The Educator Who Clothes Himself, Literally

Challenge meets a public officer who rolled up his sleeves to learn to make apparel he likes and get lessons beyond pushing a needle through a thread.

Creating to wearing his own apparel by applying what he has learned from sewing classes.

Desmond Yap, a teacher, likes having prints and colours on his shirts. But, chances are, the shirts in his wardrobe are not from a clothing store.

He has been putting together his own creations since signing up for sewing classes with Fashion Makerspace in 2020.

It was more than a desire to wear his own threads that put him on this journey.

“I was looking for a hobby I could explore and do at my own pace,” Desmond says. He and a colleague eventually decided on sewing after being inspired by the latter’s aged mother, who still sews.

The COVID-19 pandemic and “circuit breaker” between April and June 2020 accelerated his quest. Desmond searched for a place to pick up basic sewing skills and how to use a sewing machine so he could stay occupied while at home.

Desmond wears one of several shirts he made.
Desmond wears one of several shirts he made.

Challenging but Fulfilling

Part of sewing’s appeal is the ability to create unique prints to his liking, as shirts available on the market do not always excite him.

To this end, he learnt technical skills such as operating a sewing machine, as well as the different types of fabrics and where to find free online resources.

Desmond also discovered how tricky it could be to match prints with his shirts.

“Instead of cutting the fabric directly, I drew the outline on the fabric first and visualised how it would look before cutting the fabric to make sure the prints match,” he recalls.

“Very challenging work, but eventually very fulfilling when you realise that the prints match!”

Desmond soon found that the foundational know-how could easily be applied to crafting other products. These include purses, wallets, tote bags, quilts and bucket hats.

The endless possibilities added another layer to his newfound love for sewing: making such items for family and friends.

“When I see them using the things I made for them, it brings me joy and happiness.”

Some of the bucket hats Desmond created.
Some of the bucket hats Desmond created.

Sewing’s Lessons

Beyond that, his new hobby helped take his mind off work.

“Different people have various coping mechanisms to relieve stress built up at work. For me, I enjoy learning new skills that can be completely unrelated to work,” says Desmond, who is the Deputy Dean of Mathematics (IP) at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

And it extends to his students. They are encouraged to be lifelong learners, and Desmond’s hobby serves as an example for them.

“It is more convincing if I am a practitioner of what I teach in class,” he says.

A coaster fashioned out of a denim pocket.
A coaster fashioned out of a denim pocket.

Sewing has also taught him to be more patient.

“In my eagerness to complete projects quickly, I tend to take shortcuts and skip steps or cut corners. The products tend to be less than ideal and I would regret not following the instructed steps,” he points out.

But therein lay another lesson: It is ok to fail and make mistakes. It is about daring to try something different and going beyond one’s comfort zone.

Indeed, before he dabbled in sewing, Desmond tried his hand at pottery.

“I view these hobbies as self-care and self-improvement, which is equally important when compared to other responsibilities from work or family,” Desmond says.

“It is only when one learns to take care of one’s self physically and mentally that we can do better in other areas entrusted upon us.”

Sewing your own creations has endless possibilities especially when you have the right materials.

Green Tips for Sewing Beginners

  1. Choose the right materials
    At the start, Desmond bought soft, easily frayed fabric that was difficult to work with. He ended up having to discard it. Since then, he makes sure to buy only fabric he’s confident of working with.
  2. Endless possibilities
    Desmond has taken to making accessories and small items using scraps of unwanted jeans, quilted fabric and even paper bags.
    Oct 28, 2021
    Keval Singh
    Desmond Yap
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