INTERACTIVE: why embroidery, cross stitch and knitting are trendy in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Since the onset of the pandemic and numerous movement control orders, many Malaysians have turned to productive pursuits to avoid boredom. Some have taken up hobbies such as gardening, cooking, stamp collecting and learning a new DIY skill.

The period of confinement has also seen an upsurge in craft activities.

Some artisans revisit old hobbies like quilting, crocheting and knitting, while others learn new skills like embroidery and sewing.

Since the first MCO, more people in Malaysia have logged on to search for topics related to needle making.

According to data from Google Trends, the keywords “crochet” and “embroidery”, for example, have seen a noticeable increase in popularity in Malaysia compared to the pre-pandemic period.

For some Malaysians, picking up a new hobby during MCO is a method of self-care as people try to make sense of the challenges in their lives.

Adjusting to the new normal has not been easy. In a year and a half, many people have struggled to balance work responsibilities and family commitments while staying safe during the health crisis.

A 2020 research study conducted by University College London found that artistic activities can reduce inflammation and stress hormones such as cortisol while helping to reduce the risk of dementia. Other studies have been more specific, pointing to a direct link between textile craftsmanship and improved mental well-being.

Decklan Wong, 48, a craftsman based in Klang, turned to embroidery to give him a sense of comfort and relaxation after a long day at the office. During MCO, he spent most of his free time hand-embroidering portraits of singer David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, and contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

“I spend too much time working with numbers during working hours. Embroidery takes a lot of patience, but there’s joy when stitches turn a blank canvas into a work of art. This is my shape comfort and therapy, after hours,” said the senior account executive, who shares photos of his creations on his Instagram handle, @dkrwilber.

Embroidery is my form of comfort and therapy, says Wong. Photo: The Star/KK Sham

Online learning opportunities

Digital media platforms have become particularly useful during the pandemic as they allow artisans to learn new things from the comfort of their homes. Thanks to the many virtual lessons offered on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, people have adopted new ways of learning to keep up to date.

Interactive technologies like Instagram and Pinterest have become an integral part of our interactions to stay in touch with people around the world. These platforms allow people to find communities with similar interests, and friendships are also forged.

During the Tokyo Olympics, crochet became a mainstream hit after British Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley posted photos of his hand-stitched crochet clutch and sweater to his @madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram handle.

“The one thing that kept me sane through this process was my love for knitting, crocheting and all things sewing,” Daley explained in a video posted to her page.

The hashtag #tomdaleyknitting has over two million views on TikTok. Gen-Zers began to follow suit, knitting and crocheting balaclavas, purses and dresses thanks to the crafty skills of the Olympic idol.

The hashtag #crochet currently has over 4.6 billion views on TikTok, while #embroidery has over 2.9 billion views.

Social media went up in flames after British Olympic diver Tom Daley shared a photo of his hand-knitted cardigan during the Tokyo Olympics.  Photo: Instagram/madewithlovebytomdaleySocial media went up in flames after British Olympic diver Tom Daley shared a photo of his hand-knitted cardigan during the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Instagram/madewithlovebytomdaley

Artist and winner of Asia’s Next Top Model, Sheena Liam, has helped breathe new life into embroidery. On her Instagram account – – she has built a following for her contemporary embroidery designs of female portraits in dark threads that represent hair. His works have been featured in international magazines and exhibited in Paris.

Asia's Next Top Model winner Liam held an exhibition in Paris for her artistic embroidery designs.  Photo: Instagram/’s Next Top Model winner Liam held an exhibition in Paris for her artistic embroidery designs. Photo: Instagram/

Crochet has also become a global craze during the pandemic. Just Google those three words – “hook”, “pandemic” and “Covid 19” – and you will get over 15 million results.

Some people have turned their passion for crochet into an income generating activity.

Kuala Lumpur-based yoga instructor Izach Lim was stuck at home during the first MCO, and he took the opportunity to learn how to crochet using digital media. Today, he sells all kinds of items like placemats, bags and caps.

“I always wanted to learn a skill that you can earn a living from. Having multiple skills is useful. If you lose your job, you can rely on your other skills to earn a living,” says Lim, who shares his beautiful creations on his Instagram handle, @the.crochetguy.

Lim says crocheting is a meditative hobby.  Photo: Izach LimLim says crocheting is a meditative hobby. Photo: Izach Lim

Popular quarantine hobbies

A Google Trends comparison (March 2020-October 2021) revealed that people living in Perlis, Putrajaya and Pahang are more interested in searches related to crochet than embroidery.

Hook ‘mask extender’ – a strip used on the back of the head, over the hijab – was a breakout keyword on Google Trends (May-August 2020) in Perlis, Negri Sembilan and Terengganu.

It’s not wrong to assume that Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskanda¬riah’s posts of her handmade crochet hair extensions on her (now deactivated) Instagram handle, airtangantunkuazizah, helped put on those adjustable bands under the limelight.

Punch embroidery – a technique where a punch needle is used to pierce loops in the fabric being embroidered – is gaining momentum in digital media. The hashtag #punchneedle currently has nearly 180 million views on TikTok.

With so many highlights on crafts, it’s no surprise that the arts and crafts sector is poised to skyrocket at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 8.1%, reports the business portal.

the Arts and Crafts Supplies Market Research Report – Global Forecast to 2025 – Cumulative Impact of Covid-19 Market Statistics predicts growth to RM246.52bil (US59.36bil) by 2026.

Locally, several craft shops have seen a significant increase in sales since the pandemic.

During the first MCO, PJ-based craft store Sin Wah Tailor Supplies saw a 50% increase in online sales of knitting yarn, yarn and cross-stitch items, said its founder Loh Sin Sung.

“There was also a strong demand for cotton fabrics and elastic bands, items used to sew face masks. This year, however, the online market for these items has plummeted.

“This year, the trend has changed and there is an increasing demand for crochet, knitting and embroidery items. Over the past few months, we have noticed customers frequenting our physical store.

“People prefer to shop at our store because they can see the products, which makes purchasing decisions easier,” he said.

Yee Wan Chang, owner of Yee Button in Petaling Jaya’s SS2 area, said the outlet has seen an increase in sales of embroidery and cross-stitch kits, leather craft sets and accessories. sewing items.

“We saw a big increase in sales through our website and online marketplaces during MCO. When we were able to open our physical store, we noticed more families frequenting our store to purchase craft items. It’s always nice to see mothers and daughters shopping for items and bonding through crafts.”

Covid-19 may have many downsides, but it has allowed people to choose meaningful hobbies while staying at home.

Through crafts, family ties are strengthened while heritage crafts such as knitting, embroidery and patchwork are passed down from one generation to the next.