We happened upon a very, very special product (and story) recently. As long time promoters and supporters of hemp fibre and fabric in Nepal, we were so excited to discover a brand new product, handmade by village women in Kathmandu and made using locally sourced, naturally dyed hemp fibre.
Umesh lives in Kathmandu with his mother (aama), auntie, cousin and wife. He bought his parents and auntie to Kathmandu from their village home in Humla (far west Nepal) in 2018 when his father became ill and needed treatment. His father has since passed away, however his mother and auntie decided to stay in Kathmandu even though life in the city was vastly different from that of their village, and he noticed them struggling to find meaning.
"My mom was helping take care of my dad but was also feeling disconnected and restless being so far from home and her busy work life there (she was a weaver, farmer, wife, mom, etc.) and community. I mentioned weaving and her eyes lit up."
Umesh asked her the particular equipment and materials she needed to be able to weave, and made it happen.
"Watching her weave and come back to life made me know this was something I wanted her and other women to do, I wanted more than anything to persevere this art and knowledge, my heritage, because it means so much to them and now to me."
When Umesh was 4 years old, his parents took him from the village to a children's home in Kathmandu, in the hope of a better life for him. He didn't reconnect or see his family again until he was 16 and went back to the village.
"I was first inspired by weaving on my very first visit to Humla when I was 16 and reconnecting with my family. I saw my mom and grandma outside my house weaving beautiful long panels out of goat and sheep wool to be sewn into rugs. (I actually insisted on keeping a piece from that very panel she was weaving and still have it hanging in my house). This image of my mom weaving stayed in my mind for years and I always wanted to do something with it because it was unlike anything I had ever seen."
With the women loving having their weaving to work on, Umesh turned his focus toward the possibility of creating a small business utilizing their skills. The first products they made were rugs and cushion covers which they sold at local markets in and around Kathmandu.
"We knew we had something special not because of the product, but because of the excitement of everyone to begin this weaving, that we had purpose and passion, that this was a way to reconnect to each other and our home."
While the women want to stay in Kathmandu now and love their weaving, it was a huge learning curve for them to be part of a new business.
"Adapting to life in Kathmandu is not easy. Going from farming your own land and caring for your own house with no need to earn or spend money to needing a livable wage to pay for a flat, food, gas, water, etc, and understanding the basic concept of how to manage money is not an easy transition, especially for some women in their later age. We are doing financial literacy trainings to help with this."
"At first they thought what I was trying to do was silly and thought it would be short-term. Now they really believe in the mission and want to see their work out there and want to have more of their Humla sisters and daughters be a part of this effort. They view this as their personal success story."
"I am so proud of my family. They’ve really taken this opportunity and ran with it and I couldn’t have gotten us to here without them. My mom has been open to trying new materials, patterns, set-ups, colors, takes feedback gracefully, and is a strong leader and troubleshooter of our weaving and spinning teams. My brother, Ramesh, in Humla, has done a ton of research about materials and law, has traveled days to visit farmers and build relationships, has visited too many government offices, and helped us get officially registered as a small business. I am so proud of them as I can see how much they care and believe in this project"
We are so happy to be offering Umesh and his families handwoven hemp and cotton bags for sale. We just love supporting small enterprise in Nepal, and this is one of the best we have seen.
The cotton part of the bags is amazingly dyed using plant based dyes by our master dyer Shanti
. What amazing serendipity!
We'd love it if you wanted to help us support this tiny family business, and purchased one of their bags. We have 3 styles to choose from with 3 plant based colours in each style to choose from.
Until next time,