A millennial is putting a snazzy spin on an old-fashioned hobby, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
CROCHET Commuter was born when Chua Pei Wen was working in Kuala Lumpur city centre. The 28-year-old was travelling daily by LRT from her home in Subang Jaya and whenever she found a seat, she would take out her yarn and hook and crochet away.
“People would look at me strangely. Only one person has ever asked what I was doing,” she says. “Doing crochet was a productive way to pass time and there were times when I even wished my commute was longer!”
The finance executive is working closer to home these days and no longer takes the LRT, but she is still crocheting every spare moment she gets. Her Instagram account @CrochetCommuter is filled with her handiwork, and she has no plans to stop.
“I have always dabbled in arts and crafts such as sewing and embroidery work. I started to crochet last year, which is not very long ago, but I have done many projects since then. I find inspiration online from YouTube or Instagram but I also put my own spin on things using different colours and patterns,” she says.
Chua finds crochet to be calming and time certainly flies when she is doing it. She gets comments that it is an old-fashioned hobby, something only aunties or grandmothers do, but she enjoys seeing the end product, and there are plenty of contemporary styles to get inspired by.
Her favourite crochetmaker is Molla Mills from Finland and her designs epitomises Scandinavian cool with their bold motifs, geometric lines and modern colour palette. Designers such as Missoni and Self-Portrait are also known for using crochet in their ready-to-wear collections.
THE CRAFT OF CROCHET
Given the use of yarn for both crochet and knitting, some might think they are the same thing.
But the latter uses two pointed sticks called knitting needles while crochet only uses one, which has a hook at one end. (The name “
crochet” is French in origin and means small hook.) This leads to different stitching methods and opting for one over the other is a matter of personal preference.
“I tried knitting first but it was not for me,” says Chua. “So I moved on to crochet and I find that it is more versatile and I can improvise the techniques to make what I want. You only need one stick but it comes in different sizes, and what you use depends on the yarn and the size of the product you want to make.”
The size of the stick correlates to how close the stitches are to one another. The smaller the stick, the closer the stitches. This results in a product with less stretch, which is ideal for things like purses or coasters.
A bigger crochet hook, on the other hand, will create stitches with bigger gaps. This makes the product more expandable so it is useful for making products that need a bit of give such as scarves or shopping bags.
“It is more difficult using a smaller stick because you need to squeeze through smaller gaps and you tend to have thread that is thicker than the needle. You can use the same yarn with different sized sticks to make the same product, and one will be bigger than the other,” says Chua.
There are different types of stitches used in crochet, resulting in different textures and designs. The action is mostly repetitive and there is a strict instruction on how many stitches are required for a particular design. This adds up to become a crochet pattern, which is crochet’s version of a recipe for making products.
“There is a lot of counting in crochet, otherwise you won’t end up with the pattern that you want. You also need to be consistent in how tight or loose the stitches are because it will look all squiggly if you are not. You cannot pull harder when you start and when you get tired, the stitches get looser. So it is a matter of finding out what you are comfortable with and sticking with that.
“Because of that, I would not say that crochet is something that you can do without thinking but you can certainly do it while something else is going on, like when you are watching TV or riding the train.”
Chua finds her crochet supplies from large stores such as Spotlight as well as individual sellers online. A roll of yarn cost between RM5 and RM30, depending on quality and composition such as acrylic, cotton or wool.
What is important is to gauge how much yarn is needed for a project and buy enough of it, so that the colour is consistent throughout. Different brands can have slightly different shades of the same colour, which can ruin the look of the finished item.
Some yarns have different colours along the same thread, which can be used to suit the crocheter’s creativity. Others are thicker and sturdier for making more durable products. There are also yarns made of organic cotton, lyocell and sustainably-sourced wool to meet consumer demand for eco-friendly materials.
USE AND REUSE
Chua’s favourite project so far is her drawstring bag, which she wears to this interview. It has a black and white geometric pattern and is the perfect weekend bag — fashionable and with enough room to fit all her things.
Some of her products are available for purchase through her Instagram account and at the A Day store in Intermark Mall, Kuala Lumpur. She also makes items to give away, although it does not always work out quite the way she had planned.
“I once made a cardigan for a baby but then my mum told me it was too small and did not fit the infant. It is funny because the cardigan looked fine to me although I admit I did not work out the measurements with an actual baby!” she says with a laugh.
Apart from that, Chua uses crochet to get herself and others to become more environmentally-conscious. One of the items that she sells are reusable face pads. It is RM5 and the same size as regular disposable round cotton pads but with a handle at the back so it can be held firmly in place with two fingers.
“It is made of cotton yarn and it is what I use at home to remove make-up. You clean it by hand using soap after each use or even in the washing machine. The pad also works as a soft facial scrub,” she adds.
She makes shopping bags as well, which are stretchable and has a wide opening to put in various fruits and vegetables. The handle is crocheted with a tighter stitch so it is sturdy but still comfortable.
She adds: “One advantage of crochet is that if the project does not turn out the way you wanted it to, you can take it apart just by pulling the thread. There are no knots and you can reuse the yarn for something else, which is what I did with the too-small baby cardigan.”
This also means a crocheted product can be made bigger or smaller simply by unfastening the end, and then increasing or reducing the number of stitches. This should appeal to people who want to alter their clothes to make them last longer, instead of buying new ones.
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