It’s hard to miss Kelly Lim on the streets. With multi-coloured yarn braided into her dreadlocks and her eclectic dressing, the eye-catching 26-year-old stands out in the crowd. Not that she minds. The affable gal tells us that she is used to stares from passersby, especially in Singapore. “Curious stares are okay. I mean, my hair is like this — it’s hard for people not to stare,” she laughs. “But I also get judgmental stares. Sometimes people look at me disapprovingly when I’ve done nothing wrong. That’s when I feel maligned.”
Kelly, who sells her handmade knit toys and jewellery on her website www.kllylmrck.com, was recently appointed as one of six personalities to front Puma’s ‘Run the Street’ campaign in Singapore, alongside rapper Shigga Shay and hawkerpreneur Douglas Ng, among others. We brave curious stares and sit down with Kelly at a cafe to talk about her love for crocheting... and her dreads.
8 DAYS: People associate crocheting and knitting with aunties and grannies. It’s rare to see a youngster like you so passionate about it.
KELLY LIM: I picked it up when I was seven. I followed my mum to her crocheting classes after school and that was how I got hooked. I found it so fascinating that I could make many different things just by doing stitches with a ball of yarn. Crocheting is so complex and challenging — that makes it all the more fun. When I was younger, I had no money to buy presents for my friends, so I’d make small crochet gifts for them. I think that was quite cool because people remembered me for that.
How to change the perception that knitting and crocheting are only for older folks?
Right now, the perception is already changing thanks to fashion. There're many clothes out there incorporating knits into their designs, so people are starting to see crocheting and knitting as a cooler hobby. Many young people are knitting these days too, 'cos of social media. People post their knitting works on Instagram, so it's becoming something that's cool, and not just an activity for older people. What separates an 'auntie knit' from a 'non-auntie knit' is the choice of yarn, the size of the needle, and what you choose to make. The stereotype is that aunties usually knit short-sleeved sweaters with a lot of holes, using pastel-coloured yarn. But if we change the design into a knitted spaghetti cropped top, the work is instantly updated!
Besides making jewellery and accessories from yarn, you also do ‘yarn bombing’ — the art of using yarn to cover an existing object.
Recently, the National Heritage Board approached me to yarn bomb three institutions — the Indian Heritage Centre, Malay Heritage Centre, and Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. The project will take place sometime in late May. I think it’s an amazing opportunity but I'm also wary because I don’t know if I should cover the artefacts in the heritage centres. I think I’ll work on areas like the listening booths or tables and chairs instead. I might cover something at the gate with yarn as well so that people can see it and be more interested in visiting the heritage centres. Yarn bombing is costly due to the amount of material involved, and the manpower hours needed is insane. In a previous project I did with Urban Redevelopment Authority, I had to hire an assistant to work on the simpler crochets while I handled the smaller and more intricate parts. It’s also difficult to crochet something to fit an irregular-shaped object as I can’t work on it at home. I need to be on-site for many hours every day to crochet on the spot. It’s very tiring! (laughs).
Your style is very unique. How would you describe it?
People always tell me that my style is very Japanese, but I feel that my style is so mixed that people can’t categorise me. I don't read fashion magazines and I don't like to look at trends. I like to wear very vintage stuff and I dress according to my mood every day. I do a lot of thrift shopping. When I was studying in Japan in 2014, I leaned more towards ‘Kansai style’. It’s a lot of thrifted, oversized and mismatched clothes. The good thing about Singapore is that we don't have the four seasons, so we can wear whatever we want any time of the year.
Let’s talk about your hair. It’s such an interesting and colourful combination of braids and dreadlocks.
I attach [yarn] dreads to my hair most of the time, but I do leave one to two weeks for my hair to rest. If not, it will get very dry. When I have events and photo shoots, I definitely want to have my dreads. I’m very emotionally attached to them. (laughs) I make these yarn dreads and then attach them to my original hair, so it’s semi-permanent. When I shower, I tie them all up into a big bun and use a shower cap to cover the bun and just wash my scalp. If I wash the whole thing, it will become too heavy and my neck will break! (Guffaws)
You are one of six personalities in Puma's ‘Run the Streets’ campaign, where you were called a hustler. What to you is hustling?
When they identified me as a hustler, I was very confused. Like, why am I a hustler? I only have one answer. It's that when you are a hustler, you are so busy hustling that you don't even realise you are in the hustle. (laughs)
Photos: Ealbert Ho