Joanne Loh, whose Craft Passion blog garners over 30,000 hits per day, wants to reach out to everyone who ever wanted to learn how to make something.
CRAFTING blogs have mushroomed in recent years. Most of these blogs have detailed tutorials to help you make practically anything you need, from T-shirt yarn, crochet baby booties and circus-themed party decor to “you name it, they’ve got it”. The best part is: you don’t have to pay a single sen for any of the information.
To find a Malaysian blog within this category, however, is extremely rare. Which is the reason why Penang-based Joanne Loh, 43, started Craft Passion (www.craftpassion.com), a craft blog offering a compendium of step-by-step instructions on hundreds of handmade projects, for free.
Loh’s creative makes range from a crochet crocodile-stitch purse to a pompom turkey brooch and even a collapsible faux brick wall, all of which are neatly organised according to craft type on her user-friendly blog. Each of her posts is accompanied by crisp clear photographs captured with a DSLR camera.
The mother-of-two co-owns an engineering company with her husband, Felix Tan, 45, and holds a master’s degree in Engineering Business Management. So it may seem a little unusual that she spends a large portion of her time brainstorming on ideas for a new blog post, or playing photographer to her latest DIY masterpiece.
“I had the pleasure of discovering all kinds of crafts as a child. My mum loved sewing; my dad and brother were always into home improvement; my two sisters were crochet geeks. We had a very laidback lifestyle, and spent a lot of quiet moments crafting at home,” Loh recalls.
Her earliest craft memory has to do with helping her mother quilt a hexagon blanket, a popular activity in many a household in the old days. For Loh, then a sewing novice, it was an extremely challenging task. “My mum is a perfectionist. She used to pay me and my sisters five sen each for the job, but only if the stitches turned out perfectly.”
Loh regards her mother, Heng Mooi Fong, as her main inspiration – the 68-year-old homemaker lost her right eyesight at a young age, but that did not stop her from sharing her love of crafting with the kids.
“My mum used to sew beautiful dresses for me and my sisters. We were always dressed up like princesses,” Loh shares.
The third of four siblings, Loh spent a lot of time at the Sin Soon Lee craft shop on Rangoon Road in Penang, where she learned to work with the crochet hook and yarn, and picked up a good set of cross-stitching skills. She soon graduated to clothes-making, sewing her first skirt at the age of 12.
Loh continued harbouring a passion for crafts, though it soon became lost in the background of a busy study schedule. “I continued crafting until my university years. By then I was busy with my studies and with work, but I never stopped hoarding up on my collection of craft books.”
It was not until 2008 when the craft-loving mother rediscovered her passion – heavily pregnant with her second child, Loh went on a metal purse clasp craze after reading a book on how to make one.
“It was the cutest thing ever and I was really quite excited to make one myself but I couldn’t find the right materials in Malaysia. My sister was also interested in the craft so what we did was, we contacted a supplier in Taiwan and just went crazy importing over a hundred of the metal purse clasps. We started making them just for fun.”
Armed with pictures of her coin pouch creations, Loh decided to venture into the online world, but not without some coaxing. “My best friend is a popular blogger based in the US, and she told me that blogging was the new thing then and that all I had to do was take some pictures and blog about it. That’s how I started Craft Passion.”
Today, Loh’s blog garners over 30,000 hits per day, and tops a million views in a month. “From the start I wanted to keep my patterns and tutorials free. I knew that if I were to put a price on things, I would only be able to share my craft journey with a certain group of people. What I wanted was to reach out to anyone and everyone who ever wanted to learn how to make something.”
Apart from sharing tutorials, Loh is also generous when it comes to sharing shopping destinations for the craft materials she so often stocks up on. A detailed log of her trip to Taiwan last year showcases a stream of photos and information telling her readers where to get what.
From time to time, Loh also organises giveaways for her readers, in partnership with international craft brand sponsors who are willing to prepare the gifts complimentary in exchange for visibility on her high-traffic blog.
Out of her sheer love for crafts, Loh still updates her blog twice a week with fresh ideas despite being a full-time working mum.
“I enjoy trying out all kinds of new crafts. When I watch TV I’ll crochet. On the weekends I’ll get my kids (daughter Nicole, 10, and son Ian, five) to join in on a kid-friendly craft activity, like making papier mâché. When they’re asleep, that’s when I do my sewing and keep the dangerous pins and needles to myself.
“My husband has been very supportive of my passion – he helps out with the housework and office work. Sometimes, I’ll even update my blog posts during working hours.”
While Loh is never short of bright ideas to spark up the activity on her blog, she still finds it a challenge to develop clear and concise instructions that would speak to even those within the beginner’s crowd.
“For some of my tutorials, it can be difficult to tell the whole story with just photos alone. I hope that my followers will bear with me, until I can find the time to make more video tutorials.”
At Loh’s newly renovated five-room apartment, whitewashed furniture and natural lighting provide a sunny atmosphere for a home that looks perfect in a Martha Stewart Living magazine. Two rooms are taken up as craft “storerooms” to house Loh’s ever-growing tools and supplies.
“I’m really happy with how everything has turned out. I believe having a neat space is essential for crafting. I hope to be able to add more handmade touches to the decor in the near future. I’m planning to make my own cushion covers. I’ve already quilted a blanket for my daughter; I’m now working on my son’s.”
To Loh, the crafting community is growing in Malaysia and around the world. “More and more people are into DIY and I really hope that my tutorials will be able to inspire even those who have no prior memory of crafting to take up a new craft.”
What crafts do you do? Share your projects with us on www.facebook.com/ParenThots.