Attractive, Indestructible, and Made in Nepal

Text by Evangeline Neve

There are many things in my home that are made in Nepal, from clothing in my closet to art that hangs on the wall, and of course, many of the most traditional local crafts: singing bowls, khukuri knives, and myriad more knickknacks that have been collected over the years.

However, you might be surprised to know that amongst the made-in-Nepal items that have brought me the most joy are, in fact, my dish towels (or tea towels, if you’re a Brit). I can’t even tell you how many years ago it was when I first bought a few from Dhukuti, in Kupondole. I’d also bought some from a department store around the same time, and while I didn’t intentionally set out to compare them, that’s sort of how it worked out. I’d had some experience—again, this is years ago—with Nepali made T-shirts and bags whose color ran copiously, or that sprung holes, after a few uses, and so I only bought a couple. The first ones I purchased were of a woven striped material, light green. I know this because I still have them, years and years later. They have dried dishes and hands, covered cakes and wrapped bread, added a splash of color to my kitchen.

The cotton they are made from is durable, absorbent, and has gotten softer over the years. And they still look good! Anyone who has had something in regular kitchen rotation for years knows just how much of an anomaly this is.

Even now, whenever I pop into Dhukuti, which is one of my go-to places for gifts before a trip home, I invariably end up standing in front of the dish towel shelves. I don’t need any more—the first ones I purchased still haven’t worn out—but I am constantly tempted by the new designs. There are aprons, oven mitts, and pot holders that match the dish towels’ patterns, too, and I generally combine a selection of these into a set when I’m buying them for a gift. But, for myself, I just buy a couple more of the towels. At least two, usually, because I like them to match. I have brown ones and red ones now, and another shade of green. There are now printed ones, too, with things like donuts, chilies, and herbs on them, and while those are nice (and I have a few of them, of course), I still prefer the striped weave. They don’t show stains (imperative in the kitchen) and have a traditional feel. My sister told me that the ones I’d given her for a gift a couple of years ago still look great in her kitchen—so much better than her other ones.

When I was last in the shop, I decided to ask about the provenance of this simple item that I’ve grown so fond of. I was told that they are made by local producers in Kirtipur and Lagankhel—Dhukuti provides the raw materials and the women then do the weaving locally in workshops that are located near their homes—a setup that enables them to feed and care for their young children easily in between work times, and means that even those who are still breastfeeding are able work on their own schedule. It was good to hear that this small purchase of mine is one that goes straight back into a very local economy. And it reminded me that when made-in-Nepal products are of such high quality, there’s no need to look elsewhere for our purchases. This isn’t a big-ticket item, of course, and some might think I’m reading too much into it, but I believe quality in the small things promotes trust and customer loyalty, too.

It appears that my collection will continue to grow; the old ones show no sign of losing their usefulness, and at least a few times a year a new design catches my eye. Oh well. There are more expensive addictions than a love for colorful kitchen towels.

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