This week I speak to Aileen Oh, who sews miniature toys for fun and blesses her friends with her handmade crafts.
Aileen is a final year law student at The University of Manchester, and tells me she sews while watching anime on headphones because she has ‘nothing to do’ (but shouldn’t she be reading Company Law?).
How did you get into this hobby?
When I was 18, my high school teacher forced me to take art for the UCE (GCSE-equivalent) exam, which consisted of drawing, sewing and Chinese calligraphy. I wouldn’t have touched a needle and thread if it wasn’t for art class, even though my mum was a tailor.
How do you go about making it?
I log onto forums and websites where people upload their designs, or sometimes I create my own. I pick the ones I like, sketch them out on paper and cut the shapes on funky foam cloths. I stuff the cloth with polyester filling and sew them together. The parts are done separately and can be sewn or stuck together using UHU glue.
What are they used for?
Key chains and decoration. I put tassels on just in case people want to hang them up. One of my friends hung them on her mobile phone.
What was your first design?
My first toy was a six-slice cake. They were in a transparent box and they were very cute. I spent 3-4 days at home just sewing and watching TV. My mum even helped decorate it, and I used to go to her when I couldn’t do it right and she would fix it for me. The art teacher displayed them for a school exhibition but they got stolen.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Japanese anime and dramas. I sewed three cup designs after watching the drama ‘Last Friends’ about three friends who each have a cup. Another anime called Keroro has five aliens, and I copied the characters and sewed everyone of them. They’re in my room at home, but I only sewed the heads cause their bodies were too difficult.
How long do you take to do them?
It depends on how complicated the designs are. An angel takes 4-5 hours, but a garland can take a week.
Which designs are you most proud of?
My bear collection. I gave them all to my friends and let them pick the ones they wanted.
What is the most difficult thing about sewing these toys?
The hardest part is actually in the cutting, not sewing. It’s very hard to follow the shape and cut the cloth straight because it’s slippery. It’s even harder if the designs are small and the cloth is dark in colour. 3D stuff is also really hard to do, because it’s difficult to figure out what the shape will look like. It’s also quite tricky to stick the parts together because the thread can be so messy at the bottom. I sometimes cover it up with a band to make it look like a collar.
My sister wanted to help, but it didn’t turn out and it’s now the dog’s toy
Do you plan to sell them?
In my first year I wanted to sell, but in the end I just got lazy. I think I will stop sewing altogether when I start working.
What if people want to buy them?
Nah, they can make it themselves. It’s so easy, don’t you think? It’s not difficult. I just sew when I want to. It depends on my mood really. I make only one of each design because I don’t like to do the same things again.
Do any of your siblings sew?
My sister wanted to help with a little cake cube, but it didn’t turn out and now the dog chews at it. It’s become the dog’s toy.
What do you think people feel when they see your toys?
Happy, hopefully. I never keep anything for myself. I make them just to give friends.
What’s your advice for those who want to pick up this hobby?
It’s quite easy if you really want to do it. Just cut and sew, that’s all. Cakes are the easiest to sew and I would recommend that to beginners. Have lots of patience. If you want to save time, just use others’ designs because making your own can take hours to sketch.
Aileen finds her inspiration from a Japanese website here
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