Malaysian crafter's hand-dyed yarn is inspired by Langkawi's scenic beauty


The colourways of each individual yarn is always unique in every batch, says Najwa. Photos: Najwa Nazri

Najwa Nazri, 28, enjoys knitting, crocheting and macrame but like some crochet enthusiasts, the Langkawi, Kedah-based crafter has faced difficulties sourcing yarn with colours that suit her fancy.

“Sometimes, yarn colours available in local stores are limited. I picked up crocheting in 2020, and I was looking to buy handmade dyed yarn from overseas.

“However, imported yarn from Britain, the United States and Australia weren’t cheap or easily accessible during the Covid-19 movement control order. This inspired me to create my own hand-dyed yarn in 2020,” said Najwa during a phone chat from Kedawang in Langkawi recently.

Najwa graduated with a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering (Textile) from Politeknik Seberang Perai in 2016. Armed with her knowledge, she was confident enough to venture into creating hand-crafted coloured yarn.

“Textile dyeing was one of the courses I learned in college. In yarn dyeing, one needs to understand how colours react to difference types of materials (cotton, wool or acrylic), based on the treatments involved. To enhance my knowledge, I flipped through my old college books and read up on yarn-dyeing techniques on social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest.”

It is difficult to find Malaysian-made hand-dyed yarn products because homegrown hand-dye yarn artisans are few and far between, says Najwa.It is difficult to find Malaysian-made hand-dyed yarn products because homegrown hand-dye yarn artisans are few and far between, says Najwa.Previously, Najwa worked as a stewardess on a private yacht in Langkawi until June 2020. When her contract ended during the pandemic, she decided to spend her free time working on arts and crafts.

It was her husband, yacht captain Christopher Willbourne, 34, who had encouraged her to start a home-based business specialising in hand-dyed yarn.

“Christopher created a space in our home and gave me the opportunity to find my passion. I started out with art, focusing on drawing and painting. Somehow, I was drawn to yarn art. Then I moved on to macrame but I realised it wasn’t for me as I wanted to crochet items.

“One thing led to another, and that’s how I decided to create coloured yarn. I use my hand-dyed yarn to crochet blouses, skirts and bikini tops,” said Najwa, who was born and raised in Langkawi.

Najwa is grateful her husband Christopher has encouraged her to launch her home-based hand-dyed yarn business. Photo: Shi Han PangNajwa is grateful her husband Christopher has encouraged her to launch her home-based hand-dyed yarn business. Photo: Shi Han PangShe uses remazol dyes (a type of dye for dyebath, printing and fabric painting) sourced from Alor Setar. At the same time, her bare yarn (cotton, bamboo silk and cotton silk) is ordered online from India.

It is difficult to find Malaysian-made hand-dyed yarn products because homegrown hand-dye yarn artisans are few and far between, says Najwa.

In addition, many crafters think making hand-dyed yarn is a messy job.

“The process of dyeing yarn is time-consuming. The yarn must be pretreated with mordant (a substance used to fix dyes on cloth) overnight. Examples of mordants include vinegar, alum and metal salts of aluminium, copper and potassium. I use soda ash as a mordant.

“The colourways of each individual yarn is always one of a kind for every batch. Even with the same dye recipe, the end result will never be the same as the previous batch.

For example, the previous batch may contain more liquid than the other batch, so the dye diffuses differently.”

Najwa (right) enjoys making hand-dyed yarn because she can create a range of customised colours.Najwa (right) enjoys making hand-dyed yarn because she can create a range of customised colours.Najwa soaks the yarn with mordant overnight, and then rinses out the water.

Next she adds in liquid dye to create the colours. Occasionally, powdered dyes are added to create speckles on the yarn.

“The yarn is then left for 24 hours. The next step is to wash out the excess dye and hang it up to dry.”

Najwa runs a small business, so it is always hard to create large quantities of hand-dyed yarn of the same colour.

“I have lots more to learn about dyeing protein fibres. Different fibres absorb colour differently.

“For example, wool absorbs faster, so it is easier to dye and less time- consuming,” said the artisan, who sells her yarn in hanks because they display colour better.

The plus point of her work is she gets to do customised dyeing services for some of her customers.

“Being able to offer custom-dyeing service is definitely the best part of creating hand-dyed yarn.

“It’s always interesting to listen to clients’ requests, especially those with specific colour combinations.

“The most unique colour request was from a customer who wanted colourways of her German Shepherd’s photograph,” Najwa shared.

Najwa uses her hand-dyed yarn to crochet blouses, skirts and bikini tops.Najwa uses her hand-dyed yarn to crochet blouses, skirts and bikini tops.Besides customised colours, Najwa is constantly inspired by the things she loves, particularly Langkawi’s beautiful beaches, flora and fauna.

“Everything I can see and touch has inspired me to create colours for my artisanal products.

“And, of course, my clients give me the biggest inspiration to create more vibrant colours.

“I see a growing interest in hand-dyed yarn as more people know the importance of supporting small businesses like mine.

“In addition, more crochet enthusiasts are interested in having the experience of making their own decisions on what colours they want for their creations.

“It seems they don’t want to be dictated by what is available in the market,” said Najwa, who shares her beautiful creations on her Instagram, yarnbynajwa.

In future, Najwa plans to create more colours using natural dyes as she moves towards a more sustainable way of life.

This would include dyes derived from onion peel, mangosteen skin and turmeric.

We can only imagine the range of vibrant colours produced from this artisan.


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