We had a chance to chat with Judy Fawcett, travel agent and intrepid knitter who recently took a life-changing trip to Uruguay with a small group of adventurous knitters.
During her visit, they had the opportunity to make the journey to one of the Manos co-ops near the Brazilian border; this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was two years in the making! Many of the co-ops are located in remote areas, providing jobs for the residents who would otherwise have to move to larger cities and be separated from their families in order to make a living. However, that means that few tourists are able – or willing! – to make the journey to get a closer look.
Judy said, “The women of the co-op gave us a warm welcome – they had tea waiting! They weren’t initially aware that we were all knitters; once they found out, we were sisters!”
Judy observed that everyone at the co-op was able to do everything – winding, dyeing, etc. Though the workspace and equipment was basic, each worker was able to do their job with the utmost proficiency and care. Another thing that made an impression was how joyful and sincere everyone seemed. When the women shared the story of the co-op, it was clear that they considered their coworkers as family. Time and time again, the visitors heard how the co-op enabled them to stay close to their loved ones and send their children to school – truly it was a source of support, both financially and emotionally.
One of the travelers wore a shawl she’d made with Manos yarns; as luck would have it, the artisan who had worked on the yarn was at the co-op and immediately recognized her handiwork! Joan is pictured below with her new friend, Sandra – and look at all of that beautiful yarn behind them!
For Judy, this enriching experience surpassed her wildest expectations. “We came away wishing we could all speak Spanish!” she said, “I still don’t know how the translator managed to keep up with 12 different conversations all at the same time!”
The general happiness and warmth of all the people they met along the way made a lasting impression. “Now we can tell people the story of this yarn and the people who make it,” Judy said. Their warmth, generosity and skill has made a lasting impression on this group of lucky travelers. Thanks for sharing, Judy!