In my offline life, I'm wrapping up my final semester of graduate school (so close, yet so far!) for my master's degree in international education. I'm channeling my international interests into posts about DIY in other parts of the world, and hope you love learning about the growing global DIY community as much as I do. In case you missed it, previously we visited the rhinestone capital of South Korea with Allison, got a look at Birmingham's Rag Market with Fran in the UK, went to Vigo, Spain with Veva, and now it's time to jet off to Malaysia with the very sweet Jillian, of Jillian Undercover!
Where do you live, and what's it like?
I'm an aspiring DIY and lifestyle blogger from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you're not sure where this is, we're actually right in the middle of South East Asia, in between Thailand and Singapore.
I actually grew up in a small town up north of Kuala Lumpur, but I work here now, in the capital. Kuala Lumpur is a small, young city by international standards, and it’s still in its growth stage. As a nation, we were originally colonized by the British, Japanese and even the Portugese at one time. And on top of that, we've had migrants from China and India who came over to trade and work, so we're a nation of many different colours. And when I mean different colours, I don’t only mean race but also culture, heritage and even architecture. I would say that the one thing all of us in this country have in common is our love for food. We really love our food, largely because there are just so many options and they're all good!
How did you begin crafting? What are some of your favorite crafts or projects?
From as far as I can remember, I've been really into DIY. Both my parents were art majors, so I guess it runs in the family. I used to sew clothes for my Barbie dolls as a 5 year old using my mum’s sewing machine. From the time I graduated from Barbie dolls however, I never really found the time for crafting anymore. This was until recently when I grew tired of forking out money to pay for simple alterations. I decided to buy a sewing machine, and the rest is history! Of course, Pinterest had a lot to do with this. There are so many great bloggers out there, offering lots of inspiration.
Jillian and her DIY clutch
My favourite projects are definitely the ones I can put on! Some of my biggest projects were my 1920s flapper dress I madefor a Gatsby-themed party and my Halloween outfit I made in 2013! Apart from these, accessories are also a BIG favourite, from clutches to earrings and bracelets.
Where do you shop for craft supplies and what is that process like? What kind of shops or stores do you go to?
I spend a lot of DIY weekends at a Bunga Reben (translated to English it’s Flower Ribbon – don’t ask me what it means! :P). To me, they have the widest range of ribbons, trims and other general craft things like feathers, compared to most other stores. The only problem is, their outlets are located right in the city centre, the busiest and most difficult to get to part of town. It’s a 30 minute drive from my house if traffic’s good. Thankfully though, it’s a section of town where a lot of fabric and craft stores are located – two birds with one stone?
I love working with fabric. A lot of my fabric comes from Kamdar, a family run fabric store that has been around for ages. They offer quite a good range of quality materials that are affordable. They have a number of outlets and one of their biggest, well-stocked ones is just a few doors down from Bunga Reben.
For beads and things, there’s a place across town (another 40 minute drive in the other direction) where lots of people go to purchase things in bulk. There are a number of retailers selling really interesting beads and jewelry supplies all in one place.
What kinds of crafts or techniques are popular? Are there challenges about DIYing in Malaysia?
So in other words, there are quite a handful of stores selling arts and craft sewing supplies in Malaysia, because there is demand for tailored traditional clothing like the baju kurung and products for traditional weddings, like beaded lace embroidery, plastic flowers, and ribbons.
Craft supplies for weddings abound in Malaysia
In spite this, unfortunately DIYing is not entirely huge in Malaysia, especially amongst the younger generation. What this means is, craft supplies especially sewing related items are readily available, however most of them are not relevant to international DIY trends. For example, it’s almost impossible to find any button studs or good printed fabric in Malaysia. You either have to resort to buying them online, or improvising. Most of the time, I improvise. The art of making your own jewelry is also picking up slowly. With that said, more and more jewelry findings are being brought into the country, compared to maybe three years ago.
Any other thoughts about DIY?
I've been blogging for many years now, not necessarily on Jillian Undercover (I’ve had other blogs previously) and I'm so glad that I am able to express myself through my DIYs on this channel. It’s my creative outlet, my stress reliever. My hope and dream is for the DIY trend to grow some more in Kuala Lumpur, and that we'll have access to all the great supplies one day.