The fine beadwork seen on slippers worn by Chinese Peranakan ladies were once an essential item of womanhood. In the past, young Nyonya girls were required to undertake beading in order to showcase a girl’s patience, attention to detail and endurance. These virtues, along with cooking and spice-pounding skills, would demonstrate to a matchmaker the signs of a ‘well-bred’ daughter and a successful candidate for marriage.
The modern Nyonya
Luckily for not-so-handy modern Nyonya, this custom has gone by the wayside. Nowadays, this beautiful craft can still be experienced under the guidance of less fearsome instructors. Take on the challenge of a sewing your own beaded shoes. There's several places you can experience Peranakan beadwork in Singapore. Here is a short list offering both group and one-to-one workshops! My advice (having never done it..) would be to start small?
Arab Street beading workshops
The Little Shophouse is located in the heart of Arab Street and virtually next to Sultan Mosque! This quaint shop is also along a nice paved area where you can stroll along and get a nice feel of the neighbourhood. Say hello to the friendly Robert Sng and his sister Irene, who run one-on-one beading workshops.
Katong beading workshops
Rumah Bebe is located in the heart of Katong in a picturesque shophouse. Nyonya Bebe Seet's workshops include shoes, bookmarks, beading on velvet (wow!) and even relief beading (amazing!). She also runs private in-house tours where you can learn more about Peranakan culture.
Rumah Kim Choo is where you can find fashion designer Raymond Choo. He's a lovely fellow and teaches beading at his beautiful shophouse gallery on East Coast Road. He also had a range of Kueh sweets, Kebaya and various other Peranakan related gifts for sale. Kim Choo also offers in-house tours, Kueh sweet sampling and other activities.
Other beading workshops
PBS Atelier is run by Hiroko Tanaka and she caters to the many dedicated Japanese ladies into Peranakan beading. I'm pleased to know that a love of Peranakan culture is being shared by Japanese enthusiasts! シンガポールで日本語のビーズワークショップ何て。いいですね！
And…buying beaded shoes in Singapore
If all this sounds just a bit hard at the moment, take heart. It is possible to buy your way to beaded bliss…Beaded slippers can be found at most of the shops I just mentioned, including True Blue Shoppe at the Peranakan Museum. Slippers in Singapore come in various price brackets, as well as a couple of different styles - some even with a heel. Drop me a line as I’d love to hear how you go, or leave a comment below. All the best!
Read more about Peranakan Beading: Beadwork Show at Peranakan Museum Singapore