A lot harder than it seams

  • Metro News
  • Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020

Teh surrounded by his sewn products and fabrics while working on his sewing machine at his shop in Bishop Street, Penang— Photos: ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

WHEN it comes to cushion work, not many have the skills Teh Soon Seng has mastered.

The 67-year-old is a third-generation pillow and mattress maker whose hands-on approach to each piece makes it a custom-made creation.

His shop in Bishop Street, George Town, which he runs with his wife, showcases years of history with one-of-a-kind materials and the art of hand-stuffing his creations with cotton, polyester and coconut husk.

“My grandfather started this business over a hundred years ago and then my father took over.

“I watched them work and was always at the shop as we lived upstairs.

“After school and whenever I was free, I would learn from my father and took over the business later on.

“It is an art and requires attention to detail, as some cushions need to be hand-sewn while others need to be stitched with the old motorised sewing machines operated by using one’s leg.

“I used to take on plenty of work and make stuff to sell at my shop, but now I make them based on orders as it is tiring,” he said when met at his shop.

Teh said the hardest to make were pouffes, as those were more time-consuming and could be tiring to stuff with coconut husk.

“We make plenty of altar pillows and yoga pillows. We custom-make mattresses, especially for children.

“Everything is done from scratch. I take their measurements, stitch and fill it by hand.

“It does take up time. Many don’t realise filling mattresses requires extra work to ensure the cotton is evenly spread out and does not sink in.

“We usually use extra cotton to make sure it does not soften and shrink.

“We have contracts with hotels as well to stitch their pillows,” he added

Teh uses feathers or cotton to fill his pillows, depending on what a customer wants.

“I have ready-made pillows just in case some are passing through and want one.

“We make foam pillows as well, do upholstery on all sorts of furniture and make curtains too,” he said, adding that he worked every day.

“Even when we are closed, our contact number is outside, so if you call us, we will come downstairs.

“I usually work at night as the coconut husk and cotton will fly.

“I do not want to disturb my neighbours who have their own businesses to run,” said Teh, adding that as his neighbours were closed at night, he would work and clean up at that time.

Teh said the work was hard and not something his children would pursue.

“The trade will probably end with me as my children have chosen different paths in life.

“This shop has been my entire life and is the only home I know. I will remain here until the end,” he added.

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pillow , penang , custom made , bishop street


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