Baby Quilts for Newborns in Mongolia

In August, Elaine Percival, Barbara Peterson and I will be traveling with Selenge Tserendash in rural Mongolia after assisting at the Third International Mongolian Quilt Show celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Mongolian Quilting Center in Ulaanbaatar. We plan to visit rural hospitals and take baby quilts to the maternity wards to give as gifts to mothers for their new babies.

Would you like to make a baby quilt to send to Mongolia? We are hoping to make 50-60 quilts, so would love your help. The quilts should be completed by the end of May and will be sent to Mongolia in a container in early June, taking about a month to get there. Any late arrivals will be carried in our suitcases, with the final deadline of 10th July.

The recommended size is in the range: 32-38” x 36-48”, square or rectangular. The Mongolians love brightly colored prints, which of course are unobtainable in Mongolia. Please contact me if you are interested in participating in this project. If you live locally, (near Bainbridge Island, WA), and need help getting started, you may visit my studio and I’d be happy to supply the fabric and a simple pattern.

Update, 18th April, 2019

The response to this project has been amazing! Thank you to all of you who have contributed baby quilts. Our goal of 50-60 has already been exceeded! The container for Mongolia is actually leaving in early May, and not June as stated above. The completed quilts will receive a special blessing on 28th April before being packed in boxes to go into the container. They should reach Mongolia by mid-July. They will be displayed in the quilt show before we distribute them to the babies. Any baby quilts that I receive after 1st May will travel in our suitcases. Thanks again for your support.

Mongolian Quilting Center booth at craft fair

On the first weekend in December, we hosted a booth at Christmas in the Country, (a craft fair with several locations), at St. Barnabas Church, Bainbridge Island, to raise funds for the Mongolian Quilting Center. All the products were made by Mongolian women. As you can see, it was a colorful and inviting booth. I’m happy to report that we were very successful and raised $3,315.

St. Barnabas Church is our generous host for the Mongolian Quilting Center non-profit in USA. They donate the book keeping costs, which means that 100% of the funds generated from the sale of products and donations, is sent to Mongolia to assist with the running costs of the Mongolian Quilting Center. The Center employs as many as 40 women who would be otherwise unemployed. Many of these women are disabled, or are care-givers for other family members young and old. For a variety of reasons they are unable to work at a regular job, so having the opportunity to do piece-work for the Quilting Center makes a huge difference to their quality of life. The Center also employs five part-time teachers, two designers, a manager, an accountant, three seamstresses and the Director, Selenge Tserendash.

We sold many wonderful products such as patchwork horses, camels and goats made from scraps of cashmere and silk from the garment industry, felted slippers, hand-stitched animal ornaments, beautiful decorative silk table runners and wall hangings, as well as a variety of bags.The ger (yurt) grocery sacks were popular. These light weight, sturdy bags fold up and are zipped inside the ger. They are easy to carry in a purse, so that you always have an extra bag at the ready. So many of us keep bags in our cars and forget to take them into the store with us! Here’s an easy solution. They come in a variety of colors.

I’m so impressed with how Selenge Tserendash and the Mongolian women at the Center continue to develop new, high quality products. They are extremely creative and excellent seamstresses. Read more about this project on my website.

Mongolian Quilting Center booth

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.

Tour of the Mongolian Quilting Center in Ulaanbaatar

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.

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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.

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The Mongolian women are creating new products all the time and it was wonderful to see them so nicely displayed.

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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!

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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.

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Mongolian International Quilt Show IV – Japanese exhibit

A delegation of seven Japanese ladies attended the quilt show in Ulaanbaatar and helped us tremendously in setting up the show and packaging and pricing the products made at the Mongolian Quilting Center for retail. None of them were quilters, but they brought eight quilts and fifteen quilted purses with them, donated by members of the Japan Quilting Association. These generous gifts were all for sale, with 100% of the funds going to the Mongolian Quilting Center.

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The quilts and bags were all exquisitely hand pieced and hand quilted. Some of the bags had decorative applique and embroidery all in immaculate stitches. Enjoy this sampling. I particularly like the one with the delicate blue French knots, which my travel companion, Nancy Watts, purchased. The soft beige and brown tones are typical of the work of many Japanese quilters.

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Mongolian International Quilt Show III – Shiilge’s creations

Shiilge Bat-Ulzii is one of the three talented designers employed at the Mongolian Quilting Center. Her work encompasses a wide variety and she is always excited to try new techniques. Here are several examples that were all on display at the quilt show. During the opening ceremony, we had a wonderful fashion show of garments and bags all designed by Shiilge. This tall model was stunning in the yellow dress with a contemporary dressy look including traditional Mongolian patterns pieced into the ruffles. She presented Shiilge with flowers at the end of the fashion show.

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The striking quilt, black and white, was made by Shiilge. It is queen-sized and made a bold statement hanging on the main large wall of the exhibit. Shiilge surprised Selenge, the Director of the Mongolian Quilting Center, by constructing this wonderful large crazy patchwork horse from blue and white silk scraps. This was very popular at the show, especially with the kids.

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Beautiful Queen is indeed beautiful. She is appliqued and embellished on this wall hanging depicting the traditional Mongolian garb of the princesses from Chenngis Khan’s era. I love this Rainbow Forest made from silk yo-yos. Such a creative colorful idea and well executed.

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It is so exciting for me to see the way the Mongolian women have taken the basic quilting techniques and are using them in their own unique pieces. Shiilge has a creative flare and is prolific in her impressive and original work.

Mongolian International Quilt Show II – Byamba’s Quilts

Now it’s time to feature some of the amazing quilts made by women at the Mongolian Quilting Center. There are three designers at the Center and each has a unique style and flare for original work which is inspiring and exciting to see. Byambalaa Lhagvansuren designs and makes beautiful silk hand applique works of art. Her horses and Mongolian scenes, in luscious silks are truly magnificent.

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Mighty Three, on the left, won best of show and Byamba was awarded a Singer sewing machine, donated by the Singer store in Ulaanbaatar. Magnificent Horse, on the right, quickly sold in the early days of the quilt show.

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The horse on the left goes to a friend of mine who saw my picture of it on Facebook and asked me to purchase it for her. Darling, on the right has folded ribbon flowers on her back.

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I fell in love with this horse with such a gorgeous colorful flowing mane and a royal blue border. It was given to me as a gift from the women of the Mongolian Quilting Center at a celebratory barbecue we had just before I left Mongolia. Here I am with Byamba and this lovely treasure.

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In addition to the horses, Byamba made these two exquisite pieces, both of which sold during the quilt show. On the left, Farewell, depicting a young pair of lovers in traditional Mongolian costumes and on the right a mountainous Mongolian scene. This lady is extremely talented and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

Mongolian International Quilt Show – Opening Ceremony, August 2014

The Quilt show in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian Quilting Center took place in The State Department Store in the center of Ulaanbaatar from 7th-12th August this summer. At our 2006 show in the same place, we tethered the quilts with safety pins to beds in the furniture department on the 4th floor. This year we had a fabulous location on the second floor in a large space between the escalator going up and the escalator going down. People could see the quilts as they went up and down between floors. The picture shows the view from the third floor.

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Hanging the quilts the day before the show opened was challenging. Selenge’s brother owns a furniture company and his company provided large heavy wooden panels which stood on bases. These had to be covered in cloth after they were erected so that we could attach the quilts. It worked fine, but the problem was the length of time it took to put them all up. We began hanging half of the room at 5.00 p.m., but the second half wasn’t ready until 8.30 p.m. The quilt hanging went quickly with the help of the seven visiting Japanese ladies and my US companions. We had quilts from USA, UK, Australia, Japan and of course Mongolia.

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The quilt show opened with much pomp and ceremony the next morning. At 10.00 a.m., the time at which people were invited to the opening ceremony, balloons were being blown up and a bed was being constructed in one corner to display quilts for sale. Products were still being arranged in the sales area and there was much activity. We began at 11.00 a.m. with some Mongolian music. Then there were speeches from Selenge Tserendash (Director of the Mongolian Quilting Center), me and Ogawa-san Hiromi from Japan, with translations. A fashion show of amazing dresses followed, all designed by Shiilge Bat-Ulzii, one of the Mongolian designers at the Center.

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The show was declared open after an elaborate ribbon cutting ritual. Four of us participated including me and were each given white gloves and scissors that came on a silver platter. I was joined by Selenge Tserendash, the Mongolian Minister of Labor (who also presented Selenge with certificates) and Ogawa-san Hiromi from Japan. After we had cut the ribbon, the silver platter reappeared with four fancy champagne flutes filled with milk for us to drink. Traditionally this would be airag which is fermented mare’s milk and not a delicacy that I would choose to drink! Fortunately, they used ordinary milk! I just copied the others and drank about half of the milk. TV and radio people were there and a good number of people watching and there was much applause.

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On the left, are the Japanese ladies in their area of quilts. On the right, we have the teachers, designers, seamstresses, and the manager from the Mongolian Quilting Center with their fearless leader, Selenge Tserendash. It was a joyful occasion and a great start to the show. My next blog will feature some of the wonderful quilts!

Off to Mongolia!

By the time this blog posts, I will have just arrived in Mongolia to help celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian Quilting Center. We will be hosting the Second International Quilt Show in Mongolia at The Department Store in the center of Ulaanbaatar, 6th-12th August. Several nations will be represented with quilts in the show including, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Turkey, USA, Japan, and of course Mongolia. I am taking some quilts to exhibit and will also be teaching while I’m there. Here is Tribute to Mongolia which I will be giving as a gift to Selenge Tserendash after the show.

Tribute to Mongolia

This is the largest quilt I have ever made, 103″ x 103″ and occupies a great deal of space in my suitcase! The big Olzii patterns are 20″ blocks and are the same as those used singly in my Gateway to Mongolia quilts (pattern available in my on-line store). This Olzii symbol is prevalent in Mongolia and often painted on the doors of yurts to bring long life and prosperity to the occupants. The border design was copied from a Mongolian blanket, but looks just like a Greek Key pattern.

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Here are two more quilts for the show. Fiesta is one of my template-free Kaleidoscope quilts and I will be teaching this technique to the Mongolian women. Mind Games was made for a guild challenge to make a quilt using black and white prints and 30% of a solid color. The design was inspired by Christine Porter’s book, Tessellation Quilts .

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I am writing this a week before my departure and am in the thick of preparations, planning and packing. It will be an exciting trip and I’ll be posting more blogs on my return.

Mongolian Quilting Center

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.

Unicorn CITC booth

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.

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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.

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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.