Founded in 1998, the Middle Caicos Co-op is a guaranteed place to find authentic Turks and Caicos handcrafted souvenirs. A not-for-profit enterprise that started with six artisans, the Co-op now celebrates over 30 artisans and their creations. Not only does the organization celebrate the traditional skill of Caribbean basket weaving, but it also encourages and promotes the cultural heritage of the islands through the traditional crafts handmade by the community.
An assortment of beautifully crafted accessories, ranging from hats to bags, as well as household items such as baskets and fans, are on display and available for purchase at the Co-op.
Straw work is made from fanner grass, which grows along the shore and is collected, cleaned, and dried before being used to weave. Palmtops are also cut, dried in bundles, and then slit into thread-size for sewing the baskets or for making plait.
The baskets are sewn, with the grass as a weft and the palmtop as a thread, and the plait is made by intertwining the threads in various sizes and patterns. From the plait a full line of items is stitched. Natural materials are sourced on the islands of North and Middle Caicos, where they are skillfully combined with conch shell, bead, or stitch work to create beautiful items ready to be put to use, including clutch purses, change purses, I-Pad cases, beach bags, portfolios, fans, placemats, and more.
Model sailboats are also available and can be put to the test at the annual Valentine’s Day Cup at Bambarra Beach on Middle Caicos. This event is the perfect activity for the whole family to enjoy, and it’s a must if you happen to be visiting the islands the week of Valentine’s Day.
There are a number of locations that stock products of the Co-op, which can be authenticated by their tag—featuring a regal island lady with the words ‘Handmade Turks and Caicos Islands’.
Visiting North Caicos and the Middle Caicos Co-op
The Middle Caicos Co-op store is located at My Deez Plaza on North Caicos, about a 15-minute drive from Bellefield Landing where the ferry docks. The Co-op also plays host to live demonstrations and interpretive displays, which is not to be missed if you find yourself on the twin islands.
A visit to North and Middle Caicos—the two largest islands in the Turks and Caicos—is easily done in a day and is highly recommended as it allows visitors to swap the busyness of Providenciales for lush, green landscapes, sparse development, and countless untouched beaches. To visit these islands is to truly connect with the essence of the Turks and Caico, as they are rich in culture celebrated through crafts, local cuisine, and an innate connection to the undisturbed marine and terrestrial environments.
The islands are easily accessible from Providenciales, requiring a short 30-minute ferry ride that can easily accommodate both a day visit or an extended stay. Be sure to arrange a rental car before you arrive as they can be hard to come by during the busy season. And be sure to travel with enough water, some snacks, and bug spray. Depending on the day you visit, it may be hard to come by an open store for stocking up on snacks and supplies.