Welcome to the second installation of Quilting Around the World. Today I’m delighted to share with you Alia who blogs over at Coffeebeans Dailies about her very interesting life in the Middle East. I find her quilting life to be just fascinating. I hope you all ready what she ahs to say. I’m learning so much already and this is just the second interview of the series.
Hi. My name is Alia Ghulam. I was born in Bogota’, Colombia in South America and moved to the United States as a baby. I grew up in St. Louis and started working when the love bug hit me and now I am living in Muscat, Oman with my Omani husband and two beautiful kids; one tortoise; two Persian kitties; and one wild little man that lives outside. I recently realized that both my Spanish grandmother’s were seamstresses. They made clothing mostly and that is how they survived in Colombian and the United States!
Where in the World are You?
I live in Muscat, Oman in the Middle East.
How long have you been sewing/quilting? How did you become interested in quilting?
When my husband proposed, I told a childhood friend whom was living in Florida with her family at the time and she flew to St. Louis and we met at her Mom’s house. Her Mom took out all these quilts and I was smitten! I have had a needle in my hand since the age of 9 and had never looked at Quilts before. From this weekend with this family; I learned that I could not get past the color in the past. What I did not like was the deep burgundys, forest green, dark beige, dark blues that is so typical of Middle America. Mom G. had yellow and white quilts, pink and white and many ohers and then I was interested in the patterns. I learned that color inspires me. Then only did I see patterns. So, I needed a wedding gift for my husband and decided to make a small wall hanging. It was a nightmare! I had no idea about an accurate 1/4” seam allowance, let alone a scant one! I had no idea about bleeding fabrics. It had 10 fabrics in it and Phillipa Naylor was the President of the Saudi Arabian quilt group that I belonged to a couple of years later and she commented on my color choices. She said she would NEVER put those together but she really liked them.
Anyway, when we were setting up our first apartment here in Muscat, we were trying to hand it behind the bed on the wall and the quilt rippled so badly that we could see each other in full head shots and I was so upset! I ended up using the quilt for my daughter to lay on when she was just tiny. I ended up taking it apart and it is still in pieces all these years later! The quilt did make it into a calendar for the company my husband worked at though! So, in answer to this question, I have been quilting for the last 17 years!
Is quilting common in your area or are you a lone crafter?
The Middle East has a huge expatriate population. We have a very strong group of quilters in Muscat. Americans are the minority here, funny enough. The Omani women, or at least from one family forms a very strong and dynamic portion of our guild. We have ladies from England,France, India, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Oman, South America, the United States and more. I belong to groups but do most of my work on my own.
Do you find it difficult to get quilting supplies and fabric in your area?
We have a couple of stores here that sell Japanese cottons and American cottons. The American cottons are like the industry’s rejects, if you will. They end up here and believe me ladies, we pay a fraction of what you are paying in the US! Sometimes there will be a blemish, sometimes you just can not see it so therefore I always think I hit the jackpot. The thing is that we can’t get bundles or complete, the proper terminology has escaped me right now; complete sets or pieces of a collection. Most of the ladies here don’t care about collections; they match up what they can get with what is available! We have in Dubai two quilting stores now and one of them has a representative here in Muscat that we can order stuff from so we are lucky in that respect. We have lovely Maya that travels frequently to America and brings back fabric and notions to sell. The hottest thing is batting. That is so hard to come by and once you have a favorite; you always want that! Most of the expats get to go to their home countries once or twice a year so they stock up on supplies. Lots of ladies can travel easily to Dubai and shop there. We are always helping each other out so it all works out in the end! Oh, then there are people like me whom order online a lot!
What designer/designs are you exposed to the most as a result of living where you do?
As I mentioned above, most ladies don’t pay attention to designers and when we do get quilting cottons, they are lone pieces up to 4 pieces of a collection! I have been lucky to find Riley Blake recently and just washed and ironed the piece and put it carefully with my other fabrics! I get such a thrill finding designer names in the bolts!
What is your favorite part about the international nature of the online quilting community?
Oh my! Seeing all the different blogs and how the ladies use color and what they are doing and the tutorials and help one gets is amazing. The inspiration really!
How good are you at filling out customs forms for the postal service?