Manos del Uruguay is celebrating a landmark 50-year anniversary this year, and I was fortunate to travel to Uruguay in April and visit Manos with my friend and colleague, Cindy Howard-Gibbon of Foxglove Fibers. We had both previously represented Manos in the United States for many years, and were so excited to meet the people behind these beautiful yarns and learn more about the company’s unique history.
Manos was born in 1968 to give rural women jobs and allow them to provide for their families and be independent while staying in their home villages. They produce woven and knitted clothing as well as artisan yarns which are distributed internationally. When I first began representing Manos del Uruguay yarns, they had only one product, a somewhat rustic handspun singles wool that was kettle-dyed in a glorious selection of colors. The portfolio has since expanded to include lace-weights to super-chunky in a range of soft and supple fiber blends, with exquisite color palettes that are both striated and multi-colored.
Manos is true to its roots and remains a cooperative – decision-making and profits go to the artisans who create the yarns. In 2009, Manos del Uruguay was certified as a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, the only South American yarn company with this designation.
Manos is organized in small cooperatives located in remote villages throughout Uruguay. We visited both Dragon and Fraile Muerto- cooperatives that spin and dye Manos yarns, and we tried our hand at dyeing some yarn skeins ourselves – including one festive combination that is the 50th anniversary color, Cincuenta. It is a mix of orange, purple and green that reflects the joy of celebration. It is available through their whole range of yarns.
My friend Cindy measured my foot and then knit me a stunning pair of socks from my anniversary skein. She presented the completed socks at the recent HGA Convergence 2018 fiber conference, and (of course!) they fit me perfectly. They are a lovely memento of a special adventure with a dear friend. And the best news of all – Manos is planning another trip for 2019!
To learn more about Manos del Uruguay, click here to watch a brief video you will enjoy.
Cameron Taylor-Brown studied fiber art at the University of California, Berkeley with artist Ed Rossbach and textile design at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. She worked in New York City as a fabric stylist, taught textile design at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Jefferson) and worked as an exhibition curator. Since 1985, Taylor-Brown has lived in Los Angeles where she is active in arts and education. She is a board member of the Fowler Textile Council and Textile Arts Los Angeles, and was a past President of California Fibers and Designing Weavers. She recently founded ARTSgarage, a textile resource center in Los Angeles. Her work is widely exhibited and has been featured in Fiber Art Now, American Craft, Handwoven and Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot. She teaches workshops throughout the United States and Canada.