Weaving magic

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Curiosity has been one of the most significant drivers in cultivating cultures of creativity.

This is also the case for 27-year-old Khairunnisa Kassim, the founder of Khraftonite.

Khairunnisa is self-taught and has been doing embroidery full-time for two years. She is a graduate of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and is the eldest of six siblings. Her embroidery work often consists of florals, negative space, thread painting and portraits.

Recently, she began selling Embroidery Starter Kits where she designed the patterns and included a few tools for those who wanted to try embroidery.

“I come from a family where art plays the biggest influence. My father and my second sister are local artists who have been in the creative industry for many years. Last year, my sister opened Petals and Palettes Art Studio in Kota Batu where I am currently based,” she said.

An embroidery by Khairunnisa Kassim
Khairunnisa Kassim, the founder of Khraftonite
One of Khairunnisa’s work

Her passion in embroidery began in 2017 when she was scrolling through her Instagram, hoping to find a new hobby. She eventually found videos on embroidery which sparked her curiosity.

“I wanted to try my hand at it but I didn’t know how where to look for the materials in Brunei.

“I purchased the material from a Malaysian embroider when I was in Kuala Lumpur for vacation and got them delivered to my friend’s house”.

The first few months, she tried making flowers, tried different stitches, played around with the colourful threads, and also learnt a few tricks from the Internet and YouTube videos, together with her mother. Through a year of trial and error, she managed to perfect her stitches and master her stitching skills. Then in 2018, Khraftonite was established.

“I founded Khraftonite when I was working as a full-time personal assistant. I could only do embroidery at night.

“The word Khraft is a play on the word ‘Craft’ but I changed the first two letters to ‘Kh’ as my name starts with it, and also because the letters are both the initials of my parents.

“My siblings talked me into taking orders from Instagram and they helped by advertising it on their social media.

“I sold the first few pieces to friends but it wasn’t until October 2019 when I started to take it seriously,” she said.

In December 2019, she decided to resign from her job to develop her embroidery business.

She started working with her sister at her Art Studio to help her with marketing and work on her embroidery.

Khairunnisa said one of the most challenging parts of embroidery would be trying to stitch as neatly as possible, following the outlines.

“Sometimes, I get frustrated when I see the stitches that are not aligned with the ink marks on the fabric. I also have to make sure the threads do not get twisted while stitching. Sketching a design is easy but it is a challenge to stitch according to the design,” she said.

“Being patient is the key to overcome the challenge.”

Asked how long it takes to complete a project, she said it depends on the complexity of the design. Sometime it can take up to two weeks. “But when I’m on a roll, I can finish one piece in five hours to a day, depending on the design.” If errors were to occur with her embroidery, she would first check to see whether it can be fixed. If it was not possible, she would start all-over again. She seeks advice from her family and friends when facing difficulties in sketching a design and coming up with the colour theme.

Khairunnisa’s most favourite part in completing a project is the research and designing because that is when she feels most creative. She takes her time to explore designs and patterns. She even challenge herself to try new stitches.

Her least favourite part is deciding the thread colours because colouring has not been her forte since she was a child. “When everyone else enjoyed colouring, I was the only one who didn’t like it so I find it hard to come up with a colour theme. I mostly rely on my research or I ask my sister for advice.”

However, Khairunnisa said that portrait embroidery is the most challenging as it is still new to her. “One wrong stitch can lead to a different outcome for the whole project. Before I proceed with stitching the portrait, I need to edit the photo digitally and that takes time. Nevertheless, I find this type of embroidery as something that can develop my skills.”

Every time she completes her projects, she feels exhilarated and thankful, especially when she gives the finished pieces to her clients.

“They appreciate and love them. That is when I feel like I want to be the best at what I do. I am still lacking in many aspects, but the positive feedback from my family, friends and people who have continuously supported is what gets me going through this journey.

“My skills have developed more than I have expected.

“I have also experimented with different stitches because when you have that knowledge, you will be able to do complex designs.

“I also learn a lot from foreign embroiders. They have helped me understand better on a few things I have doubts on,” she said.

For those wanting to venture into embroidery, Khairunnisa advised them to not be afraid to try.

“You’d get hurt from the needles pricking your fingers, but that should not stop you from trying your best. Once you get the hang of it, the result will amaze you”.

As for her future plans, she hopes to produce an oriental embroidery piece and a perfect architectural thread painting.

She would also love to open her own art and craft supplies shop in Brunei.

“I know how hard it is for people to get embroidery supplies. I hope being able to open (a shop) would be a great help to not just myself but for them as well.

“I would also like to join professional embroidery courses from my favourite embroiders abroad and, maybe someday, conduct proper embroidery classes in Brunei, Insya Allah.”