavers of the Centro de Artesania, Huancarani had been arranged for the following day. Doña Maxima, Dorinda, & Vilma loaded into the family van driven by Doña Maxima´s husband. The meeting was held on the church´s covered porch, and as always there was a wait. Most of the weavers had been in Independencia the day before, and had to pasture livestock before heading to the gathering. The rain gods took a break and although overcast the rain held off. The weavers arrived in ones and twos from all directions, many with their drop spindles whirling. Doña Narciza, Max’s sister, was absent. She’d been in Independencia the day before and mentioned that her goats were dropping kids. Over the next week her flock increased by 54.

Doña Maxima Chaired the Meeting with Maribel´s Assistance

The purpose of the meeting was 2-fold. The first was for the weavers and Dorinda to confirm their commitment to continue working together. The repeated statement of, “I’ll weave until I die with your support” was a strong affirmation for PAZA to carry-on.

The second topic was what to do about the lack of a Spinzilla sponsor and the lack of clarity as to Spinzilla’s future. Dorinda put forth the idea of a 16 member Warmis Phuskadoras team made up of the first 16 Huancarani spinners to sign up. A second team would be comprised of the Independencia spinners, the spinners from Sanipaya who were excluded last year, and Huancarani spinners who sign up late. The 2 teams would compete against each other. The excitement and an animated discussion of the idea went on for over half an hour.

Weaving Quality Discussion

The 4 years of official Spinzilla participation as the Cloth Roads Warmis Phuskadoras and last year’s local spinning event have turned Spinning Week into a much anticipated tradition. Spinzilla Spinning Week has always been the first week in October which is a downtime in the Andean agricultural calendar. The spinners titled Spinning Week 2019 as “La Semana de las Phuskadoras” a mishmash of Spanish and Quechua that means “The Week of Women who Spin with Drop Spindles”.

Angelica Sold Her First Weavings This Year and Her Self-Confidence Has Soared

On the return to Independencia, the van stopped a few times and the occupants spilled out to harvest dye plants along the side of the road. Not having a home any longer in Independencia, Dorinda was staying at the local modern hotel run by the Centro Cultural Ayopaya. After 4 nights and a conversation with her former landlord she rented two of her former rooms and moved back home. With biannual visits planned, it made economic sense to rent by the month while offering tangible proof of her commitment to the weavers. The larger of the rooms is the former PAZA workshop/store and will allow Doña Maxima to store unneeded equipment and supplies to free up space in the current workshop/store.

Vilma & Doña Maxima Collecting Suyku on the Way Home

The fundraising efforts for PAZA have been minimal the past year due to the uncertainty of PAZA’s future. The weavers are doing their part in Independencia and Dorinda´s doing her part in Bozeman. We appeal to PAZA supporters to do their part to support this grass roots textile preservation effort by clicking on the “Donate” button above. The budget for Spinning Week is $1,200, and the monthly budget for the Club de Artesanas in Independencia is $175 per month. Another way to support the weavers is by purchasing weavings. The current inventory in the U.S. is tying up ¾ of the revolving fund limiting PAZA´s ability to keep the orders and cash flowing to the weavers. There is woven cloth for your own projects in the form of 63” x 9.5” weavings, fajas, and straps. There are also zippered pouches with and without wrist straps and yoga mat straps in 2 sizes. Thank you! Dorinda Dutcher, May 28, 2019

2018 in Review and PAZA’s Future

In 2018, PAZA attained the goal that all development projects aim for, and that is to turn the project over to the beneficiaries. After 12 years, Dorinda´s move in late April to the U.S. left Doña Maxima with the reins firmly in hand. She managed 3 weaving orders, settled the Club de Artesanas into a new workshop space, managed the quarterly budgets for Club activities (with a 3rd grade education), increased the Club by 2 weavers, and ran Spinzillita Spinning Week. Blog postings have been erratic because she also had to figure out social media to send photos and tales to Dorinda. Towards the end of December, she

Spinning Week Spinners and Their New Mesh Bags

mastered Skype, and the calls were heartwarming and hilarious usually with a backdrop of family,Club members, or Huancarani weavers.

In mid- December, the weavers of Huancarani took a break from spring farming activities to attend the annual meeting of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). The gathering also includes a feast prepared in an outdoor wood burning adobe oven and the awarding of the Spinzillita prize due all participants of October´s local Spinning Week. PAZA funds were used to purchase 25 reusable mesh shopping bags as prizes for this year´s registered participants. The team grew as unregistered spinners joined in during Spinning Week. Doña Maxima, team captain, worked with her team to figure out how to award the additional participants. The registered spinners chipped in to buy extra prizes so all who participated would be recognized for their skill.

Waiting to Feast

Although rarely seen in the hands of city dwellers, a rural woman´s ensemble would seem to be missing something without a mesh bag in hand. The bags have largely replaced the hand woven incuñas (squares) formerly used to wrap cargo for carrying in aguayos. Aguayos, the Andean backpack consisting of 1 piece of cloth if machine woven, and 2 pieces of cloth if handwoven, are still very much in use. The incuñas were organic, the mesh bags are plastic, but reusable, and alas, vendors’ use of disposable plastic bags is increasing.

Warping a Faja for Laverne´s Order

During the CAH annual meeting, the weavers voted to not raise weaving prices for 2019. A PAZA weaving order was sent in October, but lacked transportation to the U.S. until a former Peace Corps volunteer and her Bolivian husband made space in their luggage among what they had to stow for themselves and their 2 young sons. Thank you Claire and Beto for going above and beyond!

The newly arrived fajas ($38) and zippered bags ($16/$17) are available for sale. There are also a lot of yoga mat straps ($22/$23), which are no longer in production. Send inquiries to dkdutcher@hotmail.com.

In November, Laverne Waddington, placed her annual order of fajas (bands) which she uses in her weaving workshops. We’re still waiting for her annual quality report which is accompanied by photos if there are errors. Laverne’s weaving students purchase the majority of the PAZA orders and as weavers themselves their 2018 feedback in photos helped Doña Maxima with the quality control. She has difficulty rejecting a weaving and denying payment to an elder. Prior to April, she’d ask Dorinda to convey the bad news.

Sewing in the Club Workshop

Another PAZA order was sent in January to ensure the weavers could count on a payment in February when the panic of scraping up cash to purchase school supplies and uniforms peaks. Dorinda is planning a trip to Independencia in April to pick up that order, make sure the dye pots are bubbling, gather tales, and help Doña Maxima, the Club de Artesanas, and the Huancarani weavers make adjustments to continue to progress. Regardless of the future of the TNNA Spinzilla event, the weavers love love love Spinning Week, so that may morph into a local event. How that will evolve is a discussion to be had with the weavers of Huancarani who make up the majority of

New Club Member Doña Claudia with Completed Backpack

the team. The spinners of the community of Sanipaya were miffed when the budget was cut to include them in 2018.

Are we still on in this together? The weavers and Club members are carrying on, Dorinda continues to commit time and travel expenses, but you need to decide as to whether or not you will continue to financially support PAZA. Last year’s expenses totaled $4,092. The 15 donations received totaled $1,221. There is just $1,344 remaining in the general operating fund. The quarterly activity fund of $820 was wired to Doña Maxima this month. Her salary was increased $3 to $21.60/day to reflect her increased responsibilities as the Club de Artesanas trainer and PAZA.

The PAZA fundraising pleas were few and far between last year due to the unknown of Doña Maxima and the weavers’ commitment to moving forward. During the April trip, discussions about the future will stem from PAZA´s financial health. That´s up to you! I encourage you to click on the “Donate” button above and continue to support this grass roots effort of Andean weavers striving to preserve their textile heritage while at the same time empowering themselves. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, January 18, 2019

Spinzillita Spinning Week Results

Spinning Week in the Andes

The unofficial Spinzillita Spinning Week in Independencia, Bolivia went off without a hitch. It is the 5th year the rural weavers have spent the first week in October spinning and eyeballing each other’s progress. For lack of a TNNA Spinzilla sponsor they could not officially compete.

Sisters Spinning Together, Doñas Maxima & Narciza

Mid-week Doña Maxima contracted a vehicle for the ride winding up the mountain west of Independencia, along the ridge top, and halfway down another mountain into Huancarani. Doña Justina had the 19 participants in that community organized for a photo shoot and evaluation of the yarn spun thus far. Being dry season, the rough track that serves as a road to farmsteads to the west was passable. A stop was made near the farmstead of Doña Narciza, Doña Maxima´s only sibling still residing in Huancarani, who was out and about with her goat herd. Backtracking to the central part of Huancarani, a large group of spinners were waiting at the soccer field. Spinning and chatting the group headed uphill together in search of Doña Toribia who was in a large meadow, and perfect picnic spot, spinning and watching over her flock of sheep.

Doña Toribia and Her Flock

On Monday, the day following the end of Spinning Week, Doña Maxima, Doña Antonia, and Vilma made the trip to Huancarani to measure the yarn spun. PAZA paid a wage to the latter 2 because help was needed for measuring. In the past, PAZA volunteers were on hand to help with the wearisome task of measuring out yard after yard of 2 ply yarn between 2 marks on a wooden table. Although the enthusiasm for Spinning Week has grown, the results were the lowest in 5 years.

Doña Antonia Measures While Vilma Tallies

In 2017, the Cloth Roads team Warmi Phuskadoras last official participation in Spinzilla resulted in 70,390 yards spun on drop spindles placing them in 27th place out of 70 teams. This year the yarn spun dropped to 54,524 yards, which would have placed them in the 24th place out of Spinzilla´s 38 official teams. Doña Maxima´s norm was well below past years because of travel days. She was probably exhausted as well because Spinning Week began the day after her daughter´s 3 day wedding and celebration in Cochabamba. She was 100% in charge during Wednesday´s all day trip to Huancarani which meant more work for her and less time to spin. This is the first blog posting where she is credited with the photos.

Mother & Daughter, Doñas Eulogia & Cirilia Upped Their Yardage Spun This Year

Doña Casimira had her 3rd win by spinning 3,852 yards. There were 3 first time competitors, all young! Maribel, who was spinning in her second competition, beat Doña Maxima. When it comes to hand spinning, it is the elder women who place highest. Their skill will be recognized and celebrated at their December 19th meeting and feast. The prize this year is a mesh shopping bag.

Maribel Spun 352 More Yards Than Last Year

By strict adherence to the Spinzilla rules, the event has offered the women opportunity to learn to problem solve and to work together as a team. This year 4 unregistered spinners did spin during Spinning Week. During a Skype call with PAZA, Doña Maxima asked 3 different ways if it was possible to get around the registration deadline to be able to give the unregistered spinners a prize. One of the spinners is her mother-in-law, who she prefers not to upset. Registration closed the end of July, the rules can’t be changed, and the PAZA budget is fixed. The PAZA suggestion was to ask the registered spinners to take up a collection to purchase mesh bags for the 4 extra participants, especially since they paid no participation fee as in years past.

This Year’s Winner, Doña Casimira Who Spun 3,852 Yards

The spinners say they are accustomed to Spinning Week and would be disappointed if it is cancelled. PAZA has not found a 2019 TNNA sponsor, and with the decline in participation in Spinzilla this year, its future seems uncertain. However, PAZA hopes to find a way to help the spinners carry on the Spinning Week tradition and celebration of their spinning skill. The key word is “tradition” these women are the last generations to live the ancient farmer subsistence lifestyle that intertwines spinning and weaving with self-identity.

Thank you Sue Brady, Patty Tompkins, Jenny Heard, and Rob Nash, the team’s Spinzillita supporters and friends for your generosity. PAZA is still raising funds to cover expenses for December’s annual meeting of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani and Spinzillita Celebration and the ongoing expenses of the Club de Artesanas in Independencia. Dorinda Dutcher, October 29, 2018

The Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzillita

Photo Day, 1st Spinzilla, Huancarani, 2014

The Bolivian Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzilla spinning team has not lost their enthusiasm for Spinning Week although they will not be competing in the The National Needle Arts Association (TNNA) event this year. PAZA and Doña Máxima, Team Captain, have organized a local event. Registration took place during the month of August and 29 spinners signed up. Between now and October 1, the 1st day of Spinning Week, the spinners will be preparing fleece for spinning as there is no roving locally available for purchase. That prep process is labor intensive and includes wheelbarrows and the Palca River, click here to link to last year’s tale.

Rinsing Fleece After Hot Water Wash Over Fire

The spinning event will involve contracting a vehicle on 2 different days for the trip to Huancarani, where 21 of the participants will be spinning. A trip mid-week gives the spinners an excuse to congregate, socialize, and eyeball each other´s progress. Since childhood, they have vied with one another in their spinning and weaving skills and that competitiveness hasn´t lessened a whit. Doña Maxima is tasked with photographing during these rare opportunities to capture images of the evanescent farmer subsistence lifestyle. Monday, October 8th, will be Measuring Day and Doña Maxima will hire 2 folks to help with the exhausting job of measuring around 68,000 yards of yarn, one yard at a time. The spinners want every ball of yarn to be measured by the same method, so no niddy noddys or yarn counters can be used.

Heavy Wet Fleece to Transport Home

All 6 members of PAZA’s Club de Artesanas will be participating.This is the first Spinning Week competition for the two new members. They are young mothers originally from the community of Sanipaya, but now live in a new neighborhood in Independencia. Doña Maxima said their mothers are thrilled that their adult daughters are becoming more involved in their textile heritage. The 2 new Club members know how to weave using the embedded double weave technique employed to weave traditional celebration weavings. Since joining the Club, they have learned the pick-up pebble weave style of weaving used by the Huancarani weavers and in the PAZA weaving

Doña Claudia´s First Weaving Order

orders. Doña Máxima related that she is impressed with the fineness of the straps they wove to fill their first PAZA order. She was overdue for apt weaving pupils, she has tried to teach many teens and women who have been in the Club and lacked the interest to get over the initial learning hump.

As mentioned in the last posting, purchasing phuskas (drop spindles) in Independencia has become a problem since the last phuska maker died. Doña Maxima asked if phuskas were available for sale in Sanipaya. The spinners from Sanipaya responded no, that they buy phushkas in the city of Oruro when they go to visit family and sell their corn at the harvest fair which attracts vendors of all ilk. Fleece from highland Oruro is coveted by all the spinners because of the long fibers compared to the local sheep fiber.

Measuring Day, Sanipaya, 2017

Doña Máxima will be hustling back from Cochabamba to be in time for the start of Spinning Week in Independencia. Most of you who have visited PAZA in Bolivia have met her daughter, Zoraida, who resides in Cochabamba with her family. Zoraida and Luis will be married on September 29th. In attendance will be their 10 year old daughter Zunilda and her 1 year old sister Luz Ariana. Marriage ceremonies for rural Bolivians usually take place years after a couple has started a family, simply because the expense involved in feting the community for 3 days isn´t a priority. Because they live in the city Zoraida was able to reduce their celebration to 2 days without raising eyebrows. Zoraida weaves when she is in Independencia and has worked at all the PAZA sales activities in Cochabamba.

Doña Antonia Measures, Maribel Tallies, and Doña Justina Rewinds Her Yarn

Thank you Susan Weltman and Lyn Lucas for your continued support of the Bolivian spinners and weavers. PAZA funds will be wired to Doña Maxima next week to cover the expenses for the Club de Artesanas through the end of the year, the Spinzillita (Little Spinzilla) activities, and for the end of the year Centro de Artesanía (CAH) annual meeting and the Spinzillita celebratory feast and prize awarding to be held in December. Those expenses total $1,065 which is 44% of what is in the PAZA operating fund. Please consider clicking on the “Donate” button above to support this effort to help women to help themselves and their families through their fiber arts skills. The team is still looking for a TNNA sponsor for 2019. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, September 12, 2018