KOEL Stories

Brand Highlight: Fairmount Fibers

KOEL Stories

Based in Pennsylvania, Fairmount Fibers is a proud distributor of Manos del Uruguay yarns, a WFTO certified brand with a strong commitment in fair trade principles. Manos Cooperatives are founded in 1968 to provide economic opportunities for women in Uruguay and give them the responsibility to make their own business decisions while having a balance with their family life. In addition to creating yarns for handcrafters, the artisans of the cooperatives produce ready-to-wear pieces for designers and department stores in Europe and the US.

So every time you purchase a skein of Manos del Uruguay yarn, think about how it goes a long way in contributing to Uruguayan women’s careers and the support of their family, as well as contributing to the landscape, and cultural heritage of Uruguay. Each skein is signed, so you will know who made your yarn, and from which village it came from! 

We had a chat with its founder to find out more about how the establishment of Manos Cooperatives, her best selling yarns and more. She even revealed to us an upcoming trip to Uruguay to meet the artisans behind Manos yarns! So sign up if you are interested! 

1. Tell us more about Fairmount Fibers. 
Fairmount Fibers is the U.S. distributor for Manos del Uruguay yarns. We have a warehouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where we stock all the yarns and fulfill our orders. We also provide design support for knitters and crocheters, and are involved with new product and color development.

2. What motivated you to start Fairmount Fibers?
I owned a yarn shop for ten years. When the opportunity to distribute Manos yarns came, I was immediately up for the challenge. Manos Wool Clasica had been my best-selling yarn and I love their story and social values. The timing was just perfect!

3. Tell us more about the collection of yarns you offer. 
At the beginning, Manos produce only one type of yarn, hand-spun from local Corriedale wool. It is now called Wool Clasica and available in a dozen different weights from lace to super-bulky. We specialise in the production natural fibers, including merino, silk, linen, alpaca, and cotton, but what we're really known for is the colors we offer. All of our yarns are hand-dyed in small batches. Our wide range of colors include semi-solid colors that have tonal variations and space-dyed colors with various complex and brilliant combinations. Our artisans use a variety of techniques including resist-dyeing and hand-painting. For our newest yarn, Serpentina, it is hand-painted before hand-spun into yarn. Due to the double process of painting and spinning, the color effects are random, and no two skeins are identical.

4. We have high respect for brands that focus on fair trade. Share with us the production process of your yarn collections. 
Manos del Uruguay is a certified member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). It was founded in 1968 with the mission to provide economic opportunities to rural women. The artisans work in independent cooperatives: they are owners themselves and are given the responsibility to make their own decisions regarding profits and investments etc. The cooperatives are located in small towns and villages around the countryside. This allows the women workers to live in their own homes and maintain their family responsibilities and social connections. There is a central office in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, which handles exports and administrative tasks.

In addition to yarn for knitting, Manos artisans produce hand knitted and woven products including garments and home goods. They are sold on Manos website as well as at departmental stores in Europe and the Americas.  

5. Your bestselling yarns?
Our best-selling yarns are Alegria (a blend of superwash merino and polyamide) and Maxima (100% merino). Alegria is an easy-care yarn with polyamide for strength. It is designed for socks, but knitters use it for scarves, cowls, baby knits and almost everything! Maxima is a beautifully soft, single-ply yarn in a very popular weight (about 18-20 stitches per 10cm). The color variations in semi-solid shades give even the simplest projects incredible depth.

6. Most popular pattern? 
Our most popular pattern is Beaubourg, a cowl neck pullover by pattern designer Julie Hoover. The knitting technique used is very simple, but reveals beautiful details. Made with the wonder Maxima yarn, the style is flattering and suitable for just about everyone!

7. What can we look forward to from Fairmount Fibers in the next 2 years or so?
Our customers can look forward to a wider availability of yarns from Manos! There are now Manos distributors in Japan, China, Taiwan, Australia, the UK, Russia, Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands... and more to come!

We're also in the plans of making it possible for people to meet the women behind the yarn production. In April '18, a trip to Uruguay is scheduled where we will tour Montevideo and go out into the countryside to see the artisans at work. (Every skein of Manos yarn has the name of the artisan and the location of her coop on it.) Anyone who's interested should get in touch!

In the last five years or so, we have introduced yarns in familiar fibers and textures for a lot of popular gauges (what we call fingering, sport, DK, and worsted). Now we are branching out to explore different textures and fiber blends like our new Milo yarn, a blend of merino wool and linen. This also open the doors to new color effects as the fibers each react differently to the dyes.

8. Thoughts on the yarn trend?
One trend I see in knitting right now is new fiber combinations: alpaca with silk and linen, for instance, or cotton with viscose and wool. These yarns benefit from the best characteristics of each component such as it warmth, volume or strength and open up all kinds of new possibilities.

Photo Credits: Fairmount Fibers & Julie Hoover