Stitching Threads of Love for Nyonya Embroidery

PETALING JAYA – A 45-year old Malay seamstress who fell in love with Nyonya embroideries quit her factory job and set up her home business to pursue this passion.

Khairiyah, from Permatang Janggus in Penaga, Penang, was first captivated by the art in 2007 after attending a class taught by Nyonya embroiderer Lim Swee Khim.

“She was regarded as a master. I had spent 10 years working in a factory and have a lot of experience in sewing. I left my job in order to pursue my passion.

In an interview with Utusan Malaysia, she stated: “I love looking at Nyonya embroideries with their various motifs and designs.”

Khairiyah, who learned the craft from Auntie Lim (the late Lim), continued working from home to sew kebayas with Nyonya embroidery motifs.

Many of the motifs were inspired by plants and animals.

She said that peony, chrysanthemum and dragon flowers are among the most popular themes.

Khairiyah says that besides an interest in embroidery, basic sewing and drawing skills are essential to mastering it.

Khairiyah says that when she started learning Nyonya embroideries, Lim hired her to sew.

She said, “That’s how I started learning more about the different techniques and motifs.”

Khairiyah said that her husband Rosli, 55, is a great supporter.

Khairiyah sells her kebayas and other designs, including mini kebayas, flowery doll dresses, souvenirs, and miniature kebayas.

She added, “When I started taking orders it could cost anywhere between RM20 to up to thousands of ringgit depending on the motifs or size of the embroidery.”

Khairiyah, who had been mastering embroidery for two years, saw an advertisement in the Northern Corridor Economic Region that offered a course to help her expand her business.

Khairiyah began marketing her own products after joining the course and expanded her reach via social media.

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