BINTULU (Sept 12): High quality ‘Pua Kumbu’ woven cloth and Karap Iban fabric, including a handbag, were among the souvenirs gifted to the royal entourage during Their Majesties’ visit to Rumah Raymond Plen, Sungai Gelam in Ulu Sebauh as part of the ‘Kembara Kenali Borneo’ tour.
An experienced weaver from the Raymond Plen longhouse, 64-year-old Sudan Ruma said she had been involved in weaving for over 40 years making traditional Iban fabrics including handbags.
She said it took her only two weeks to make a woven cloth and a handbag.
“When this Pua Kumbu fabric is joined together, it can make a shirt,” she said when met by reporters at the longhouse on Monday.
She said when she was first asked by the longhouse chief to produce the cloth as a souvenir for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Raja Permaisuri Agong, she was not very confident.
“However, when I saw the weaving results which I had prepared quite well, I agreed,” she said, adding that she started weaving the cloth in August.
To improve her weaving skills as well as promote the products, Sudan said she participated in various weaving competitions in Sarawak and recently won third place in a competition held in Kuching.
According to her, the handmade bag is one of her first additional collection of products she has made specially for the Queen this year.
“I have actually been interested in weaving for a long time because it gives me inner satisfaction,” she said.
Prior to becoming active in weaving, Sudan said she actually had no specific expertise in the field until she learnt it over 40 years ago.
“At the beginning of the first year of being active in weaving, an acquaintance of an old man and his son asked me to learn (traditional Iban cloth) weaving when I was living in Miri with my husband, but I was unsure about it.
“They kept motivating me to try and improve my weaving, which eventually led to me buying weaving yarn – which cost RM6 for a box back then, compared to RM30 now,” she said.
After years of learning, she was able to master the art of weaving and continue her work producing traditional Iban cloth.
It costs RM400 to produce large woven fabrics, and RM200 to produce handbag fabrics.
Sudan said most of her product buyers from Kuching want them as souvenirs, while some from political parties buy them for their gathering and meetings.
She said she does not only weave fabric, clothes and bags but also sashes and ‘sirat’ cloth, where the price of a piece of fabric sold in her longhouse is at RM1,400.
She added the price for the outside market is different, taking into account transport costs, raw materials and so on.
“The price increase is not arbitrary, but takes into account all things related to production.”
Sudan said for young and motivated weavers, they can earn a good income from selling their products. She also encouraged the younger generation to learn weaving – not only to preserve the unique Iban culture and heritage but also to generate good income.
She said unlike before, marketing the products is now easier and more convenient through social media platforms.
“We used to go out and promote our products ourselves, but nowadays I just received a booking from WhatsApp and send it using postal delivery service,” she said.
Sudan said that at the moment, she has to limit and turn down some orders so she can focus more on quality and completing them on time.