Thursday, May 23

Smocked outfits by Sarawakian sought after globally


(From left) Erpha always gets help from her willing ‘assistants’ — her husband Jeffery and her son, Alif. — Bernama photos

BINTULU: Perhaps not many people have heard of a needlecraft called ‘smocking’ which originated in England, but would they be more familiar with a tailor from Sarawak’s oil and gas town, Bintulu, whose smocked children’s clothes are in demand by customers across the globe?

Erpha Ahdayani Othman, 41, is a Rubber Industries Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) entrepreneur and her business, Exclusive Smocking, has been receiving orders for smocked frocks (for children up to age 10) from local customers as well as those in Australia, the UK, Ireland and the US since 2008.

She told Bernama she taught herself how to make smocked clothes using books, magazines and the Internet.

“Smocking is done by hand and rarely is a machine used. A smocked outfit has to undergo a process which starts with pleating and later, to make it look nicer, extra details like embroidered flowers can be added,” she said.

While she has a specially imported machine to help with the pleating, the smocking is done manually.

“The basic stitches used for the children’s clothes include ‘cable’, ‘trellis’ and ‘wave’,” said the mother-of-two who hails from Kampung Dagang, Bekenu, near Miri.

Depending on the client’s request, she usually takes just one week to sew an outfit complete with smocking and embroidery.

The cost is between RM250 and RM500, and determined by the fabric as well as intricacy of work.

“Customers can order based on budget and a theme, like Christmas, Hari Raya or a birthday.

“In a month, I’m able to finish four to five smocked dresses,” Erpha said, adding that she gets a hand fulfilling orders from her husband, Jeffery Abang, 49, and son, Alif Harriz, 14.

The fabrics she uses for her adorable creations include Spechler Vogel imperial batiste, Spechler Vogel imperial broadcloth, Swiss dotted voile and cotton cloth from renowned suppliers in the US.

For Christmas, Erpha said, she has already sent by parcel 10 orders from customers who would usually contact her through Facebook or a website.

As an outfit is not complete without accessories, Erpha also has a line of charming children’s hair decorations, like bow clips and infant headbands, made from, for example, Liberty London cotton.

“Usually a customer will also get a baby headband to go with the dress. The accessories cost between RM16 and RM18,” she said.

For a closer look at Erpha’s cute creations, visit the Miri Artisan Market at Coco Cabana on weekends. — Bernama

Erpha shows her collection of smocked dresses for little girls.