What may look like a strenuous task of making one monotonous stitch after another is a piece of cake for Samantha Yeap Pooi Meng, 43, as the needles move fluidly under her deft hands and rows and rows of stitches are produced, and shaped into dolls and garments.
The mother of two sons, Gordon Wong, 12, and Malcolm Wong, 9, has come a long way in her skills since picking up knitting while waiting for her Form 5 results. She said, “I picked up the craft through books, and received extra guidance with difficult stitches from the lady at the yarn supply store which I used to patronise. We didn’t have YouTube back then. It’s so handy to learn through videos these days.
“My initial attraction to the craft was the myriad of colours in different types of yarn composition. Even after so many years, I am still amazed by the possibility of creating a multitude of colour combinations for dolls, garments and anything my imagination fancies.”
To the uninitiated, knitting uses both hands to hold two long straight needles, one in each hand, to work with the yarn to produce the knitted piece. There is another type of knitting needles that can be used interchangeably with cables of different lengths. These interchangeable circular needles are a popular choice these days. As for crochet, it is worked with a hook in one hand, with the other hand holding the yarn.
Comfortable with both knitting and crocheting, Samantha prefers to crochet, explaining, “I love the speed it offers and the convenience of just carrying around and using a hook. As I specialise in Amigurumi, a Japanese art of crocheted or knitted stuffed toy or animal, crochet is the way to go as there are less seams to be joined before an item is completed. However, whether I knit or crochet depends on demands from customers’ orders and students.”
Having created a good range of dolls, garments, bags, baby wear, household decorative items and more over the past twenty plus years, and full-time in the craft since five years ago, Samantha is just as motivated and inspired as when she first started. She shared, “My inspiration comes from observing nature’s colours around me and their combinations in different shades of light throughout the day. My main motivators are the joyous laughter from the children when they receive my items, and whenever my students complete their projects successfully.
“Sometimes when enthusiasm hits, I even design my own patterns. These are one-of-a-kind, so I love their uniqueness.”
Growing up at home with a creative mother, Malcolm has also picked up the skill of knitting. However, the two brothers place never-ending demands for special figurines that they happen to be playing with at the Nintendo Wii or from the latest movies. Along with meeting the orders from friends and customers, Samantha can be found with her yarn bag everywhere she goes so that she can put in some stitches whenever she has a few spare minutes.
Samantha added, “Most of my customers are die-hard handicraft lovers. They understand that it takes time to handcraft their orders, which are specially handmade for them. Depending on the size and design complexity of a creation, which can be viewed from my Facebook page, Samm’s Amigurumi Café, plus factoring in the current orders on hand queued for production, the minimum wait time is about two weeks.
“I remember an order for a bunny for a baby who has a severe allergic reaction to many types of fibres contained in dolls bought at stores. I made one for her in pure cotton yarn with 100% unbleached cotton stuffing. Even the hooks used for the bunny were a totally new set so as not to contaminate the doll with other fibres that I was also working with at the time. I had to be extra careful with that particular item. So obviously, that took a little more time and effort to complete.”
Tutoring her students in the techniques of knitting and crochet, some of them would still place orders with her for more challenging pieces, such as blouses. Samantha believes that everyone can learn the craft easily but to master it, in terms of neat workmanship, would take time. She said, “It’s indeed a very interesting lifetime skill. While some may find it stressful to knit or crochet especially when there is a misstep, and part of the piece had to be unravelled, I actually find it a therapeutic craft, strange as it may sound.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Knitting countless imagination] was published on 16th May, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.
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