If you’ve been active on social media over the past year, you may have come across videos of people tufting. It’s pretty big on TikTok with some creators, such as SIMJI, garnering over five million followers on the platform.
If you don’t know what tufting is, it’s a technique in textile manufacturing whereby a thread is inserted on a primary base. The modern-day way to do it is using a tufting gun, which rapidly pushes thread into the base.
For those who haven’t heard of tufting and are still doubting its popularity, just know that there are already more than a handful of tufting studios in Malaysia.
To name a few, there’s Tuftme (which alone has multiple locations), Tuft Second, Tufters Space, Tuft Space, and so much more.
But amongst all those, one that stood out to me was D’rug Tufting Studio.
With a simple username of @drug_kl on Instagram, I did a double-take when I first came across this account. Clicking into its profile, I was further surprised by the business description—Drug Addiction Treatment Center.
Alas, I realised it was simply a play on the word “rug”. Still, I thought it was eye-catching and rather humorous. The brothers who founded it seemed to think so too.
“During our naming process, we had about 50 names listed out.” Wei Han shared. “When we got to D’rug, we all just clicked [with it. We like how fun and quirky the name can be as it reads exactly like something we should not do. But we thought we would take the risk and do what other people wouldn’t dare to do.”
Jumping the (tufting) gun
Brothers Wei Han and Wei Ren are only 26 and 25 respectively, having just graduated from university around three years ago. Wei Han studied construction, while Wei Ren was in engineering.
At the end of last year, they discovered the art of tufting. At the time, they believed it was still rather niche in Malaysia, so they thought to themselves, “Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?”
So, the brothers took the plunge and quit their jobs in Johor Bahru and travelled north to KL.
“We weren’t in the craft industry prior to opening D’rug, but nothing stopped our eagerness to learn and create,” Wei Han shared.
They overcame their limited funds by being hands-on with the setup of their studio, going so far as to build the tables and handle the wirings themselves.
Compared to other industries such as F&B, though, the equipment for tufting is rather accessible. The main materials needed include the tufting gun, yarn, base fabric, and backing for the rug.
“However, to make tufting fun, colour availability is very important,” Wei Han brought up. “So making sure all colours and shades remain in stock and available has been tricky especially since most materials are sourced overseas and have quite a long delivery period.”
On top of preparing a physical space, they also had to work on being knowledgeable about the craft of tufting itself.
The brothers shared that tufting itself isn’t difficult, as they could guide anyone within five minutes, to actually understand and master it takes more time.
As mentioned, there are already so many other tufting studios and workshops in Malaysia, concentrated in the Klang Valley.
Although D’rug has a pretty catchy name, it might not be enough to sway people their way, especially when the name can sometimes be a disadvantage.
“We later realised that our Instagram handle would make approaching brands and KOLs more difficult, but I guess we’ll just have to live with that,” Wei Han mused.
So, another way D’rug claims to set itself apart from competitors is simple—pricing.
For their classic programme, which works with a 60cm by 60cm canvas, the retail price is RM299, with a special RM199 deal for subsequent party members. However, we’ve noticed that they’ve been running an RM100 promo for a while now, bringing the price per pax down quite significantly.
Without the promo though, compared to other brands, it’s still a pretty average deal. At Tuftme, the standard price is RM250. This means it’s RM500 for two people. With the non-promo D’rug deal (pun intended), it would be RM498.
Over at Tuft Second, the prices are RM268 per pax, with discounts for a bigger pax too.
“Instead of putting a premium price on tufting, we feel that tufting should be enjoyed by everyone instead, hence why we’ve placed our price at a competitive range,” Wei Han explained.
Trying D’rug for ourselves
I’ve never tried tufting before, but it looks like such a therapeutic experience. So, when Wei Han invited us to try out tufting at D’rug ourselves, I took him up on the offer.
Located in Jalan Telawi, Bangsar, D’rug is set in a very happening space. Street parking is admittedly a bit of a nightmare, but as a last resort, there’s a mall (Bangsar Village) just a few steps away.
In my opinion, it’s a great location as customers can visit nearby food options before and after their tufting session, as it can actually be quite physically strenuous, as I was about to learn.
Little tufted arrows guided me up the stairs to the third floor, where the studio was located. The space was dim when I entered because there were projectors in use.
Each workstation has a corresponding projector to let customers draw the basic shape of what they’re going to tuft.
I chose to make a sunny side up, while my managing editor, Sade, decided to recreate the Vulcan Post logo. Once I finished outlining, a staff member guided me to the yarn room, where a colourful wall of yarns greeted me.
“Yarn displays are a staple of tufting studios, often used as photo-op backgrounds while displaying all available colours to tufters,” Wei Han shared.
Each customer gets their own little trolley to keep their supplies and products in. For my design, I picked out the colours of an egg—white and yellow (and black for the face details).
While pushing my trolley back to my station, I noted there were nine tufters in the studio. The staff told me that they can fit eight comfortably, but can squeeze in 12 if need be. There are three sessions per day on weekends (9:30AM, 2PM, and 7PM), and usually two on weekdays.
I also noticed that there was a pretty high staff-to-customer ratio. There were around five or six staff members around, including Wei Han.
“We have around 12 staff members in our team, all very fun, caring and extremely [skilled] in tufting,” Wei Han said. “Staff members all go through our training programme and are very capable of guiding and helping tuft out small details that you’re not confident with.”
As we began to tuft, Sade mentioned that she enjoyed that the staff members didn’t hold your hand through the process, but instead let us experience the process ourselves.
I messed up a few times, but tufting is an incredibly forgiving activity. If you messed up one part, you can just tug the thread out.
One hour in, my right arm was feeling sore from carrying the gun. Thankfully, each station comes with its own chair and the studio also provided water bottles and free snacks for everyone.
It took around two hours for me to finish tufting. After that, a staffer came to cut out my design and brought it to the back to prepare the rug for its final glue-and-shave stage.
Before that, though, they invited me to the yarn room for a quick picture that they printed out for me.
In exchange for a five-star review on Google, D’rug lets customers glue and shave their own rugs and take it home on the same day. This part took another half-hour or so.
Of course, you’re not obligated to leave a five-star review and can opt to just wait a week to get your rug, but after our own experience at D’rug, we’d say that their five-star reviews are well-deserved.
Once we vacuumed our rugs, we were free to take them home. I am now the proud owner of a little egg rug, and everyone in our office was surprised by the Vulcan Post rug.
As tired as we were after the experience, we both agreed that we were already thinking of coming back to make more rugs one day, because the satisfaction we got from creating something with our own hands was unmatched.
A big thank you to D’rug, Wei Han, and the team members for the experience!
Not just a phase
D’rug opened its doors in March this year. However, with so much competition today and with tufting being somewhat of a trend, there’s a concern about whether or not the craft is sustainable.
“Trends come and go, and we’ve been asked many times about what we plan to do in the future when the trend isn’t as hot as it is today,” Wei Han expressed. “But we have many exciting things planned ahead that hopefully will introduce tufting to even more people today.”
Three months into their studio, the team has already seen returning customers (“addicted”, as they would call it) and supportive feedback. So, they must be doing something right.
“For now, we want to make sure that our customers enjoy their time with us,” Wei Han said. “Happy customers are the way to go for an engaging business. In the future, we will participate in more activities and collaborations to introduce tufting in more creative forms.”