Starting with a single stitch

Razorlyn Geoffrey turns to embroidery as a hobby and a business because she acknowledges that housewives nowadays cannot rely only on one breadwinner. She does this in the aim of generating a side income she can spend guilt-free while still helping to support the household.

Hobby turns into embroidery business

Housewives are often encouraged to make a side income. According to embroidery artist Razorlyn Goeffrey, it is no longer economical to rely on one breadwinner in a household.

“Back in those days, many believed that women could get by by staying at home and taking care of the family. Today, however, it is no longer feasible to rely just on one income to cover necessities.”

The 27-year-old went on to say that housewives ought to have their own source of income in order to both sustain themselves and the family while also easing some of the financial strain.

“The side income savings is particularly beneficial in the event of an emergency or something unfortunate happening to their spouse. Aside from that, housewives need their own income in order to get what they desire.”

Though it is a husband’s duty to provide for the house and his wife, Razorlyn believes that having their own income allows them to spend without feeling guilty.

“Most housewives now conduct their business online. Some even continue to succeed until they build an empire.”

Understanding this sentiment, Razorlyn embarks on a path to earn a side income through embroidery. Her stitching, which she had previously kept to herself, is now being done for customers.

The beginning of her embroidery business

In 2018, Razorlyn, a housewife, decided to try her hand at embroidery. The mother of one recalls doing nothing but watching over the household while living in Sabah with her husband and in-laws.

“It wasn’t until one day that I came across an Instagram photo of an embroidered work. That’s when I realised how mesmerising the art was. The next thing I knew, I was searching online for information on what embroidery is, how to do it, and what supplies I would need.”

Razorlyn pursued embroidery despite having no prior experience. She said that her supportive mother-in-law had encouraged her to take up stitching as a hobby.

“She then took me to a haberdashery shop. Without knowing the basics of stitching, I just requested the shop owner to assist me in selecting what I required. My very first piece was done on felt using a 15-centimetre bamboo embroidery hoop.”

It took her a long time and a lot of work to understand the basics of stitching during her first experience. The Bidayuh girl sometimes realised that she had the wrong threads and needles on the wrong fabric.

“When I finished my first work, I received compliments from my close friends and family. And it was this that gave me the confidence and strength to continue embroidery,” she said, adding that she finally got the hang of the needlework after two to three months of practising.

“I knew what to do and what not to do. I also gained knowledge by following the Instagram pages of local and international embroiderers.”

The art of embroidery

Even after years of embroidering, Razorlyn still faces difficulties.

“My biggest challenge is getting the sketched-out graphic to look exactly as it should on the fabric. It’s difficult to stitch anything you sketched on paper using a pencil. I’d have to transfer it onto the fabric by stitching it by hand, especially if the image has a lot of fine lines and small details.”

Razorlyn added that embroidery takes a great deal of time and effort. There are moments when, despite her best efforts, she made mistakes halfway through her work.

“There were occasions when I was halfway through embroidering and realised that the stitches I was using were not suitable or as I desired. In that case, I would often cut the thread and restart from scratch.”

Despite her frustrations, Razorlyn persevered.

“I discovered how to avoid wasting thread and time by reviewing my earlier work to determine whether the stitches I used were suitable for the design I made. Most importantly, I learned by improving my embroidery skills.”

She often practises with her friends who share the same hobby.

There are a lot of techniques in the art of embroidery that call for various tools and materials. Razorlyn said that the embroidery work she does is known as “surface embroidery” or “freestyle hand embroidery”. The artist said that when embroidering, she uses a fine needle that is either a size 9 or 10.

“This is due to the fact that I often use one or two strands of thread in my works. In terms of threads, I use a strand of cotton floss with six strands that are common and simple to use.”

Aside from that, she works with metallic thread, wool, perle cotton, silk thread, and glow-in-the-dark thread. Razorlyn uses Japanese cotton and calico cloth for her fabric.
“To stretch the fabric, preserve the stitches, and keep it neat, I use bamboo hoops, wooden hoops, plastic hoops, frames, and clasp frames,” adding that she also stitch on canvas shoes.

When asked how long it takes her to finish an artwork, Razorlyn said it varies on the size and design.

“A simple design on a small hoop can be completed in a day or a few hours. On the other hand, it can take up to three months or longer to complete a complicated design on a larger hoop.”

Hobby turned business

As Razorlyn was perfecting her embroidery skills, her husband’s aunt asked her to stitch an ultrasound of her unborn child, which turned her hobby into a business.

“At first, I had my doubts. I told her I wasn’t sure whether I could do it. My mother-in-law and husband, on the other hand, encouraged me to give it a try. I stitched it, and it was the first piece I sold.”

Razorlyn ran her business with ease thanks to the help of her in-laws.

“When I am busy with my work, my mother-in-law assists me in taking care of the home and my son. I sometimes have to stitch more than ten orders in a short period of time, which causes me to stay up late and easily get exhausted. But because of my husband and in-laws, I can concentrate on my embroidery.”

Razorlyn persisted despite managing business amid her tight schedule.

“When things get tough, I stop what I’m doing and consider why I’m still doing it. These sorts of thoughts keep me focused on achieving my goals.”

As a full-time housewife and embroidery artist, she revealed that she usually spends the time after taking care of her son’s needs finishing up orders.

“Even though I don’t have a set schedule for needlework, I will do it every day if I have the chance. I usually stitch until 4am.”
She also mentioned that she recently met with local embroiderers in Sabah. The group would come together on a regular basis to stitch. Razorlyn, who is from Kuching, Sarawak, acknowledged that she had never thought of herself as being very skilled at stitching. However, she already knew this was her passion when she first picked up the thread and needles.

Under the brand name ‘Embroidery by Razor,’ the housewife already has ambitions in mind for the future. In addition to participating in exhibitions and art market events, Razorlyn and her friends are considering gathering local embroiderers for a project next year.

“As for my business, I want to venture into different types of products involving embroidery, not just stitching hoops and purses, but other things as well.”

She most recently participated in the 13th Sabah Women Art Exhibition (Pameran Karya Wanita), where she and her friends displayed their best works of art in the Sabah Art Gallery. She presented her intricate and detailed artwork, “Aurora and Sunset,” which shows a field of flowers with the sun in the background.

Her work with thread and needles doesn’t end there. Rather, she continues to embroider whatever idea she etched into her thoughts.

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