Fair Trade from Start to Finish

Category: Artisan Profiles, Fair Trade News & Topics

Fans of Manos del Urugay yarns might already know that with each purchased skein of Manos del Uruguay yarn you will be helping a woman to support her family. As we celebrate Fair Trade in February, we’d like to present the people who are behind the yarn and have signed the tag on the yarn you have selected and purchased for your project.

This is Lides.

Lides from Dragon

She is a member of the Manos cooperative at Dragon, where she spins Wool Clasica.

This is Ana.

Ana from Dragon

She is a member of the Manos cooperative at Dragon, where she dyes the yarn that Lides spun.

The Dragon Cooperative is located in Placido Rosas, Uruguay.


Our next post will bring this yarn from Uruguay to Fairmount Fibers, LTD. the North American Distributor based in Philadelphia, PA.


Featured Artisan: Patricia Peralta

Category: Artisan Profiles, Translated posts

There are many wonderful artisans working as part of the Manos del Uruguay cooperatives.  Today we would like to share with you an interview with Patricia Peralta who works in the technical department of felt. The original interview was first published on the Manos del Uruguay blog.

What is your current role in Manos del Uruguay?

I am currently working in the Central (Montevideo) cooperative. Working with the design team, we generate ideas to make felt and manufacturing developments. I try to simplify the new designs as much as possible, so that later, when it goes into production, the design does not lose the quality that is a priority for Manos.

When did you join the organization?

I joined Manos in March 1991. I worked a while, then I left for personal reasons and returned in 2004 because they needed people for a very large export. Then I left for a time to work for the harvest. In May 2006 I was hired. A group of four women were assembled to learn a new technique with felt that was implemented in Manos. It was a challenge for my cooperative, to acquire an ancient craft, which is now the rage in international fashion. The cooperative continues this activity, making producs that are then sold on the premises.

What was it that attracted you to Manos del Uruguay?

What attracted me to Manos at the time was the opportunity to work. I was asked for a commitment to the work, to be responsible and to do things with quality. When I started working, I had three sisters, one who was part of the Council. I liked to see them because they wore hand knitting work home, and I always liked the craft.

What were you doing when you started?

When I started, I trained with artisan Lilian Muniz. She taught me to operate the machines, to knit jersey, intarsia, all in children’s garments. After I learned I could start working for production.

What other jobs have you held?

I performed other tasks as finishing, clothing, crochet, embroidery, all the crafts that are used in Manos. Being in Central I have learned to work the loom, not much, but the basics to help make samples.

What tasks do you do now?

Now I work in felt, this magic craft. In each project I find myself doing more and more of what is possible with wool, moisture, heat and love in the kneading. In this craft it happens that I can turn on my creativity and imagination. It’s a challenge. Every day always comes with something new. It’s good.

Of all the tasks in Manos, which one do you like best?

I actually like doing all the crafts, I do not think one is better than another. I always try to put my best in everything I do to make things better and better myself. I work hard because what I do today, the cooperatives will produce in the future and all the products are sold in the market or are often exported.

What has Manos del Uruguay given you?

Manos has given me great satisfaction, I have learned a lot. I have the opportunity to work at the plant to develop my creativity and grow as a person. I love working in Central in Montevideo.


Artisan Profile: Sofia Avila

Category: Artisan Profiles

We hear such wonderful feedback from our friends and fiber fans about Manos del Uruguay yarns. We would like to take this a moment to share with you a video featuring Sofia Avila, of the CARF artisan cooperative in Fraile Muerto, Cerro Largo. In this video, you can see her work space and hear her story in her own words.  As the video is in Spanish, we have provided a translation for you below.

Her name is Sofia Avila, she is a designer in the cooperative. She has been there for 37 years! She started when she was 18 because she couldn’t continue her schooling. Her mother and sister were already working at the cooperative.  She has worked in dyeing for 31 years; it is the activity that called to her.

She was single when she came to the cooperative. When she married, the other artisans were there as invited guests. She wanted them there just like her family during this special moment: marrying before God. She has 3 children and they were all involved somehow in the work of the cooperative. The oldest daughter watched the younger siblings and sometimes helped Sofia in the dye shop.

There were world crises and crises in the country, but they weathered them all. She thinks Manos is a business in which every day requires hard work. She’ll be retiring in a little while and the message she wants to leave to new artisans coming in: you keep at it. You have to make your own contributions. This is an important part of the cooperative.

She was not able to finish her studies, but with her work at the cooperative, her children were able to study and to get ahead. With daily effort one will achieve something! There are a lot of stories, but she’s going to leave that for another video.


Artisan’s Day

Category: Artisan Profiles

July 28 is “Artisan’s Day”, celebrated in Uruguay to commemorate the birthday of  Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres Garcia.  We would like to share with you an entry previously posted on the Manos del Uruguay blog about preserving the tradition of spinning.

Yanette spinning in the Cooperative Fraile Muerto. Photo: Olivia Perez.

When Manos del Uruguay formed in 1968, Uruguayan wool was naturally thought of as one lead through which economic opportunity existed for rural women. At that time most of the husbands of the women worked as laborers and they received wool from their employers. Generally the wool was black or brown which the women washed and wove into ponchos and rugs.

Some time later the yarn was dyed in pots over wood fires. The result was a very uneven yarn, quite heavy and irregular, wonderfully bright colors. Over time the artisans learned a lot about fiber, spinning and dyeing. The Clasica yarn you know and love today is basically the same as it was 40 years ago.  Little by little other natural fibers were incorporated with the wool, such as silk, and alpaca, to generate new textures and coloring.

Eva, also in the Cooperative Fraile Muerto. Photo: Olivia Perez.

In four cooperatives in villages in the interior of Uruguay (Fraile Muerto, Dragon, Santa Lucia and San Jose) you will still find spinning at a spinning wheel and the yarn dyed in large pots.  Today the best Uruguayan wool tops are used to achieve the quality that our customer demands. We have exported our yarn Clasica for over 30 years and in doing so have helped to keep not only the craft of the spinning wheel, but also the traditions and culture of Uruguay.

Do you have family members who spin, or are you the first in a new generation of spinners? We would love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook page, in our Ravelry group, or tweet us @ManosYarns


Meet Irene

Category: Artisan Profiles

Irene Méndez Guerra has been with Manos since 1978.  She was introduced to Cecelia, an artisan in the production group, by her brother.  It was her first job, which she pursued because of her family’s economic situation.  At the time, work was done in the artisan’s home, with the delivery of materials and finished garments arranged by the artisan in charge.

cooperativa coarmo 009
Irene began work in the hand-knitting group, creating elaborate garments.  In 1980, the artisans had an assembly and began working in a shared workshop space.  Inititially, the co-ops did everything under one roof – spinning, dyeing, knitting and weaving.  At times, Irene would also spin or teach others her skills.

More recently, the co-ops have become more specialized, with each one focusing on one or two aspects of production.  Irene is now the cooperative task-leader and has helped to pioneer a new skill for the artisans: felting.

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Irene comes from a large family.  Her father worked for the National Railway Company for many years and her mother was a housewife.  She has 19 brothers and sisters, 47 nieces and nephews, and is a grand-aunt as well.  Many of her family members have also worked with the co-op:  her older sister made pillows with a group that formed and worked in the Carlos Reyles High School; her youngest sister wove ruanas (a poncho-like garment) and scarves, and four of her nieces have worked as hand-knitters – one is even still knitting with the co-op today!

Irene loves everything about her job, and notes that it has given her strength to develop herself as a person, enduring good times and bad.  Working at the co-op enables her to stay in Molles with her family.  Molles is a small village of approximately 1200 people in central Uruguay. It was formerly known as Carlos Reyles, so named for the novelist and wealthy horse-breeder who owned land in the area.  Its main attractions are the Caves Reyles, the rose garden and historic railway station.

Click here to read more profiles of Manos del Uruguay artisans!