The Quilting Community

L-R: Basima Habib, Hina Dharamsey and Gaye Alger from the Muscat Quilt Guild

Thirty-five years ago, a small group of women in Muscat  started gathering at each others homes and sat through hot afternoons with their quilting threads and needles. They believed then (and still do) that these sessions fostered a strong sense of community for women coming from different cultures and ethnicities. They were glued together with one commonality: Their love for quilting.

Since then, the Muscat Quilt Guild has grown exponentially with a simple motto to ‘learn and share’. Experienced quilters and learners come together once a month to ‘show and tell’ about their quilt patterns. This informal ladies group meets to discuss and teach the latest quilting techniques and show off their latest handiwork. Several members have won awards at the Dubai International Quilt show.

On October 31, the ladies will be exhibiting some of their finished works at Bait al Baranda museum in Muttrah. There will also be workshops conducted on October 29 and 30 leading to the day of the exhibition. The exhibition will showcase the variety of quilts made by women in Oman. The US Embassy in  Muscat will bring an antique quilt from the San Jose Museum of Quilts in California for the show. This hand pieced and hand quilted bed cover will inspire and provide insight to the long history of quilting in the US.

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Quilt patterns that reflect the sultanate’s diversity

Some of the senior most members of the guild, Hina Dharamsey, Basima Habib and Gaye Alger will be teaching different techniques such as hand piecing and hand quilting at the workshop. With this, they aim to open the community to more women and invite them to join in the experience. “There’s a culture of ‘group embroidery’ in Oman,” said Gaye, pointing out that traditionally Omani women would sit together in groups and embroider and sew on traditional attires such as the kumah. 

The multicultural group, consisting of women from across continents, has been a learning platform for people who want to hone their skills. “Everyone in the group is at a different skill level; some are seasoned while others have just begun, so there’s a lot of learning and teaching that goes on at these group meetings,” said Basima. 

While quilts are still made for the traditional purpose of covering a bed for warmth, contemporary quilts have moved more into the realm of ‘Art Quilts’ and are made in many different sizes, shapes and may include the use of paints, markers, hand dyed fabrics, and embellishments such as beads and buttons.

The finished pieces are often given away to friends or people in need. “It was never about going commercial for us,” said Hina, and added, “We do this because we love it and are passionate about it.” The women have however undertaken quilting for a cause at various occasions. Every year they produce a quilt for a charity raffle. The funds this year will go to the Oman Cancer Association.

The ladies believe that for them quilting has been one of the best expressions of a group- based activity that fosters a sense of community and at the same time is relaxing and therapeutic. “You sit down and you chat and you sew,” said Hina. “Over the years, it has helped me the most- just to sit with your friends and talk about issues or your day-to-day happenings and at the same time do what you love.”

The Muscat Quilt Guild will hold its 2018 exhibition at Bait al Baranda on October 31 from 9am – 1pm and 4pm-6pm.

The exhibition runs from November 1-7.

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