There is a neat little shop around the bend from Sanepa Chowk (near Patan, Lalitpur) next to the Shuvatara School. It is called ‘Quilts and Things’. When you enter, your shoes and slippers stay outside. Inside you’ll find quilts, of course, as well as wall hangings, placemats, potholders, aprons, table runners, and many baby items. Cross-stitched bed quilts are a specialty (sizes: infant to deluxe queen). All are a work of love by some very special women, and all exude a warm feeling of home or a familiar place that feels like home. The quilts have beautiful, intricate designs, and their colors are comfortable and inviting.
Quilts and Things is owned by Sharon Rongong who works with Bobbie Clinton, the cross stitch and embroidery design consultant. Both have vivacious personalities whose warmth and friendliness is evident when you first meet them. Their shop is the result of a four-year quest to assist needy children and their mothers. It is part of an NGO called First Love Nepal (in turn, part of First Love International). When I showed up, Sharon was finishing up a sale with a customer, after which they talked like sisters and friends about new quilts, patterns and designs. All of the products in the shop are made in Hattigauda, on the way to Budhanilkantha.
Classes are also conducted at the store for other people who want to learn quilting. “Quilting is a natural way to bond as women sit together and share, helping them to communicate and soothe their problems”, says Bobbie. In a room above the shop, I saw a group of women engrossed in talk while pursuing their quilting.
Bobbie and her husband are from Wisconsin. They came to Nepal on vacation in 1998. They fell in love with the country and have returned every year since. When they first saw the poverty of Nepal, they wanted to do something, but were not sure what. For awhile, Bobbie taught English at a school in Bungmati. When she wrote to friends abroad about the poverty here, they started sending money. She thought of using the money to start an NGO, but chose instead to affiliate with the already established First Love International, which works in several other countries. The Nepal organization, First Love Nepal, now sponsors four children’s homes: in Chitwan, Hattigauda, Sindhupalchowk and Bardia.
The children’s home in Chitwan was the first to open, four years ago, for orphans and children of single parents. Sharon says that the women who brought their children were widowed, abandoned or victims of conflict, or were otherwise troubled and suffering. Seeing them, she felt that they had to do something for the mothers, as well. The mothers are all illiterate village women, but equipped with skills and talents they they are able to sustain themselves. Thus, both the children’s homes and women’s homes were opened by First Love Nepal.
Provided a roof and food, the women are taught to read and write, health and hygiene, and some are taught embroidery and quilting, along with looking after the children in the homes. “Some of the women who came were so brutalized”, says Sharon (First Love Nepal’s director), “and in such a shock that it took them months to talk and trust others.” The women’s home was begun with eight women, some of whom have moved on by getting married, taking the new skills they have learned with them into their new homes.
While I was in the store, Shova Budathoki arrived to deliver some quilts. Shova has a daughter in the Hattigauda children’s home. She is learning English and both tailoring and quilting skills from Bobbie, and is passing her skills on to others. She is also proud and excited that her child is receiving an education.
Sharon showed us some pictures of the children, with bright and shining faces. Many, she said, come from very rural areas. The dedication and passion that guide Bobbie and Sharon as they help needy children and mothers is
Given the stories of children and women interconnecting, like patches in a quilt, it is no wonder that the quilts are so beautiful. Quilts can be made to your specifications by special order. All items are sold at 25% over cost. The profits pay for the women’s home rent, as well as for food, clothing and other expenses.
‘Quilts and Things’ is open on Thursdays from 10am to 5pm, or other times by appointment. Phone: 553.5631 or 98032.18.414. Email: Thquilts@gmail.com
Intangible heritage is a phrase that’s been coming up more and more in Kathmandu these days, but what is it,...