Spinzilla

Spinzilla Prep & a Magical Dye Pot

Loading Up the Molle Leaves & Passengers

September was a month of preparation for Spinzilla Spinning Week and for November’s Tinkuy International Weaving conference in Cusco, Peru. Doña Máxima made a trip to Cochabamba to order the banner for the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) that will debut at the Tinkuy’s Inauguration parade. She and her daughter Zoraida also shopped for 2 shawl samples so that the Spinzilla participants will have some choice in this year´s “All Win 1st Prize”. They learned that the shawl vendors will have little or no inventory until next June when winter rolls around again. Spinzilla always offers a number of problem solving opportunities for the team, and one solution is to buy material and have the Club de Artesanas (CdA) members crochet the borders and add the fringe for a per shawl wage.

Dye Day #1 Results

In the midst of all the preparations for future activities the Club members started an amazing dye pot that just kept on giving. It began with a quick excursion to a lower altitude to collect the leaves of molle trees. Doña Máxima´s husband drives a student transport truck and because it sits idle between the early morning pickup of kids from a rural community and their midafternoon drop-off back home he was agreeable to driving the Club members for 50 Bs. ($7.20). There had been a few days of brief but intense rains that had washed the landscape free of the gritty tan dust that swirls and coats everything during the dry season. Time for bright yellow skeins was running out because the leaves do not yield dye during the rainy season will begin soon. It was a cloudless day so rather than begin the dye pot that afternoon the leaves were put to soak so the afternoon could be spent at the river washing and drying fleece in preparation for Spinzilla Spinning Week

2 Techniques for Washing Sheep Skins

Two days later the Club women fired up the dye pot and the molle leaves simmered scenting the air with a heavenly fragrance. The yellow resulting from the 1st dye bath met expectations but the possibility of a 2nd dye bath looked grim. Doña Antonia saved the day by offering to return from lunch with some dried turmeric root. A relative living in a tropical area of Bolivia had gifted fresh roots to her and she had dried them after the Club used them for numerous dye pots in 2013. The simmering turmeric added its exotic spicy scent to the air and the resulting color was a burnished golden yellow. For a 3rd bath a bit of cochineal was added and the results were a burnt orange. Dyeing continued over 3 more days due to the need to spin more yarn to dye. Glorious vivid reds and red oranges emerged from dye baths 4 through 8 with the addition of a few more grams of cochineal, cream of tartar, alum and citric acid. In 10 years of dyeing such a magical dye pot has never before been experienced, appreciated, and so enjoyed.

Child Labor? Mom and Grandmum Observing Emily’s Washing Technique

The rains that washed the molle leaves also flushed the river which had almost slowed to a stagnation. Fleece and sheepskins were scoured at home in hot water. After lunch following the molle excursion the Club members headed to the river. Doña Maxima and Vilma took turns pushing their wheelbarrow that held 2 sheepskins, a black fleece, and a gray fleece. Doña Antonia was carrying white fleece in a bag of woven plastic in her aguayo on her back. Doña Rufina had a mixed black and white sheepskin and some laundry in her wheelbarrow. With some effort the wheelbarrows were rolled to a pool above the ford where teen boys were lovingly washing their motor scooters.

Navigating Heavy Load of Wet Wool Up to Road

Doña Antonia wet the fleece she´d brought and then laid it over a large boulder and pounded it with a stick. Doña Máxima, Vilma, and her 8 year old daughter Emily submerged their sheep skins and fleece one at a time to work through them with their hands to remove debris. The rinsed fleece and sheepskins were draped to dry over sun warmed boulders. Wheelbarrows were washed out, loaded up, and with a sense of accomplishment the group headed merrily homeward.

Mission Accomplished, Leisurely Walk Home

The following week, and last week prior to Spinzilla Spinning Week, the Club members began preparing coils of roving. Doña Antonia watched Doña Máxima shearing fleece off a sheepskin and decided she was unhappy with the fleece that she had washed. It had dried hard instead of drying soft like the fleece Doña Máxima was cutting away from the sheepskin. Doña Antonia decided that she needed to start over using a sheepskin instead of beginning the washing process with sheared fleece. Doña Beatris, who is in charge of the 6 Spinzilla spinners from her community of Sanipaya, happened to be in town. She was spending the Club day doing her son´s “home economics” project of making a table cloth by pulling threads in a length of cloth and weaving in a bright green ribbon. She said she had 2 sheepskins and offered to sell one to Doña Antonia after washing them the following day. Unfortunately, a neighborhood dog snatched one of the washed sheepskins from where they were drying outdoors, so Doña Antonia was once again in search a sheepskin.

Doña Máxima Shears While Doña Antonia Looks On

The preparation for Spinzilla Spinning Week is a lot of work for the spinners, but it is work they’d be doing anyway. As an event, it recognizes their life long honed skills as spinners and weavers. It has created many learning opportunities for the 25 women, most of who attended few if any years of schooling. These 4 years of empowering experiences would have been impossible without your support.

Thank you Rob Nash for reconnecting in such a supportive way from our carefree youth! The generous support of a former Bolivian Peace Corps volunteer must be acknowledged with gratitude and a hug. The well wishes as well as financial support from other Spinzilla participants goes a long ways in communicating a bigger world’s recognition of the rural womens’ ancient fiber arts techniques and skills. Thank you Sarah Linder and Elizabeth White for once again supporting the Bolivian team. Thank you Taevia Miller. Dorinda Dutcher, September 28, 2017, dkdutcher@hotmail.com

Independencia Update

Club Day – Warping, Crocheting, & Sewing

August was windy, dry and dusty, although the peach blossoms were glorious. Many of the Club de Artesanas (CdA) days were enjoyed out of doors crocheting and warping weavings as winter´s chill still clung to the cement floored rooms. Doña Rufina, the newest Club member worked stoically at weaving a yoga mat strap. She struggled to memorize the pattern often distracted by her active almost-toddler. Her days are divided between town and the family farm near an old growth forest which is a lovely walk up the mountainside unencumbered, but packing a baby and bags of groceries it takes a stout heart and strong legs.

David Opening His Prezzies

The Club members held a potluck lunch and surprise birthday party for David the day he turned 8 years old. He and his older sister bounce back and forth between relatives in town and their rural community below Huancarani since losing their mother 2 years ago. His sister is an honorary CdA member, but spends weekends and vacations on the farm so her participation is rare. It is the first time the Club members have taken the initiative to organize a charitable – or any event on their own. PAZA provided the birthday cake, prizes for the games, and school supplies in a chuspa as birthday gifts for David.

Veronica Spent 1-1/2 Days Making Lanterns for the Lantern Parade

The chicas are progressing in the baking course and complete 3 recipes each Saturday. When not in the kitchen they worked on art projects including making lanterns for the Independence Eve parade in early August, jewelry making using wire techniques, drawing and coloring, and painting scenery for the much talked about “Little Red Riding Hood” puppet show.

Preparation for Doña Maxima´s Tinkuy presentation, “Tales of the Traditional Textiles of Independencia, Bolivia” took place 3 times a week. On Tuesday and Thursday Club days she and Dorinda slowly built a PowerPoint choosing from the thousands of photos taken since 2007. Unfortunately, there are no historical photos due to the rarity of cameras until cell phones with cameras appeared. The presentation outline was sketched out after the July meeting in Huancarani when the weavers talked about what they would like to convey to a bigger world of weavers. The discussion has continued on Sundays when they could visit the PAZA workshop. Each has a different story about how they learned to weave, and rarely did they learn from their mothers. In fact, their words brought to mind the image of a parent in the U.S. trying to patiently teach their teen to drive a car.

Doña Alicia and Doña Máxima, Spinzilla 2015

It was Doña Alicia Solis, now 62, who as a teen was the “go-to” person to learn a variety of weaving motifs. More than 1 weaver mentioned herding the family flock with the goal of tracking down the young Alicia and her flock. Doña Casimira said that her mother died young and her father traded wheat and corn to a neighbor for weaving lessons.

One topic that did not come up when the weavers chatted about their weaving past was natural dyes from the local plants. Natural dyes were not often used as they were growing up except by one extremely poor family. Their interest in rescuing natural dye techniques was piqued by workshops provided by the municipal government and by learning that foreigners were interested in buying natural dyed weavings.

President Evo´s Visit to Independencia

The Spinzilla participants have sheared, purchased, or traded for the wool to spin for Spinning Week. They are looking forward to their special week, but it has been difficult to gather news because special events have interfered with their Sunday visits to Independencia. The 3 days of Independence Day festivities fell over a weekend and the rural spinners feted in their communities. Many of the Huancarani spinners are Evangelists and attended a weekend conference in Cochabamba. President Evo Morales visited Independencia on a Friday and attendance was mandatory (or a $15 fine) so nobody was up for another jarring ride in the back of a cargo truck for Sunday’s market.

Doña Eulogia & Doña Justina, Spinzilla 2016

We are almost halfway to our goal of $930 in expenses for this year’s Spinzilla Spinning competition. The expenses include the annual prize that recognizes all of participants. This year the prize is a shawl, nobody so far has chosen the option of yarn to crochet their own. Other expenses are transportation to the rural communities, the wage for Doña Máxima for those travel days, photo development so each spinner has a “recuerdo”, and the beef for the celebratory feast and awarding of the prizes.

Thank you Jenny Heard, Lyn Lucas, and Dorothy Thursby for continuing to support the spinners and weavers. Thank you to the Spinzilla participants of other teams who have sent support to the Cloth Roads Team Warmis Phuskadoras! A map will be needed to show the Bolivian team from where they are receiving good wishes. Thank you to Marion Gibson the Canadian Koigu Team Captain. Thanks are sent across the Pacific to Jane Cooper and Janet Ellison of the Team Hand Spinning News U.K. and to Katie and Anja Britton of the U.K. Team Hilltop Cloud. Patty Tompkins of Team Louet North America thank you for supporting the team since their first competition in 2015. Dorinda Dutcher, September 12, 2017

2017 Spinzilla Update

Spinzilla Spinning Week 2016

July is sign-up month for the Spinzilla Cloth Roads team Warmis Phuskadoras. Registration has grown over the years from scrambling to fill the 25 member team in 2014 to having a wait list of 5 spinners this year. Last year the invitation was extended for a foreign spinner to join the team, but there were no takers. It appears it was a one-time offer as now a foreigner would be on the waiting list.

Adviana Looking on While Doña Maxima and Vilma Prepare Fleece, 2016

Those on the waiting list will pay the required 15 Bs. ($2.16) participant fee to sign up and will receive the same prize as the official participants. This year the prize is a store bought shawl, nobody opted for the offer of yarn to crochet a shawl of their own design. The waiting list was added so that everybody who was interested would be encouraged to participate. Adviana, a long time Club de Artesanas (CdA) member, wanted to sign up last year, but didn’t make her wishes known until after the registration deadline. Although her lifestyle in town does not lend itself to pasturing and spinning, she does weave to sell through PAZA. During the Club dye season she is always short of skeins to dye, so space had to be made for her to spin during Spinning Week. Maribel, the youngest member of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) is also on the waitlist. It is worth recording how much and how well the 20-somethings spin this year to be able to measure their improvement over time.

Florinda in Front with Younger Sister, 1st Ride on Luisa

Another new spinner on the wait list this year is Florinda, who is about 17 years old and is physically handicapped for which there are no services in rural Bolivia. In 2009, it was brought to PAZA’s attention that a young girl in Huancarani who loved school was not going to be able to continue because she was getting too heavy for her parents to carry her from their home up the mountainside to the school. There were 2 visitors from Bozeman who met Florinda in Huancarani and bought the family a burro named Luisa. The family still has Luisa and Florinda continued her education repeating 5th grade not wanting school to end, but it did.

Communal Lunch, Measuring Day, 2016

Florinda cannot stand or walk so is confined to the family home and grounds where she helps her family by throwing rocks to keep the birds out of the crops. At the weavers’ meeting in Huancarani in early July, Florinda’s mother, who participates in Spinzilla, said that her daughter is the better spinner and wanted to join the Spinzilla team. Florinda was signed up, and PAZA paid her registration fee. She is back on the PAZA radar, and the Club de Artesanas will make an outreach effort by offering her patterns and supplies for crochet and knitting projects. Did the founders of Spinzilla have any idea of how far reaching the competition would be?

Maribel Helping with Yardage Tally, 2015

Doña Francisca is on the official Spinzilla roster for her first year competing. She has spent her life spinning and weaving, but for years has gone round and round with Doña Máxima for lack of attention to quality standards with her weavings. Last week, she finally presented a faja that met the quality standards, although she did not follow the color specifications of the order. PAZA bought the faja with the caution that the next time a weaving does not meet the order’s specs it cannot be purchased and will go into the store inventory. She smiled, nodded her assent, and was obviously happy to join the ranks of the weavers filling orders and participating in Spinning Week. She said she was already getting ready for the competition and had traded corn for a sheepskin of long white fleece to spin.

Doñas Toribia, Narciza, and Maxima, Spinning Week, 2016

It is time for the annual Spinzilla fundraiser which needs to be fully funded so that the ongoing PAZA activities are not impacted. Expenses not yet covered are estimated at $730. If you donate and are a Spinzilla spinner please include a note with the name of your team.  All comments and words of encouragement that accompany donations are passed on to the Bolivian team members. Thank you Lyn Lucas, Dorothy Thursby, and Myra Gilliam for kickstarting this year’s fundraising effort! Hugs!

Thank you Marilyn Murphy and Cloth Roads for sponsoring the team Warmis Phuskadoras for their 4th year! Dorinda Dutcher, August 2, 2017

Reminiscing in Huancarani

Emily and Wendy, “De Pollera”

A few days ago Doña Máxima, her daughter Vilma, Vilma´s 4 children, and Dorinda packed into a contracted pickup truck for the trip to meet with the weavers of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). For the first time in 2 years Vilma´s 2 daughters were dressed as their mother and grandmother in polleras and blusas of their own. It was discovered a week before the trip that they´d long outgrown their rural wear so a sewing frenzy followed so they could be outfitted in new polleras and resized blusas for the planned photo taking session in Huancarani.

Doña Justina at Her Loom Consulting with Doña Máxima

Prior to the meeting with the weavers the women and girls hopped out of the truck for the short walk to Doña Justina´s farmstead. The boys and truck headed down to the soccer field where the meeting would be held. There was an immediate sense of serenity as the dusty road was left behind and the group followed a winding footpath across the green hillside and skipped across the stepping stones in 2 small creeks. A spectacular view opened up of the wide gravel riverbed and small trickle of the Ayopaya River cutting through the steep mountains forming a natural border between the States of Cochabamba and La Paz.

Rolling Up Her Weaving in Progress for Storage

Doña Justina greeted her visitors with bowls of hot boiled corn, a rural staple, and fresh cheese. She had a finished weaving for an order that Doña Máxima measured and collected. Although Doña Justina´s leaning frame loom appeared empty, she had a work in progress rolled up and secured at the top of the loom. She unrolled it to consult Doña Máxima about the specifications. While they talked about the weaving, Vilma had her daughters wet their heads under a water spigot so their hair could be braided and adorned with “tullmas”, beaded loops that add about 8” of length.

Doña Justina and Her Youngest, Miriam

Doña Justina´s youngest daughter, Miriam, was coerced into donning a pollera and blusa for the day. While she changed there was a short meeting about the upcoming Tinkuy International Weaving Conference. It will be Doña Máxima´s 3rd Tinkuy and the 1st for Doña Justina. She has been the President of the CAH for 3 years and was invited by PAZA to participate in the Tinkuy because she has proven her interest and commitment to leadership through the organization of CAH and Spinzilla activities in Huancarani.

Armloads of Medicinal Plants to Take Back to Town

On the walk back to the road Doña Máxima and Vilma collected 4 varieties of medicinal plants. Vilma used her sweater as a makeshift aguayo which enabled her to carry the plants on her back. A few weavers were chatting and spinning in the shade of the church which sits alongside the soccer field, and more drifted in until there was more than a quorum of the 28 members to have an official CAH meeting.

Dusting Off Old Memories

The topics of the day were Spinzilla Spinning Week in October and Doña Máxima´s presentation at the Tinkuy in November. Many of the weavers have expressed interest in attending the Tinkuy, but most would have found the logistics of leaving their farm and livestock for a week impossible. Doña Máxima and Doña Justina will be representing all of them and so PAZA has tasked them all with sharing their weaving history so that Doña Máxima´s presentation is representative of everyone. The meeting was the starting point for what the weavers want to share with a bigger weaving world about their weaving tradition.

Wendy Weaves and Emily Watches the Herd

Photos are needed in a PowerPoint to accompany the presentation. That is a challenge because there are no historical photos of the weavers as girls or teens. Cameras were rare until the recent arrival of cheap cell phones with cameras. The meeting in Huancarani was scheduled for the school vacation so that kids would be available for the photo session.

Doña Maxima´s granddaughters had their first weaving classes the week prior during the Club de Artesanas (CdA) meetings. Nine year old Wendy sat through the meeting working on weaving a strap with figures she´d learned. Her mother Vilma kept an eye on her progress and after the meeting her great-aunt Narciza worked with her.

Wendy Getting Help from Her Great Aunt Doña Narciza

Doña Narciza is Doña Maxima´s older sister by 7 years, and during the meeting she told the group how she learned to weave. As a girl she was intrigued by the woven figures and learned on her own from others. While she pastured the family´s flock she would seek out friends who knew how to weave various motifs. She also befriended an “abuelita” (elderly woman) who taught her. It was Doña Narciza who taught their mother how to weave the figures. Years later Doña Máxima learned how to weave from her mother, not wanting instruction from her impatient older sister. It was at this meeting that Doña Máxima learned that their grandmother did not know how to weave figures and that their mother learned as an adult from her teenage daughter Narciza.

Maribel, the Youngest CAH Weaver, with son Daniel

The “learning to weave” stories seem to have been deeply buried, so more tales will be collected when the weavers drop by the PAZA workshop on Sundays. Although the girls were dressed up for the day their actions didn´t need to be staged. Seven year old Emily and the boys took it upon themselves to keep Doña Toribia´s flock in line, which involved a lot of running up and down the hillside in sheer exuberance of being outside in the country on a sunny day. It´s definitely not the shepherding technique of the weavers who walk and spin, but it would be the shepherding method of children heralding back eons. It was a fun and memorable day, and may the stories that were shared be remembered by the young ones in attendance.

It is with heartfelt gratitude to Dorinda´s college friend Douglas and his family´s P.J. Broderick Memorial Foundation that the Tinkuy expenses for the 3 PAZA participants have been covered. Thank you so much!

Dorinda Dutcher, July 12, 2017

Winter and Weaving

Doña Beatriz Teaching Herself new Figures

During June, the women of the Club de Artesanas (CdA) focused on weaving. Dorinda had returned from the U.S. with 3 orders for weavings from Laverne Waddington’s spring workshop students. The CdA members signed up to fill the orders and warped during Club days working in pairs. The weaving will be done during odd hours at home. Doñas Máxima, Antonia, and Beatris take turns using PAZA´s short demo loom to teach themselves new figures from Laverne´s book “More Adventures with Warp Faced Pick-Up Patterns”. When not involved in weaving activities the women of the Club keep their hands busy with crochet projects. Adviana´s working on a bedspread and a shawl. Doña Máxima put the finishing touches on a pink blouse that incorporated crochet stitches she learned from two-time volunteer Selina Petschek. Vilma and Doña Antonia are crocheting squares for shawls. All 6 women had sewn blouses and wanted to get the photo session over with so they could take possession and begin wearing them.

Doña Rufina Working on Her First Weaving with Figures

Doña Rufina the newest Club member has spent the past few months weaving narrow straps to learn a variety of figures from Doña Máxima. She has woven blankets for her family so has a rustic loom at home, but had never learned to weave figures. The two warped a yoga mat strap which Doña Rufina took home but brought back the next Club day not ready to weave on her own. Doña Máxima attached a stick crosswise to 2 limbs of a peach tree to serve as a support for PAZA´s 12’ leaning frame loom (2 notched poles). The other Club members who are all competent weavers keep an eye on Doña Rufina´s progress offering help if they spot her going awry. Sunny Club days are spent outside so everyone can soak up the warmth. The adobe and cement construction of the homes holds in the winter´s chill temperatures in rooms that don´t receive any solar heat.

Doña Máxima Giving a Weaving Class to Her Granddaughters and Veronica

The teens in the CdA spent the Saturdays in June organizing the huge bag of jewelry making supplies, drawing, learning how to use the microscope, and baking. Veronica was the only chica who did not spend the July vacation working on the family farm in a rural community. She was able to take CdA weaving classes with Doña Máxima and warped her first yoga mat strap, which PAZA will buy to encourage her to continue learning.

Veronica´s 1st Experience Weaving on a Leaning Frame Loom

The yoga mat straps have not proven to be the hoped for “hot” seller. PAZA continues to order them from new weavers to encourage them to learn a variety of motifs and improve their skills. The standard is high for the weavings to fill the orders of Laverne´s students because the buyers are weavers. This has forced the Huancarani weavers who have woven all of their lives with not a lot of attention to detail to improve their skills.

Doñas Maxima and Adviana Wrapping Up after Warping 2 Fajas

The registration for the 2017 Spinzilla spinning competition opened on Sunday July 2nd, and 11 of the Huancarani weavers were in town to sign up. There are 6 spots reserved for the spinners of the rural community of Sanipaya who were invited to join in 2014, the first year the Cloth Roads team Warmis Phuskadoras participated. There was a bit of grumbling from the Huancarani women that their community should have all 25 spots. Spinning week has become an annual highlight for the Spinzilla participants in Sanipaya as it has to the Huancarani spinners, so eliminating any former participants is not an option. Adviana, a CdA member, and Maribel who lives in Huancarani and began weaving to sell earlier this year are in their early 20´s and are anxious to spin during Spinzilla Spinning Week. How will they fare on a team composed of spinners who have whirled their drop spindles for a lifetime while pasturing their flocks?

New Blouse Photo Session

What can be done to include everyone and keep the young women motivated? If the young aren´t encouraged to learn the ancient textile techniques how can the weaving traditions be preserved? The decision was made to create a waiting list for 5 extra spinners whose names will not appear on any Spinzilla form, but who will win the annual prize along with the 25 official entrants. The annual prize this year is a factory made shawl. The option of yarn for anyone wishing to crochet their own didn’t have any takers.

A huge thank you to Cloth Roads for the sponsorship and help with registration fees for the Spinzilla team Warmis Phuskadoras. Thank you Dorothy Thursby for your ongoing support so that the Club activities continue without interruption. Fundraising is not one of PAZA´s favorite activities, but a necessity none the less especially with the projected Spinzilla expenses of $820 not too far into the future. Hint, hint…. Dorinda Dutcher, July 5, 2017

Much Ado About Handspun Yarn

Fleece Buying Frenzy, 2009

The importance of the fleece selected to wash, spin, wind into skeins, dye, wind into a ball, and ply for weaving was first discussed at a natural dye workshop in 2009.  Don Jorge, the trainer, spoke about fiber and its role as the basis for the quality of a weaving. At his 2nd workshop a few months later a participant from another municipality started a shopping frenzy when she laid out long fibered fleece from her highland herd. Now, due to their 3 years of experience in preparing for Spinzilla Spinning Week and the weaving orders with specifications the Independencia weavers understand that they need to spend the time to seek out quality fleece to purchase.

Doña Maxima Shears Sheepskin for Spinzilla 2016

In 2014, under the sponsorship of Cloth Roads, the first Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzilla team was formed and that first competition taught the spinners the need to stock up on fleece prior to Spinning Week. Discussion on how to spin more yarn during the 2015 Spinzilla Spinning week led to most of the participants preparing their roving in advance.

Vilma & Doña Maxima Preparing Roving, Spinzilla 2016

Prior to Spinning Week 2016, the Club de Artesanas (CdA) members of the team purchased fleece in ample time to wash, shear, and prepare roving. Four months later several scheduled dye days had to be cancelled due to lack of skeins for the dye pots. Doña Máxima bemoaned the dark strands running through the white fleece she had purchased from a butcher. She spoke covetously of the white sheepskins Doña Paulina had purchased during a trip to the Oruro market which at an elevation of 12,159´ explains the long fiber of the fleece. Doña Antonia had spun gray fleece to be used au natural, although she already had plenty. Vilma was discontented with her Spinzilla spun yarn for the dye pot, but was spinning and gloating a bit as the proud owner of 2 bags of white fleece her husband had purchased post-Spinzilla in his rural community of Sanipaya.

Natural and Natural Dyed Yarn Use in Doña Máxima´s Weaving, 2012

Team registration for Spinzilla 2017 will take place during July. Thanks to the ongoing orders the weavers are receiving from Laverne Waddington´s weaving workshops they know that they need to have a wide color palette of spun yarn. Doña Máxima plans to encourage the Spinzilla spinners to inventory their yarn supply and make their fleece purchases based on need. White fleece is used for dyeing and for weaving the figures. Black fleece has become difficult to find locally and is used as the background for the woven motifs. Natural gray and tan fleece is spun to use au natural in the weavings. Longer fiber will speed up the spinning during Spinning Week.

Doña Toribia´s Herd in Background, Spinzilla Spinning Week 2014

In past years, CdA members were able to supplement their handspun yarn by purchasing skeins from PAZA. The demand is increasing and the supply decreasing through competition for purchasing the handspun yarn from a dwindling number of the elderly spinners in Huancarani. This year PAZA was able to purchase just enough to dye one skein per CdA dye pot. Those skeins are purchased at cost by the Huancarani weavers who don´t do their own dyeing. The CdA members were cautioned that PAZA was not going to have spun yarn for sale, but it took the cancelled dye days to stimulate discussion on how to take advantage of Spinzilla Spinning Week to be better prepared for the 2018 rainy season dye days.

Vilma Beating The Debris from a Sheep Skin

Many of the Huancarani spinners buy fleece because their forests are home to thistles and spiny trees and shrubs which denude their flocks. Other spinners buy fleece because they herd goats. During a March dye day Doña Máxima examined dyed skeins that had all come out of the same dye pot but with varied results and commented on the quality of the fleece from sheared live sheep vs. a sheepskin from the butcher and plans to buy the former in the future.

A huge thank you to the Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzilla’s TNNA sponsor Cloth Roads who has generously donated the sponsor fee and the participant fee this year!

Wool Scouring Results, Joanna’s Demo

A hug and thank you to Karen Sprenger, friend, WARP member, Tinkuy participant, and backstrap weaver, who organized 3 fiber events for Dorinda in the Kansas City area this spring. Besides sales from the vendor table at the Missouri Spin-In, Dorinda was richly rewarded in the responses to her queries to other vendors on a myriad of fiber related topics. The wool scouring demonstration presented by Joanna Mohn of Wildflower Acres clarified numerous online investigations that had resulted in a hazy understanding.

Karen & Marcia, Arrow Rock Handweaver’s Guild President, Leaving Meeting

Karen and Dorinda gave joint presentations on backstrap weaving and Andean natural dyeing at the Fiber Guild of Greater Kansas City and the Arrow Rock Handweaver´s Guild. Thank you to all the participants who made the events so enjoyable and for your interest and support of the Bolivian weavers.

Nelva’s Card & Bracelet, She Loves Art Projects

Over the past 2 months, the women of the Club de Artesanas (CdA) have sewn blouses, practiced new figures from Laverne Waddington´s weaving book, worked on their crochet projects, and hopefully figured out what to do with the 2 gunny sacks of alpaca fiber. Thanks to an alpaca breeder at the Missouri Spin-In, Dorinda did learn how to wash alpaca fiber (one gunny sack is a spinner´s nightmare because it was washed the same way that fleece is washed).

Inspiration For Nelva’s Drawing, Jonathan McCarthy Photo, Spinzilla 2014

On June 9th CdA members, kids, and a dog or two will greet Dorinda at the Independencia bus station dancing in anticipation of what is in the heavy bags to be hauled uphill. The books, puzzles, sketch pads and markers, quilting material, and the treasure trove of jewels from thrift stores will be used for projects that one day might generate income for a CdA member. Long and short term CdA projects are possible thanks to the ongoing support of Dorothy Thursby, Lyn Lucas, and Susan Weltman. The weavers will also be happy to hear of the generous support from Teasel Hill Angoras, Sheryl Shreve, and the Arizona weavers who received their order of Independencia weavings last month. Thank you!   Dorinda Dutcher, May 29, 2017

2016 Annual Weavers´ Meeting, Huancarani

Tarp For Shade Already Engaged

Tarp For Shade Already Engaged

Overcast skies did not give way to rain during the annual meeting for the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) members on December 26th. The weavers had chosen to meet at the site of Doña Toribia´s old house. A fire was roaring in the beehive shaped wood burning oven when the truck load of participants from Independencia arrived at 10:30am. The oven was the only structure at the site with a roof so rain or sun would have made for an uncomfortable day. The tarp used for shelter in 2015 was in use for drying sprouting corn that will be made into chicha, the sacred beverage of the Incas, for Carnaval.

Prepping Beef for the Oven on a Foggy Morning

Prepping Beef for the Oven on a Foggy Morning

The day´s scheduled events included the Spinzilla celebratory feast and prize awarding along with the annual CAH meeting. The first order of business was preparing the meat and potatoes for the oven. Doña Máxima had made arrangements with a butcher in Independencia to pick up 18 kilos (about 40 lbs. at $2.45/lb.) of beef. Beef is a treat, since cattle are usually trucked to Independencia to be sold and butchered because there is no refrigeration in the rural communities.

All Contributed Potatoes

All Contributed Potatoes

A new water spigot had been installed since last year´s meeting, unfortunately, due to the drought there were long pauses between spurts of water. Doña Máxima and Doña Antonia went to work washing and salting the meat. Doña Toribia took tomatoes, garlic, oil, and dried chilies to her home next door to pound them into a paste for a meat rub. All the weavers brought potatoes which were washed, rubbed with oil, and laid out in long wide tin pans. The oven was filled with the trays of meat and potatoes and the round door cut from a 55 gallon drum was secured to the oven with mud.

Collecting the Annual CAH Dues

Collecting the Annual CAH Dues

Everyone settled comfortably on the ground for the annual CAH meeting. Twenty-one of the 28 members were present when Doña Maxima, the secretary, took roll. Doña Toribia, Treasurer, counted the cash in the tin can of dues. All wanted to be up to date with their 72 cent annual dues so time was taken for the collection. The two main topics were the setting of the weaving prices for the year and Spinzilla. The weavers love Spinzilla Spinning Week and voted unanimously to continue. Cloth Roads has once again generously offered to be the team´s TNNA sponsor.

Doña Justina Receiving Her Prize & Certificate from Dorinda & Doña Máxima

Doña Justina Receiving Her Prize & Certificate from Dorinda & Doña Máxima

The weavers cheered when they heard that the $5,017 in payments for their weavings was the highest year of sales since they began working with PAZA in 2007. What was wonderful about 2016 was that many of the purchases were by foreign weavers who appreciate the skill and culture heritage behind each piece. After years of trying to sell at Bolivian craft fairs and attempting to design and transform the weavings into saleable products for a trendy foreign market it seems possible that the door has finally opened to a niche market that appreciates the evanescent weavings.

Happy Spinzilla Spinners with New Petticoats and Certificates

Happy Spinzilla Spinners with New Petticoats and Certificates

The last meeting topic was the announcement that PAZA has invited 3 weavers to participate in the 2017 Center of Traditional Textiles Tinkuy International Weaving Conference to be held November 8/11 in Cusco Peru. The 3 were chosen based on their contributions to the joint objectives of the weavers and PAZA. Doña Máxima wears the hats of PAZA Coordinator, CdA trainer, and Captain of the Spinzilla Cloth Roads Team Warmis Phuskadoras. This will be her 3rd Tinkuy, and she will make a short presentation as a panelist, which is an honor for all the Independencia weavers! Her daughter, Zoraida, was invited because she is a member of the PAZA sales team. Doña Justina Vargas, the President of the CdA since 2014, has done an excellent job in organizing CAH events in Huancarani was the 3rd invitee.

A Fun Social Day for the Rural Weavers

A Fun Social Day for the Rural Weavers

After a leisurely meal many hands made quick work of the clean-up. The final event for the day was the awarding of the Spinzilla prizes. All Spinzilla participants win first prize and they had chosen a new petticoat as the 2016 prize. Constance Hall, Spinzilla Team Captain Organizer, had printed participation certificates and sent Spinzilla buttons providing tangible evidence that the competition is truly bigger than just their team. The petticoats were sewn by Doña Maxima´s daughter, Zoraida, who requested the work to earn the money to be able to purchase medicine for herself so she would not be dependent on her husband for it.

2017 is looking to be an exciting year for the weavers, although a bit frightening for PAZA due to the additional responsibility of raising the estimated $4,200 in funds for the Tinkuy expenses. Dorinda Dutcher, December 28, 2016