Crocheting and knitting are often thought to be associated with clothing and accessories, but local artisan and eco business entrepreneur Eileen Wan is taking this delicate craftwork into a more practical realm – household products.
The 45-year-old founder of local lifestyle brand byiroiro, which sells washcloths, sponges and reusable facial cotton pads made of natural fibres, originally just wanted an outlet for her lifelong hobby.
Eileen, who picked up crocheting in primary school and continued it into adulthood, started her label about two years ago, making bags from raffia yarn.
“Originally, I was just passionate about making things out of natural fibres. A lot of the yarn sold in Singapore is synthetic or acrylic and simply does not feel as good to the touch,” the mother of a 11-year-old girl says.
From bags to household items
While her raffia bags were well-received, the time and labour it took to make them meant she had to sell them at a high price – more than $100 each.
She says: “Eventually, I stopped making bags and decided to make something practical that people can have in their homes.”
She now uses natural fibres such as hemp, cotton and linen to knit and crochet products such as washcloths and shower puffs for the face and body, dishcloths and sponges for the home, and soap sacks to hold bar soaps.
She runs the eco business and makes all her products by hand.
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Doing her part for sustainability
Some of her most popular products are the kitchen sponges and reusable facial cotton pads.
Kitchen sponges are most commonly made with plastic polymers and are recommended to be changed at least once a month.
But Eileen says her hemp sponges are biodegradable and also made from a more durable and mould-resistant material that is said to be able to last for months.
As for the reusable cotton pads, these can be used in place of disposable cotton pads to remove make-up or apply skincare. They can be washed and air-dried after use.
While the making of cotton is generally regarded as harmful to the environment due to the amount of water and chemicals it uses, Ms Wan sources her cotton yarn from a brand based in South Africa, which says it applies sustainability principles such as reusing the water used in cotton-dyeing for irrigation.
Sourcing for materials and shipping them from overseas means more costs. As such, prices of her products can be high. A set of three facial cotton pads sells for $10, while a hemp sponge and washcloth set costs $26.
Eileen admits that her solo business venture does not make much money and the bulk of her income comes from her full-time job of running a software company with her husband, but she hopes to do her part for the environment while pursuing her passion.
She says: “That’s my day job, but this – knitting and crocheting – I love it. It’s what keeps my soul alive.”
(Also read: How does art class help my child?)
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.