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Learn to create your own crochet crafts at La Belle Epoque

By Lily Yu

Astriped cat with green ears and a big smile greets you as you walk into La Belle Epoque’s  studio on Fortress Hill. Countless brightly-coloured, intricate crochet dolls of all shapes and sizes occupy this space. Here, you can not only buy the yarn craftwork, but also learn to create your own.

La Belle Epoque, or beautiful age, was a period from the late 19th to early 20th century when the arts flourished in France. The term brings to mind elegant and luxurious lifestyles. Owner Billie Ng Sze-kiu likens the spirit of her crochet craftsmanship to that of haute couture, a high-end custom-fitted form of fashion that originated during that period. “We chose the name ‘La Belle Epoque’ because we want to spend all of our time creating beautiful things, just like people did back then,” Ng explains.

Ng and her partner of eight years, Mary Cheung Wai-man, organise crochet and embroidery workshops at weekends. Classes are divided into several levels to accommodate the varying abilities of participants, who also get to decide what to make with their crochet hooks be it dolls, home decorations or accessories. In the beginner’s class, offered at least once a month, students usually learn how to crochet cactus-shaped decorations. Ng says the workshops are popular among young girls and mothers-to-be who would like to make something for their babies.

La Belle Epoque started out as a tiny shop in Tai Hang in 2008, and has expanded its business from retail to conducting workshops, offering made-to-order services, as well as making advertising props and installations for a number of banks, pharmaceutical companies and shopping malls. Ng says advertising agencies love their craftsmanship and the human touch that comes with their handmade dolls and their promotions which come across as less of a hard sell. “Using a doll [to promote products] helps create a softer style,” says Ng.

Before opening La Belle Epoque, Ng was a creative director at an advertising company. Her background enables her to communicate well with clients because she knows what they are concerned about. “I ask who their target audience is, and what tones they prefer,” says Ng. “And they will think I do understand what they need.” Ng and Cheung, a former graphic designer, both quit their stable jobs to pursue their passion for crafts. The duo take up complementary roles. Ng is responsible for external communications such as meeting with clients, while Cheung designs products and executes ideas.

“The sense of fulfillment in creating something from scratch is priceless,” says Ng. One of the things she treasures most is the bonding she has developed with her customers over the years. To Ng, encounters with customers are more than just doing business because they remember her as a creator rather than a salesperson. “I make memories whenever I craft; these memories are infiltrated into the craftwork and when someone brings it home, he is also taking [these memories] with him,” Ng says.

If you are interested in learning to make unique crocheted pieces, La Belle Epoque is the place for you. Visit Room 1605, 16/F, Corn Yan Centre, 3 Jupiter Street, Fortress Hill or go to their Facebook page for more details.

Edited by Elaine Ng