Sticking it out with handmade songkok

Noor with her handmade songkok.
BY ZARINA ABDULLAH

KUCHING: It is a tradition for many Malay boys and men to wear songkok (traditional headgear) as complementary accessories for the celebration of Hari Raya.

Not many people know that songkok was once produced through traditional methods and has its own value and aesthetics.

However, today most of the songkok sold in the market are manufactured in factories. But what if there is a handmade songkok and produced from generation to generation?

Noor’s son, Fizrul Iqwan, is her inspiration to pursue the handmade songkok business.

This is what Dayang Majihan Awang Jubeli or better known as Noor, 52, has done as she has been running a handmade songkok business for the past 12 years by inheriting the skills from her grandfather.

Although songkok-making is largely monopolised by men, Noor’s interest grew while helping her grandfather sew the traditional Malay accessory.

“At that time I was pregnant and really wanted to have a son because I already had three daughters.

“As my passion for making handmade songkok grew, Alhamdulillah, my dream to have a son finally came true and now Fizrul Iqwan Ahamat Bakeri is 12 years old.

“It has been my source of income until now,” he said when met by New Sarawak Tribune yesterday.

According to Noor, the demand is very encouraging during the festive season. She also receives songkok orders for dancer groups, weddings, zikir groups and certain programmes.

“Usually people will order a month before Hari Raya and a songkok can be completed within one to two days.

“However, demand has decreased by up to 60 percent since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Every time before Hari Raya before this crisis, I received orders for up to 90 songkok but last year and this year, I received orders for only around 30.

“Probably because our society does not celebrate the festival with joy and the culture of visiting as before in order to curb the spread of Covid-19,” she explained.

Noor commented that it is financially challenging to make songkok nowadays because the price of materials such as velvet, box, yarn and other fabrics are becoming more expensive and some have increased drastically.

“However, I still maintain the same price as 12 years ago, which ranges from RM38 to RM85 depending on the grade of velvet fabric and the height of the songkok.

“Most orders are for adult songkok but there are also for boys and the current trend is that many people buy five or six-inch-high songkok.

Graduation hats made by Noor for young children.

“I believe many people choose handmade songkok because it is of better quality, the majority available in the market are made by machine and the quality is very different from handmade ones.

“In fact, sometimes the price of handmade songkok sold in the market is twice as expensive,” said the housewife.

There are two types, namely the songkok with quality velvet priced at RM38 for young kids, RM55 (four inches), RM75 (five inches) and RM85 (six inches), while regular velvet songkok is priced at RM58, RM68 and RM78.

For a songkok to remain for a long time and still be good, Noor said it depends on the way it is worn and must be put back in the box so that it can last for many years.

Noor, who runs her business from a house located in Bandar Baru Samariang, also sells graduation hats for kindergarten children at RM28 each.

For those who are interested, contact Noor at 016-8854990 or Noor Jay’s Facebook.

Meanwhile, a survey by New Sarawak Tribune in the market found that most of the songkok sold were factory products produced in various patterns, colours, sizes, heights and fabrics.

It is sold at RM25 for children and RM40 for adults and for handmade songkok it sells for more than RM100.