Where does your yarn come from?

Category: Uncategorized

We know you love Manos yarns for the wide range of versatile colors and the quality and softness of the wool blends. But we think the fair trade co-op format of the Manos del Uruguay artisans is just as important as the finished yarns, and we want you to love us for our trade practices, too.

wfto

The Manos Cooperative are fully certified with the World Fair Trade Organization. Essentially, this means your support of Manos del Uruguay yarns are beneficial on two levels: within the local communities that create the beautiful yarns, and on an economic scale that benefits economically disadvantaged areas. With each purchased skein of Manos del Uruguay yarn you will be helping a woman to support her family, supporting the hand-crafted rather than mass-produced, and contributing to an economy where the workers control the means of production. The Manos Cooperatives provide health insurance, retirement pensions, paid vacations and paid maternity leave for their members. Moreover, members enjoy a sense of achievement and of self-determination. You, as a handknitter, crocheter or weaver, will be contributing to women’s careers in harmony with family life, and contributing to the landscape, and cultural heritage of Uruguay.

At the Manos Co-op in Uruguay

Above: Yarns drying at the Co-op in Urugay

In addition to the tangible social and economic benefits of buying fair trade products, there is of course the personal reward that comes from knowing you’re supporting a good cause. We as knitters know the value of the time and effort that goes into producing a hand-crafted item, and the joy we feel in that work is included in the finished object when we give them as gifts or treasure them to be worn for years. It only makes sense that the materials we use in this well-loved hobby should be produced with the same honest and transparent craftsmanship! Each skein of Manos is signed, so you will know who made your yarn, and from which village it came. You’ll know that no animals, workers, or socio-economic disadvantages were exploited in the processes that lead to your knitting that cherished heirloom shawl or sweater. Not every yarn can make this guarantee, but we think that if you’re going to put all the time, effort and expertise into hand-crafting, it is worth a thought to the conditions of the origins of your supplies. We’re convinced that even if the price of the yarns are comparable, the value of a project knitted with Fair Trade yarn is far greater.

Manos Yarns On the Road

Category: Uncategorized

Last weekend, I had the good fortune to be the “Mystery Guest” at the annual Pajama Party given by Hunt Country Yarns. This is a wonderful retreat where a group of delightfully upbeat, independent knitters spend a weekend in West Virginia. There’s yarn, there’s knitting, there’s lots of chocolate, and there’s one teacher/designer/dyer. The trick is that the participants don’t know in advance who’s teaching: they sign up, bring all their basic supplies, and trust Bob Kelly (owner of Hunt Country) to deliver someone who has something interesting to say or show.

Well, I hope I didn’t disappoint them. I brought dozens of sample garments (we had an impromptu fashion show on Saturday afternoon), plenty of yarn, slides from my trip to Uruguay, and a project: the Silk Blend Fair Isle Tam from our website. (Free download here; Rav link here.)
Fair Isle Tam

There were some mighty experienced knitters in attendance, but everyone found something to learn: a new kind of provisional cast-on, some ideas about the interaction of color and fiber, or maybe just how luscious Manos Silk Blend is to work with. (The consensus was that Silk Blend is a pretty luscious yarn. That’s not news to me, but there are some things that each knitter has to learn for herself.)

Forgive the quality of the pictures that follow; there was so much going on that I couldn’t even grab my camera and just clicked wildly with my phone whenever I could.

And for those of you who were there, please forgive me if I attribute the wrong knitting to the wrong knitter! I learned some names but made no notes.

Everyone was so well organized: there were Ott lights, there were row-marking Post-It flags:
pattern shot

There were water bottles; there were colors that began to glow alarmingly:
Joanne

There were frequent pauses to admire and consider:
Linda's Hat
(by Linda, for instance, above; and by Lynn, below)
Lynn's Hat

There were people, like Casey, who worked the entire top of the hat, having never done any stranded knitting before:
Casey

And there were people, like Carol, who knit through meals to get their hats finished:
Carol's hat
(O.k., in all fairness, Carol may have been the only person who knit through meals. And she did finish the hat. But the pictures I took of her wearing it were even more out-of-focus than these.)

It was a wonderful weekend. People seemed genuinely moved to hear about the history of Manos del Uruguay and the coop’s role in the lives of its members. I love showing photos of the artisans at work; there’s an amazing feeling of connection to these women who live so far away, in such a different society. I love to be able to say, “That’s Adriana; she winds the yarn from the spinning bobbins into skeins. That’s Sofia; she dyes the skeins — including the one I’m holding right now.”

So thanks to Bob and Val of Hunt Country, for the invitation; and thanks to all you PJ Party participants. Don’t forget to send me photos of your finished hats!

Featured Yarn: Silk Blend

Category: Free patterns, Yarn Features

Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend has been one of our most popular yarns ever since it was first released, and it’s not hard to see why. It is soft with a lovely sheen (70% Merino, 30% Silk), and just the right amount of the rustic handmade quality you are used to from the Manos co-op. The price point is affordable, and the generous yardage (150 yards per 50g skein) means you can really use this yarn for a nice project. I personally love this yarn, but what means even more is the way the knitting community has come out in support of it. Many Manos fans, budding indie designers, and blogging enthusiasts have designed their own patterns that feature this favorite yarn. I am linking to two of these here (both free!), but a search of Ravelry can produce a lot more. (So check it out if you haven’t already!)

Spiral Cowl

This Spiral Cowl by Keri McKiernan of Knitty Gritty Thoughts is so impressive in the striking Pewter color. I love how the simple textures allow the character of the yarn to show through, and the folded hem makes for a neat, almost formal, edging. And of course, who doesn’t love a chance to show off a favorite button from your collection? Another thing I like about this design is its styling… cowls may be trendy right now, but the details of this one are classic enough to really last. In a muted color like this, I think the Spiral Cowl could even be appropriate for a man’s winter scarf. Is anyone else starting to think about gift knitting? A 2-skein project like this would be perfect.

Here’s another 2-skein Silk Blend project that would be great for a gift, or for spoiling yourself:

103_1039

It’s the February Beret by Caroline Dlugy-Hegwer of SockPixie. Isn’t the Topaz color just perfect for autumn? If you’ve ever fancied yourself a secret princess, adorning your crown with a glowing beret like this one would be a perfect treat. Between the softness of merino and the sheen of silk, a topper like this would really make you feel like royalty. I think this pattern is another great example of classic styling making for a timeless design- it, too, would be great for a can’t-fail gift. And since it only takes two skeins, the investment of resources and knitting time is reasonable… you could make one for each member of your list!

For those of you looking for a little more of a challenge in a beret pattern, we have another free beret pattern here on the Fairmount Fibers website, a Fair Isle Tam in five colors of the Silk Blend! It would be just the thing to truly immerse yourself in the Silk Blend if you’ve been thinking about trying it out.

All about Manos Wool Clasica

Category: Yarn Features

Wool Clàsica is one of our most popular yarns, and with good reason. It’s soft, durable and versatile, with generous yardage and a wide array of gorgeous colors. Not only does its handcrafted appearance and variable texture make for beautiful fabrics that inspire the knitter like a blank canvas or raw clay, but it also felts beautifully. On the surface, you know that this yarn yields 4 sts per 1″ and 138 yds per 100g. Below are some facts about the background of this yarn that might not be as widely known, hidden as they are beneath the colorful surface!

Wool Clàsica is handmade. This rustic yarn is handspun and hand-dyed. The resulting product is a little rough: it retains a handmade, artisanal look. This means that your knitting project will be resolutely one-of-a-kind, and it also does the knitter a kindness by obscuring any unevenness in the knitting itself!

We know you love the single-ply, slightly thick-and-thin texture of Wool Clàsica, but we get excited about the dye process and the colors, too… all 106 of them! The space-dyed colors go through up to 6 different dye baths to get just the right shade and a wealth of depth and complexity. The resulting shades are versatile enough for any home decor project, and compliment a wide array of skin tones.

125 Potpourri

125 Potpourri

Even the undyed (natural) colors, numbers 701-703, will amaze you with their beauty and complexity. These come from sheep that grow their fleece naturally in various shade of gray and brown. These are then combined in different proportions, roughly carded together, and spun thusly. The result is a variegated yarn with completely natural and random shifts in tone. These undyed yarns are even softer than the rest of the Wool Clàsica line, because of the minimal processing.

703 (natural)

703 (natural)

Wool Clàsica is responsible. One of the best parts about enjoying the beauty and versatility of Wool Clàsica, is knowing that this yarn also fully upholds the socially conscious mission of Manos del Uruguay yarns. Since the hand-spinning and -dyeing is very labor intensive, the yarn’s production creates a wealth of jobs that are safe, fair and steady. The continuing popularity of Wool Clàsica ensures that these jobs remain a stable and lasting asset to the communities that produce the fiber and the finished yarn.

The natural colorways from brown and gray sheep ensure responsible environmental stewardship as well. Worldwide, the wool market overwhelmingly demands white fleece, so sheep are bred for that. Sustaining a market for naturally colored sheep helps maintain biodiversity, and allows for lower-impact and cost-effective shepherding of healthier, more stable sheep populations.

701 (natural)

701 (natural)