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Oct 06

A Week Devoted to Handspinning

How are you celebrating Spinning and Weaving Week? This week has been a long-standing tradition in the handspinning and weaving community for decades. When I owned the Weaving Workshop in Chicago some 30 years ago, we celebrated this week with special demonstrations to the general public. After moving to Colorado and working at Interweave, our publications of Spin-Off and Handwoven cheered this week and magnified it to the global community. Now, Spinzilla has taken it even further and is sponsoring the third international competition designed to motivate spinners to learn new skills, take risks, and spin their hearts out.

Artisanal Handspinning
At ClothRoads, we have been involved for a number of years working with small artisanal spinning projects. We’ve written about two of them here and here. Over the years, I’ve consulted with Cashmere People: The Yarn that Changes Lives and the other day, their brand new cashgora handspun yarn arrived plus more stock of handspun cashmere. Each skein is like a cuddly little pet requiring caressing.

The Making of Cashgora Yarn
This new cashgora yarn originates in the Pamir mountains in northern Tajikistan, at the edge of the Himalayas. It’s here that the Pamiri villagers raise small flocks of goats for meat, milk and fiber.

By early November, when the first snow covers the rugged mountainsides and the temperature falls below freezing, the goats have grown a soft, down undercoat to protect them from the harsh winter weather. In the warmth of early spring, the goats no longer need their down and start shedding. Pamiri women comb their goats and sell the fiber to buyers. (One female goat gives close to one pound of down and a purebred cashgora buck as much as two pounds.) The fiber is scoured and dehaired in Herat and shipped back to Tajikistan.

Fiber collection is completed by early June and the truck with the cashgora crosses the Tajik Afghan border at the Panj river and travels across the Afghan side of the Pamirs all the way to Kabul and from there across Afghanistan to the dehairing factory in Herat. From here, the fiber is distributed to six spinning groups, all rural women in the Pamirs and northern Tajikistan. By spinning yarn for export they help support their families and become more independent. The women enjoy working together in their workshops as it gives them a break from home and a safe space to earn money, socialize and bond with their friends.

Spinning yarn for export is not only a source of income, but also a source of pride and accomplishment. Only the most expert spinners are allowed into the spinning groups in order to maintain superb quality control on yarn. All spinners are paid by meter of yarn and all share in the profit from yarn sales. Each spinner has a tag for her yarn with her name and photo so you know who spun your yarn.  We also share their stories on the yarn’s product page.

Not a Spinner?
You don’t have to spin to take part in this mighty event. And you can contribute to the ClothRoads’s team Warmis Phuskadoras in Bolivia as they mightily spin away until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 9. Follow the Bolivian handspinners and donate to their success here. 

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, please share it on with others. ClothRoads and the artisans thank you.

Thanks to the following people for their dedication in working on these projects and their ongoing efforts of creating sustainable communities: Liba Brent for images and information on Cashmere People project and Dorinda Dutcher on Warmis Phuskadoras and PAZA. 

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