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Sep 15

Bolivian Handspinners Compete in Spinzilla

Doña Alicia said she will participate in Spinzilla until she dies. She is one of the elderly spinners from the Huancarani community in Bolivia, and is returning for the third straight year to compete in the international spinning competition, October 3-9.

Team ClothRoads Warmis Phuskadoras
The ClothRoads Warmis Phuskadoras team (Warmis is Quechua for women, Phuska is Quechua for drop spindle, and doras is Spanish for women who spin) is full with twenty-five members strong, this year adding four new spinners to those returning from last year. Three elderly women joined as members of the Centro de Artesania because they wanted to be a part of the competition.

Spinzilla, sponsored by The National NeedleArts Association’s Spinning and Weaving Group, has challenged hand spinners for four years running to see who can spin the most yarn in a week. The length of yarn spun will be measured to determine the winning team. Last year, our team spun a whopping 68,511 yards on hand spindles during spinning week.

For the Warmis Phuskadoras, participating in Spinzilla is an opportunity to raise international awareness of the vanishing ancient Andean weaving (and thereby spinning) tradition. It’s also an opportunity to educate the weavers that artisans around the world are forging the same battle of passing these skills on to younger generations. As Bolivian hand spinner Doña Máxima Cortez said, “Who is going to remember what our hands know?”

Plans Afoot
The spinners of Huancarani requested a day to gather prior to Spinning Week to spin together. Plus there will be two days to take photos of the spinners during Spinning Week and the day for measuring.

All the spinners win prizes to encourage teamwork and to recognize them equally for their superb spinning ability. Last year, the members wanted new sweaters, but this year the prize will be a new petticoat. The women layer petticoats and polleras (skirts) depending on the weather because they never wear pants. Like women everywhere, they like having a good outfit for special occasions. Team Captain Doña Máxima Cortez is responsible for gathering price quotes for the material and negotiating the price for sewing the petticoats in the PAZA workshop.

At the award celebration, the spinners will receive their petticoats and the very tangible Spinzilla certificates–proof of being part of an international competition which will help them stay positive while tangling with local governmental issues.

Support This Team
This year the Spinzilla team needs to raise $1000 to cover their expenses including participation fees, extra wages, transportation for trips to rural communities, prizes, printing of photos for each participant, and groceries for the award celebration. It’s crucial that these funds be raised so that this event doesn´t impact other activities–PAZA has currently raised about half of the funds. Help them make their goal this year.  Donate to the Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzilla efforts here. Please note on the Paypal form attached to the “Donate” button that your contribution is for Spinzilla.

If you want to support the Bolivian PAZA group of spinners and weavers, many of whom are competing in Spinzilla, we have some handspun, naturally dyed, handwoven yoga straps and zipped pouches in the store. We’ll make sure they make their goal by donating any fund  shortfall. Shop PAZA store.

Special Thanks

This handspun wool and handwoven chuspa was a thank-you gift from the Warmis Phuskadoras.

This handspun wool and handwoven chuspa was a thank-you gift from the Warmis Phuskadoras.

Thanks to PAZA founder Dorinda Dutcher for information and images for this blog and her dedication to working with the Quechua weavers. When I saw Dorinda at the WARP conference in Santa Fe this July, she gifted me with this chuspita woven by Doña Maxima Cortez, the team captain, and the strap woven by Doña Paulina Vargas using a double embedded weaving technique. Note “Spinzilla” woven into the strap! You can follow the Warmis Phuskadoras Spinzilla team on Dorinda’s blog here.

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