Manos Del Uruguay
The Manos Cooperatives were founded in 1968, begun by five women whose goal was to develop economic opportunities for women in a country where there were, and are still, few opportunities for work.
They began modestly, by selling handcrafts at local shops and the annual agricultural show in Montevideo. In time spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting became the focus of the Coop’s efforts. Initially the “faded”, striated colors of Manos yarn were the result of heating yarn for dyeing in large, iron kettles over wood fires. Over the years, the dying process has been refined to provide consistency of color without losing what has become the trademark stria shading.
Continuing to develop its reach while helping to organize the working women of Uruguay both socially and financially, the Manos Cooperatives opened a showroom in New York City in 1976, selling knitted and woven garments as well as yarn for handcrafters. (This showroom closed in 1986.) Since then, the Manos Cooperatives have expanded to encompass 17 individual cooperatives, employing 350 artisans.
While the Cooperatives, collectively, are a large and well-organized business, each individual coop is still very much a small local business. At the Fraile Muerte Cooperative, in fair weather, chickens wander around the yard beneath the drying yarn. In the winter, production schedules have to allow for increased drying time, because there are no indoor drying facilities; all the yarns are still line-dryed out-of-doors.
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.
While today there are kindergartens and preschools throughout the country, the first kindergartens in Uruguay were begun by the Manos Cooperative, to provide childcare for the artisans. Thus, in addition to the benefits of direct income, there have been improved educational opportunities for the members’ children. In fact, the Manos Cooperatives have led the way for better education for all the children of Uruguay.
With each purchased skein of Manos del Uruguay yarn you will be helping a woman to support her family. Each skein is signed, so you will know who made your yarn, and from which village it came. You will be supporting the hand-crafted rather than mass-produced, and contributing to an economy where the workers control of the means of production. 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.