Esther is first and foremost a mother, a wife and a daughter. She’s also the owner of Honest Stitch and runs her small business from home.
In this interview, we learnt about how she began knitting in her teens and eventually turned her hobby into a business. This is the story of her entrepreneurial journey and how she juggles it with her family life.
Esther, owner of Honest Stitch
- Tell us a little bit of your background. How did you get started with knitting?
I grew up in a lovely little rural town in Pahang. Needle works run deep in my family. When I was young, my mother would sew Chinese New Year clothes for all of her 7 children every year. There were many mouths to feed in our family and being creative at home helps us save a lot of money. It still cracks me up to think that my sisters and I used to dressed alike and sometimes, looking at some of our old black and white photos – it is rather hard to tell us apart especially with the almost identical haircuts.
When I became a teenager, I got the urge to teach myself knitting. The tools and yarns were cheap then, only RM2.80 as compared to RM9.80 now for a roll of Minlon yarn. I also find the quality better – more lasting and I have no problem throwing it into the washing machine.
And I started with knitting amateurish sweater tops for myself and sibling. It’s basically straight cut without any style or measurements in place as the courses I took at the time only teaches us from a pattern book. But I had lots of fun learning the basics.
- When did you start Honest Stitch?
Honest Stitch officially started this year, but it has been brewing under the surface for years. As a teen, I gravitated toward needle works and crafts, but I didn’t get to spend as much time as I love to, while my daughters were growing up. Today, it never occurred to me that I could do what I love and turn my hobby into a business.
The making of a tote bag.
- What made you decided to turn your hobby into a business?
When I picked up knitting again about 10 years ago, I begun spending time with a group of ladies who were as passionate with needle work as I am. I learned new styles, new patterns and how to get the right measurements from a lovely lady who took courses from Japan. From there, I was back on track and picked up more knitting patterns, experimenting with different designs and types of yarns to knit scarfs, beanie, vest, blouse, dress and even earrings. Most of them were given away as gifts to family and friends. I also sell them at church events for charity. But before I knew it, my crafts had taken over my living room – and my free time – so I devoted myself to this little business of selling my handmade lovelies.
The Honest Stitch collections
- What do you like about selling online?
To be honest, I’m not particularly savvy when it comes to technology and mobile devices. I know a few friends who sell handmade crafts online via Facebook but I find them very time-consuming. I don’t like getting stressed out managing orders using Facebook. It should be fun to share and connect with my family and friends!
But I like how the internet has evolved. And now I can even sell online simply by just taking pictures using my phone and upload it right away. It’s not a challenge at all.
- What inspires you when creating your designs?
Everything inspires me: the colours in magazines; the flowers in my garden; my travels and memories of my childhood. Also my daughters show me a lot of craft ideas from Japanese craft magazines and online tutorials.
Reference on Japanese craft magazines.
- Do you have a memorable piece from your creations?
Once I knitted a red scarf using top quality yarn for a young gentlemen who were going oversea for studies. I didn’t think much of it until I received a thank you note from him. He told me that for years, he has been buying scarves off the shelf but they never kept him warm enough to brave through the cold weather. He thanked me for keeping him warm. Until today, he still sends me chocolates.
- What is your favourite part about being the owner of Honest Stitch?
Doing what I love, and building my little brand has given me so much happiness and fulfilment.
- What do you consider the most challenging about running your own business? How do you manage between your work and family?
It hasn’t been easy as I have to juggle between finishing up on my knitting projects and spending time with my family as well as my parents, whom I visit every fortnight.
I’m blessed to have full support from my daughters and husband in this venture as my work is very labour intensive. It takes about 1.5 days to make a small pouch, up to about a week for more complicated ones like a tote bag. I usually take my knitting tools with me on-the-go. It’s great that Shoppertise helps me take care of the selling so I can focus on my needle work. I wouldn’t trade my hobby for anything in the world!
- What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of starting a business?
Do what you love! I think perseverance is the key. Don’t give up easily because technology has made things so much easier now.
- What are your plans /ideas for the future? What can your fans expect next?
I’m currently working on larger bags. My daughter loves carrying large tote bags because she can keep all her daily essentials and lots of junks in it. It takes a much longer time to make but I’m already working on a few designs.
(All photo credits: Mabel Kuan & Christine Liew)