Monday, July 13, 2009

Cutting one's hankies to one's cloth

MY wife was curious when she saw me buying a “kain pelikat”.

“What are you going to do with t h at ? ” she asked, wondering if I was going to wear it.

“Don’t worry, I am not wearing it,” I assured her.

“I want to make handkerchiefs.

” You see, I realised that I had only five good handkerchiefs left—just enough for one working week.

Although it seemed more fashionable to use tissue paper, I don’t like to use them as I have always thought tissues were for ladies.

Besides, tissues are more expensive in the long run and bad for the environment.

I have forgotten when I last bought handkerchiefs but when I checked out their prices last week during the start of the Mega Sale Carnival, I was shocked.

While the handkerchiefs fitted nicely into my pockets, their prices did not.

So, I figured why not make some myself? I was even more motivated when I saw how similar the patterns on some of the branded handkerchiefs were to that of the common “kain pel i k at ”.

As far as I can tell, the handkerchiefs that we pay so much for usually stays in the pocket until we need to wipe curry off our lips or sweat off our foreheads.

It is not a fashion statement, unlike your necktie, for instance.

And you don’t need to be embarrassed about your handkerchief unless it has got holes in it like some of mine.

You could get them cheaper if you buy in bulk from warehouse stores, of course.

But even a dozen will last you for decades.

Those made from “kain p e l i k at ”, I think, should last longer than your jeans.

A kain pelikat costs about RM12, out of which you could easily make 10 to 15 pieces of handkerchiefs.

Compare this with handkerchiefs which cost between RM3 and RM7 a piece and you will see why I am “sew”m o t i vat e d .

My wife was not amused, however.

I could be penny wise but pound foolish, she said, since the time spent in trying to thread the needle on the sewingmachine could be put to better use.

I assured her that I was not wasting my time.

Besides, it should be good for the children to learn how to use a sewing machine and they even be encouraged to make things for their own use.

When I was growing up, almost everything in the housewas self-made— from cooking utensils to wooden stools and curtains.

My maternal grandmother fashioned coconut shells and joined them to pieces of bamboo to make “senduk” (ladle).

Children collected fallen palm fronds and stripped the leaves off the spines to make “lidi” brooms.

I had even woven hammocks out of raffia strings when I was not helping the neighbours repair their “jala” (fishing nets).

In those days, everyone in the village I grew up in knew how to make something.

The men would make simple items like wooden stools and troughs for poultry feed from discarded planks collected from sawmill dumps.

The women would sew patches of leftover fabric collected from tailors and turn them into floor mats, quilt blankets and even bedsheets.

Kids also made their own toys.

Of course, being poor had fired the creative spark in many of the villagers.

Rather than pop into the local “kedai r uncit” (sundry shop) to buy what we wanted, we looked for stuff we could use to make what we needed unless we really had no choice.

And the good thing about this creative streak in most of us who grew up the hard way was that it taught us to be self-reliant in later years.

Saving money was the bonus.

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