Handmade: Meet the Makers Kathmandu Details
Decorative crafts are a speciality of the women of Kathmandu who are experts at creating multi-layered textiles. In this blog series we take you behind the scenes to visit the places and meet the people who make our clothes.
It's Saturday afternoon in Kathmandu and a circle of women sits on a rooftop verandah chatting as they embroider colourful scraps of fabric. Nearby children play, giggling and wrestling while a group of men share a round of cards. The inclusion of multiple handmade elements in a single item is quite common in Nepalese garments. A top might have a tie-dyed portion, sections of embroidery, tassels or bells and even patchwork. This layering of handcrafts is what creates the ornate and distinctive Nepalese look that we love. The embroidery, tying for tie-dye and trims for our Nepalese garments are made by women, usually at home. During our recent buying trip, we visited the Kathmandu neighbourhood where a group of women work together manufacturing piecework - components to be used in garments. The work materials (fabric, thread, etc) is delivered and picked up by a local woman who acts as the liaison between the women and the cousins who own the small business that manufactures our garments here. The price to be paid for each completed component is negotiated directly with the women. They then take materials for as many pieces as they can make within a week. This is not a standard amount because each woman has different life situations. The work is done in and around family responsibilities either individually at home or gathered together in a group.
When the women sit together and sew it is a chance to connect with their friends in the community. When asked what they discuss they responded that they "share their joys and sorrows". As we sat together overlooking Kathmandu, a city deep in the throes of rebuilding with the beautiful mountains that ring the city visible through the haze, it was easy to see the women's small, careful and diligent movements as they worked as an act of faith in life renewed.
Words and images Meherose Borthwick