Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Kebaya Maker

Todays post is a video clip.

Heath Yeo is part of a dwindling pool of sarong kebaya makers in Singapore who still use the 1950s style of free motion embroidery - locally known as sulam - when sewing patterns onto kebayas, the traditional dress of Peranakan women.

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The tropical topography of Southeast Asia infuses his patterns, from the wavy petals of hibiscus flowers to the bold colours of native birds.


While the process can be computerised and completed in a fraction of the time that it takes him, such machines just do not impart the same intangible quality that his customers from the Peranakan community call “hidup” - which means “alive” in Malay.  Mr Yeo’s sulam kebayas cost between S$1,000 and S$1,300 .

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In this intricate design, the tiny holes have to be cut out individually with a pair of scissors

It takes Mr Yeo up to two weeks to complete one kebaya. First designing the pattern on the fabric, then tracing it out, then colouring and shading in the details using thread and a sewing machine.

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Images: Lam Shushan

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