It’s undeniable that the art of crochet has threaded its way into the fabric of popular culture. Back in 2020, crochet enthusiasts turned a JW Anderson patchwork cardigan into a viral DIY trend right after Harry Styles was seen wearing it. Now three years on, the craft remains the fashion set’s favourite textile and hobby. The word itself has over 12 billion views on TikTok and new tutorials are dropping every month alongside popular tags like #cottagecore and #grandmaera.
Stylistically, it’s easy to understand why the crochet craze has not waned. The soft, versatile material aligns with the resurgence of ’70s bohemia and our comfort-seeking mood. Floral granny squares on slouchy vests and halter tops in zany crochet patterns are constantly thrust back into the fashion spotlight thanks to celebrities and the media. Think Emma Chamberlain‘s routine of knitted tops or Olivia Rodrigo‘s eclectic style on Instagram. Even Alex Bovaird, costume designer of HBO’s The White Lotus, incorporated crochet bucket hats into Portia’s (Hayley Lu Richardson) algorithmically informed wardrobe to shape her character.
But there’s a reason why crocheting has strongly resonated with Singapore’s youth over the years too—even after the thick of lockdown. What may seem like a pandemic-induced distraction is actually a cosy analog alternative to screen time and mass-produced clothes that lack diverse size options. In a way, yarns and hooks are a newfound mode of creative expression and self-care outlet.
A cursory scroll through Instagram here reveals a flurry of young Singaporean creatives who have made crocheting a big hit in the sunny island. There’s Nikki Chong of Keysstringsss with her patchwork bralette tops and Hayley Sim’s pastel Samfu pieces at Softly Made Cottage.
For 20 year-old Singaporean Jewel Chin in particular, picking up the home-spun hobby has evolved into an unexpected business venture that opened doors to the fashion world. Known for crocheted mesh shrugs and flared leg warmers, her label String of Kisses has gained over 31,400 followers on Instagram at press time. The icing on the cake? String of Kisses managed to catch the eye of independent Italian fashion platform 5WAY and Chin’s garments were featured in the October issue of Pap Magazine.
Here, we chat with Jewel Chin about the meteoric rise of her crochet business and dive deeper into why the hobby has won the hearts of Singaporean fashion lovers.
Why did you start String of Kisses?
I began crocheting in April 2021 while I waited for university to begin. String of Kisses was originally my visual diary on Instagram to document my crochet journey and connect with other crocheters in the craft community. There was a lot of time on my hands so I frequently posted my creations, developing my own style along the way. Eventually, my posts managed to gain some traction and was I presented with some opportunities, which led me to manage String of Kisses as a small business.
How has the journey of creating String of Kisses been like?
It’s been fun so far and I never thought it would take off this much. It was genuinely just a hobby. I gained a lot more confidence in being myself and wearing what I like online. It’s amazing how the craft allowed me to meet collaborators and make new friends, both locally and internationally.
How do you make your pieces wearable in Singapore’s climate?
I love clothes that are little more skin-baring so I reflect that in my creations, such as skimpy tank tops and mesh shrugs. Making small and thin accessories like beanies and flared leg warmers also makes them more suitable for wear in Singapore. It’s humid here so I avoid dense stitches, opting for web-like constructions that are a loose and airy. While I do use mohair and wool yarns at times, I would mix them with other compositions like recycled silk.
“I now gravitate more towards clothes that reflect a designer’s hand than empty, fast fashion garments”
Has crocheting changed your perspective of clothes?
It definitely made me see way more value in clothing and knitting. When I look at a piece, I think about the processes involved because of my own experience in crocheting. I now gravitate more towards clothes that reflect a designer’s hand than empty, fast fashion garments. I’m also learning to be more conscious of the way I shop, only buying clothes that I will wear frequently and go with my creations.
Why do you think crocheting is so popular in Singapore?
Personally, I hopped on the trend in order to spend less on shopping. I love the satisfaction derived from going through the entire process and wearing a one-of-a-kind piece outside. I think the craft has become an obsession because more of us are recognising the the exploitative practices of brands like Shein. It’s one of the many steps that our generation is taking to prevent overconsumption and not support such businesses, while still enjoying aesthetics. A crochet garment cannot be replicated by machines and it takes hours to make. Investing so much of one’s time and effort likely increases the chances of keeping and re-wearing a handmade item.
Why do you share your crochet patterns on String of Kisses?
I openly share my patterns for pragmatic reasons, since I handle String of Kisses independently. Making many crochet pieces alone and finding a balance between reasonable pricing and producing custom orders proved difficult. It’s hard to create size-inclusive pieces too because my reference points would be either me or my mother.
As a result, I decided to sell patterns that are made-to-measure. It allows anyone to make my designs their own and wear them in a way that fits. I think it’s a good alternative for those who enjoy crocheting and struggle to find their clothing size in local retail stores. It’s interesting to see how someone else adds their own flair to what I design at String of Kisses. I remember being pleasantly surprised by one of my pattern testers, who re-interpreted my mesh shrug and transformed its edgy style into a much more feminine version.