18 Jan 2023
Although I grew up watching my Kinmen grandma cross stitch elaborate & perfectly symmetrical patterns on fabrics, I was miserable at sewing lessons in my primary school days.
I was very dependent on the teacher marking out where the cross stitches should be.
Once towards recess time, she coldly warned me that I woudn’t get my break unless I could sew the cross stitches diagonally across a square fabric. I panicked.
To my 7-year-old self then missing recess was unthinkable for two reasons. Firstly, I would miss the delicious food which I was thinking about all morning. Secondly, to be stuck in the classroom to struggle with sewing felt like the ultimate betrayal by an adult for whom I had the highest regard.
So I had a meltdown.
A classmate’s mom came to my aid when I was hyperventilating and trying to thread the needle through tears at the same time. Till this day I can still recall my rescuer’s hairstyle, her facial features and her gentle voice. A couple of her teeth were capped in gold.
In my childhood, lots of women could stitch & sew. Their sewing skills put food on the table and their kids through school. So I have deep respect for women and later on men, who can sew and cook, long before social media & celebrities make these skills trendy.
Years later after that episode I would develop a special fondness for the cross stitches and indigo prints of minority people in China, Northern Thailand and Vietnam.
And each time I wear something handmade by women I’ve never met, I feel the collective power of all our female ancestors and the kindness of my classmate’s mother all over again. ❤️😊