Life of late Lillian Weber, 104, is an inspiration for a lady in Muscat. Weber, the American who became popular by sewing a dress a day for an African charity, has found its counterpart in the Sultanate.
Hebah Bassam, an Indian resident in Muscat, is an expert in upcycling, crafts and Do It Yourself (DIY) projects.
Rugs and baby quilts sewed by her reach the deserving poor in India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Africa.
In a unique initiative since 2015 she has collected fabric scraps to make crazy quilts for babies and children. So far she has been able to distribute 125 quilts in over 10 countries.
Crazy quilts sewed by Bassam have so far been distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tanzania, Lithuania, Sudan, Yemen, the Philippines and Lebanon through kind-hearted friends who happily carry the quilts and gift them to orphanages.
“My goal was to make 50 quilts on my 50th birthday but I didn’t really stop at that and soon crossed the 100 mark,” she adds with glee.
“I was inspired by the life of Lillian Weber, who used to sew a dress every day for a group called Little Dresses for Africa. Since, I was not an experienced seamstress but could sew in straight lines, I decided to make quilts from leftover fabrics which people did not need anymore and would go to the landfill. I started collecting fabric scraps that were discarded by tailors or home crafters and started making crazy quilts out of it. It was sheer pleasure to sew together the tiniest scraps of fabric to make a quilt out of it to keep a child warm,” she explains.
During COVID-19 pandemic, her crafty skills made way for fabric masks when she distributed about 150 masks.
A number of residents in Oman have been helpful towards her work. Her work would not have been possible without the generosity of friends who wholeheartedly donated loads of excess fabric.
“I still have fabric cut off that need to be made into quilts. Just before COVID-19, a group of friends decided to come together once a week to sew the quilts but the work is on hold as we need to maintain social distancing,” she says.
The lockdown has been a blessing as she was totally self-isolated for almost four months. She kept herself busy with upcycling projects, gardening, crocheting, painting and sewing.
Bassam says the joy of saving things from going into landfill is like an addiction. “In Oman, people throw away things which are even slightly used. With a bit of creativity you can restore anything to its old beauty or create something new of it,” she says and explains that the problem lies in the mindset.
“Many are of the view that upcycling is done because you cannot afford to buy new. This is silly as we do have the kind of throw and buy mentality which increases the issue of overflowing landfills,” she adds.
She has brilliantly upcycled an old base of a sewing machine into a funky computer table and an old toy car or bicycle and rocking chair as plant stand in the garden.
During the lockdown days, she upcycled her indoor plastic plant pots and beautified them bits and pieces from her craft room. Also upcycled were few old bamboo table mats into kitchen décor with beautiful paintings on it.
“I love interior decor and try to create a lot of outdoor ambience indoors and have plants all over the house and hope to make a personal indoor jungle over time,” she adds.
After they moved to their new home in Bausher last year, the couple made it into a green zone. The Al Hajar Mountain behind the house and a small wadi which was full of rubble and concrete has been turned into a small oasis with a few trees of drumstick, neem and Gulmohar or Royal Poinciana.
Summer Bassam, her daughter, is a budding artist who is planning to pursue her Masters with Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Bassam has come up with a couple of paintings with her help.