Sewing classes are getting more popular in Singapore.
Accountant Caleb Choo, 30, had never touched a sewing machine before signing up for a tote bag workshop with a sewing school.
But he had a very special reason for doing so – he wanted to give a hand-sewn tote bag as a birthday present to his girlfriend-to-be, civil servant Tan Jia Hui, in her 30s.
So he signed up for a three-hour course with Sew Into It (pictured above) in December 2015.
Ms Tan agreed to be his girlfriend a week after accepting the bag and Mr Choo feels the bag played a big part in this.
“I think she was impressed that I went to learn something that most men would not so as to give her a gift. It was also the first time she received a handmade bag.”
Operations executive Victoria Loi, 30, on the other hand, decided to make sewing the theme of her hen party when she got married in September last year.
She engaged instructors from Sew Into It and, with six colleagues, learnt how to sew a clutch bag in two hours.
After that, they went for dinner and drinks with their new bags in tow.
Ms Loi says: “I wanted to do something novel and we all agreed that sewing was special.”
Sewing is more than just a novelty; it is making a comeback among stay-at-home mothers, working adults and even children.
Businesses which offer sewing classes say they see more people coming forward. Sew Into It had no shop space when it was founded by former teachers and sewing enthusiasts Amy Toh, 35, and Karen Loh, 37, in 2014.
When they conducted workshops, they took their sewing machines with them, whether it was to a client’s home or a public venue.
But they have had their own space at 333 Kreta Ayer Road and 15 sewing machines since August 2015. They conduct 24 regular workshops a month, including drop-in classes teaching people to sew clothes, bags and soft toys.
Another company, Fashion Makerspace, was founded in 2014 by fashion designers Shareen Lim, 33, and Hailey Lim, 26, and patternmaker Teo Danlin, 35, together with business partner Ken Low, 33.
Initially, they conducted private introductory sewing workshops out of their own homes and at public venues.
As interest grew, they moved to a permanent space in Trengganu Street last May and now run about 20 sewing courses for people with different levels of proficiency.
Ms Shareen Lim feels sewing has taken off here together with a growing interest in DIY (do-it-yourself) projects.
She says: “When you make your own thing, as opposed to buying off the rack, you have the option of customising.”
She added that her students often say they have learnt to appreciate clothes more after taking sewing classes because of the time and effort taken to make them. “Handmade clothes often come across as more valued than clothes bought from stores.”
Housewife Jenny Toh, 53, who picked up sewing four years ago, finds it enjoyable and therapeutic.
“I love playing with fabrics. When a project is completed, I feel very satisfied.”
She has sewn bags and pouches and is learning how to sew clothes. She has also donated a blanket she sewed to charity.
Meanwhile, others sew to make friends. Stay-at-home mother Lysa Zehra Hussain, 38, and about eight to 10 other women living in the Pasir Ris area come together to sew once every two months. They call themselves Pasir Ris Sewing Ladies (pictured above).
They bring their own materials and sewing machines in a trolley bag – and sometimes their children too – and meet at the multi-purpose room in one of the women’s condominium.
They decide beforehand what they want to sew – it can be a bag or a piece of clothing.
Ms Lysa says: “It’s more fun to sew in a group. Each of us has different strengths in sewing, so we can learn from one another.”
The group got to know one another through The Sewing Network (Singapore), a Facebook group set up a few years ago for sewing enthusiasts and which now boasts more than 3,000 members.
To promote local crafters, some other members from the network set up a group called Artisans’ Haven to sell the clothes and crafts that they have sewn at flea markets.
One of them, stay-at-home mother Yuwana Ehwan, 42, says: “We want to let people know that even though ustomized clothes are more expensive than mass-produced ones, the quality is better.”
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