The first weekend in December is a busy one on Bainbridge Island, WA. Both Christmas in the Country and the Studio Tour offer several locations where artisans display and sell their work. Four years ago, St. Barnabas Church, (our USA non-profit host for the Mongolian Quilting Center), became a Christmas in the Country venue, and we have had a booth at this event ever since, selling Mongolian products. This is a great opportunity to raise money, and since St. Barnabas donates the book keeping, 100% of the funds go to the Mongolian Quilting Center. Here is our booth.
The Mongolian women are excellent seamstresses and the silk patchwork products that they make are stunning. Selenge Tserendash is able to get silk scraps from a clothing manufacturer in Ulaanbaatar, and the women use these to make beautiful Twisted Log Cabin and Fan blocks which are then assembled into larger pieces for table runners and wall hangings. They also use them for small coin purses and cosmetic bags as well as patchwork horses. Cashmere scraps are available too, and these are used for patchwork goats and camels. Some of the women make felted slippers and these are always popular. The event ran for three days and we were delighted to raise $3,103 which will go towards operating and maintenance costs at the Mongolian Quilting Center, including wages for women doing piece work who would otherwise be unemployed. If you are interested in purchasing any products, please contact me via the contact page on my website.
In September 2008, the Shine Zamnal (New Way Life) NGO was able to purchase a permanent facility for the Mongolian Quilting Center. I headed a capital campaign in the USA, administered through my church (St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Bainbridge Island). We raised $83,000 which was enough to buy and redecorate the place. In 2009, I went to Mongolia to see the new Center and to celebrate. There is a shop, a classroom, small office and a tiny bathroom. It is an excellent location, just 10 minutes walk from the city center and easy for the women to reach using public transport. BD’s Mongolian BBQ is just across the street and is one of the best places to eat in town.
The picture on the left was taken in 2009 and shows the street. The playground has been upgraded and there are some new businesses that also occupy the street level spaces. The other picture was taken this summer (2014). They were able to expand slightly, pushing out at the front making more space in the office. As you enter the building there is a small porch and then you are inside the shop. I was excited to see the new counter and shelving built recently by Selenge Tserendash’s brother’s furniture company.
The Mongolian women are creating new products all the time and it was wonderful to see them so nicely displayed.
The classroom is through a doorway at the back of the shop. In the days leading up to our quilt show,the space was used for our preparations including pricing the products and packing up bundles of silk to sell. The Japanese ladies were a tremendous help with this and we all worked together in the chaos!
Recently, the Department of Social Welfare has been providing a more spacious classroom for use by the Quilting Center when they teach Government sponsored courses to unemployed women. This has helped tremendously as the Center classroom can only accommodate 8-10 students comfortably and these classes often have as many as 20 women. The office was also a hive of activity during our quilt show preparations.
My association with Selenge Tserendash and women at the Mongolian Quilting Center continues and I raise funds from donations and selling their products when I travel to teach. See the Mongolian pages on this website. Earlier this month, we participated in Christmas in the Country on Bainbridge Island. This event has several locations each with 10-15 booths and is very popular. St. Barnabas Church hosted Christmas in the Country for the first time this year, and since they are also the guardians of our Mongolian funds, it made perfect sense to have our booth there.
Here’s the booth and a close-up of the beautiful silver unicorn silk hanging. It is thrilling and inspiring for me to see the level to which the Mongolian women have taken their quilting and product development. Nine years have elapsed since my first trip to Mongolia when I taught them very basic quilting techniques. Since then several other volunteers have taught too and the women have become increasingly creative and resourceful. They now have a designer at the Center, a manager, three seamstresses and five part-time teachers. As many as 35 women do piece work at home, such as the silk blocks, which they bring to the Center for the seamstresses to assemble into the products.
I encouraged them to work with silk which the tourists love. Selenge discovered that the garment factory making silk deels, (tunics worn by Mongolians), was burning their leftover scraps or sending them to the land fill. At first they gave her their scraps, but then began charging a small amount after they saw the beautiful items the women were making. The women use even the smallest scraps to make crazy patchwork cosmetic bags, change purses and Log Cabin blocks for long-handled denim purses. Our top selling items were the felted slippers, the silk squares with fan or Twisted Log Cabin blocks and the Log Cabin denim purses. Total takings for the 3-day event were $1,460. The silk wall hangings shown below were designed and made at the Center. I think they are absolutely beautiful and I’m so proud of Selenge Tserendash and the Mongolian women.
It was a particularly busy weekend for me as in addition to running the booth, I sang in three concerts and two Sunday services. I couldn’t have managed without John and Nancy Watts from Portland who helped me set up and kept everything going when I couldn’t be there. We became good friends after Nancy (Watts) saw me talking about the Mongolia project on the Nancy’s Corner part of Sewing with Nancy (Nancy Zieman). Nancy and John were interested in going to Mongolia and came to visit me to get more information.Two years ago they made their trip and Nancy taught at the Mongolian Quilting Center in Ulaanbaatar. Last year, Nancy and I coordinated the special exhibit of Mongolian quilts at the Sisters Quilt Show in OR and hosted Selenge Tserendash from Mongolia. Nancy came with me to Quilt Market in Portland this spring and we ran into Nancy Zieman who was amazed to hear this story. In September, John and Nancy went to Wisconsin and were interviewed by Nancy Zieman on Nancy’s Corner. The program has just been aired. Click here to see this video, which will work for as Wisconsin Public Television keep it out there.