Tuft love: Young Chinese weave away stress with crafts
BEIJING: Using a craft gun to shoot yarn through a fabric screen, Nora Peng puts the finishing touches on a rug in the shape of a corgi's bottom -- the perfect stress-relieving hobby for her frantic days.
She is one of a growing number taking up the handicraft "tufting" as the country's younger generations look for options away from the daily rat race.
The handicraft creates versatile shapes and patterns by using a special gun to thread and cut yarn though fabric pinned to a wooden frame.
"I think tufting is very stress-relieving," college student Peng said, her voice almost drowned out by the noise of the tufting gun.
"I have to read textbooks everyday for school and it's exhausting."
Every weekend, Beijing's iHome tufting workshop attracts flocks of young handicraft lovers who spend the day carefully weaving yarn.
On a recent Saturday around twenty young people, mostly women, packed out the brightly-lit studio, each holding a tufting gun in their hands.
"It requires a lot of patience, but as long as you get the hang of it, tufting is not difficult," first-time tufter and state company employee Yan Xinyue told AFP.
Chatter and laughter filled the room as they stopped to compare and admire each other's designs -- mostly cartoon character carpets or colourful patched handbags and mirrors.
Peng decided to have a go after seeing the craft trending on social media.
"Everyone is making it, so I thought I'd come and try it as well."
Her cheeky corgi backside rug is a place for her pet cat to sleep, she said.
"I think it's cute and funny," she laughed. "(The design of) a corgi's little butt is very popular these days."
Tufting's popularity has been hugely boosted by online influencers.
"Making this gave me a sense of satisfaction," said Shi Ba, an influencer reviewing workshops for her online followers.
- Stress relief -
Weighed down by worries over the high pressures of life, including growing inequality and the rising costs of living and property prices, China's young adults are looking for new ways to unwind.
Stressed young people under thirty are typical tufting lovers according to Xu Shen, the founder of iHome tufting workshop.
They want to "forget about their tedious work and just focus on making craftwork", he told AFP.
Tufting has only became popular in China over the past three to five months, he added, but soaring demand for the craft has seen him already open nine stores across the capital.
Each receives hundreds of customers per week -- many drawn in through social media.
There are now more than 140 tufting workshops in Beijing alone, according to booking site Dianping.
But the challenge is getting repeat customers, Mao Wei, the owner of Horus Club tufting workshop told AFP.
Many are just one-time visitors who "come out of curiosity", he said.
The hobby is riding a wave of popularity as it draws in young people hunting entertainment away from work, said Xu.
"We know that (the development of) tufting will likely go through a bottleneck period, and the market will not grow anymore after it reaches a certain scale," he admitted.
"But it's still on a rising trend."