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Peranakan Beaded Slippers

October 6, 2010

While out on Arab Street (in Singapore) last week with a friend of mine, we ran across a wonderful little store called Little Shophouse. They specialize in Peranakan items. The Peranakan culture evolved from Chinese traders intermarrying with Malay women as they established trade ties some two to three hundred years ago. Peranakan means ‘locally born’ in the Malay language.

One of the owners, was making the most beautiful and intricate Peranakan beaded slippers. They were amazing. She had a wooden frame with material stretched across it. You could barely see the slipper shape on the stretched material. She was picking up the tiniest beads and sewing them in the exact pattern. While we were there, she realized that she had made a mistake. She had to break the individual, offending beads, and restitch new ones in the correct pattern. The slippers were beautiful, and expensive. They were around $980 Sing dollars, or around USD $735. Although I would never buy a pair to wear, I can see buying some for display. It is truly a work of art.

While talking to her, she said she is the last of her family to do this. Her children and grandchildren don’t want to carry on the tradition. Alas, like many of the cultural arts around the world, this one is quickly disappearing.

Happy quilting . . .


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