By Needle and Thread - how Sewing and Beading helped me cope with loss

(The sea at Changi, because my father loved to fish and I've always loved living close to water. )

I come from a family of sewers.  My grandmother sewed.  My mother sews.  My aunt sews and now, I suppose I do too.

When I was 12, I learnt sewing from my grandmother while she was bedridden from cancer.  We had a simple embroidery project in school - back in the day when it was considered useful to teach girls needlework (an unrecognisable time in Singapore now).  

My friends all had simple drawings of flowers to sew.  But my grandmother took one look, and insisted that we up the ante.  There was no point, she said, making a hanky with little flowers.  If you want to bother to learn how to work with needle and thread, learn it properly.  So I ended up with a bodice full of flowers to embroider on a blouse, and the only one in my class with such an elaborate project.  She was definitely the original overachiever in our family.

I spent hours next to my grandmother, who was confined to her bed.  We visited her every weekend until she passed.  I would bring my project and she would correct my stitches.

Since we were Chinese, none of the grown-ups talked to us kids about her illness.  She had a colostomy bag, but no one explained what it was.  And I didn't dare ask.

Sewing became a way for her to teach me something, and for us to spend time together, despite what was unspoken and painfully obvious -  her cancer.

This year in 2016, my father died from cancer.  It took him quickly.  In a matter of months, he lost his strength, his appetite, his ability to speak, swallow and finally, breathe.

In the last days of his life, though we did not know he was so near the end, my mother, sister and I stayed close.  In between tending to his needs, which were numerous and unpredictable, we kept our hands busy beading with needle and thread, even as our hearts were troubled.

Beading is like sewing - one stitch, one bead, joined by needle and thread, woven like a tapestry.  It is a way to be present, without words.  To make something tangible out of the intangible. To cultivate the ability to bear the moment, whether that moment brings joy or grief.

My dream for EDEN+ELIE is not to create symbols of meaning or to make jewelry that represent significant relationships or milestones. I don't believe things in and of themselves can fully bear the true weight of what people mean to us.

It is and has always been about the making.  The actions taken over time that accrue to something bigger and something beautiful.  Actions that strengthen our souls, that allow us to be present for our loved ones, that help us to build our spirit to endure.

Next year in 2017, I look forward to building EDEN+ELIE social - which is the direction we are taking to create social impact from our business.   We are looking to train artisans, to create meaningful employment for marginalised individuals and communities and to continue to offer pieces made with sincerity and soul.  Here's to more faith in being able to do good, more hope in what has yet unseen, and courage to take the next step.