Uruguay, Manos de Uruguay / Ana de Prado, Knitting & Weaving
In 1968, a group of women, Olga Pardo Santayana de Artagaveytia, Sara Beisso de Souza, Dora Muñoz de Cibils, María del Carmen Bocking, Manila Chaneton de Vivo asked themselves: How can we improve the quality of life for rural women in Uruguay? Sometimes a single question can have very powerful answers.
The answer was linked to their personal experience merging knitting, a technique inherited from their mothers, with wool, the most popular material of the Uruguayan countryside. After 52 years, Manos del Uruguay has grown into a worldwide non-profit organization with sustainability, ethics, and beauty as its core values.
Manos del Uruguay consists of a group of 12 cooperatives that bring together 224 artisans distributed in different rural areas throughout Uruguay. In Montevideo, a service centre with 65 employees helps with product design, sales, production, financial advice, and training for the organization. Thus, the artisans are the owners of Manos del Uruguay and are part of a non-profit association whose objective is to generate work for rural women, allowing them to remain in their hometowns, have income, and develop their traditional skills that they can then pass on from generation to generation.
Manos de Uruguay works with Uruguayan wool of local origin. Uruguay has environmental conditions highly favourable to quality wool production. Manos de Uruguay spins and dyes their yarns in cooperatives located in the small towns in the countryside. Each Manos skein has a tag with the name of the artisan who made it and the cooperative location. The yarns are hand dyed to produce a rich colour palette with the subtle irregularities which the hand of each artisan gives to it.
At Manos del Uruguay, designers and artisans work together to develop new color palettes and styles every year. Prototypes and dyes are developed in the central office and then shared with the different communities. Manos del Uruguay has many iconic products. The Huella Line is very popular due to the softness of the superfine merino that is expressed through a thick and light yarn. This generates light garments, with a classic, timeless designs where the traditional technique of the manual loom is expressed in a very simple and modern way.
Today, the biggest challenge is to expand the brand internationally. Uruguay is a very small country, with only 3 million people, so their consumer base needs to grow to ensure the sustainability of the brand, the artisans, and the products. With such solid principles, excellent raw material, a legacy of 52 years, and a voracious trend for knitting and everything knitted, the international expansion of Manos del Uruguay is on the right path.
To follow the story of Manos del Uruguay, find them on social media here.