The joy of a petty skill I put to use
Lisa called me last evening, asking whether we were interested in joining her for dinner in a Michelin one-star restaurant in San Francisco.
“It’s free, but you must dress up a bit.”
Just about a week ago, in a fundraising event, I did dress up using the backup dress for a wedding I went to in the previous spring at New York. Lisa saw that dress. Even after counting on the dress I wore to that wedding (which Lisa was also aware of and commented on), that’s pretty much the entire inventory of Michelin restaurant-qualified dresses in my closet if I understood Lisa’s sartorial taste correctly.
Being resourceful, I scanned my small walk-in closet for less desirable batches. Based on my experience, as long as I lowered my dressing code standard, I could always come up with something suitable.
Then I suddenly recalled buying a dress at Bloomingdales a few weeks ago. It was young and spring-looking and hip with a hint of gothic. It was a dress that fell in the category that most shopaholics secretly loved but might not be suitable for the persona perceived by most of their acquaintances.
It was not perfect either, as the bosom area was cut too low and open, apparently ready for a lady to show off her cup DD or even more enormous assets. But I still bought it because I was vaguely confident I could address this issue with help from YouTube or INS.
Recently I was hooked on watching many needlework videos as they brought back my long-lost memories of figuring out these techniques with my mom when I was a pre-teen tomboy. My mom took some undertone but great pride in how she was so poorly trained in needlework and cooking skills as she was sent to one of the best boarding schools in China when she entered middle school. The school was modern and westernized. She learned to speak English, dance in waltz, sing Hollywood pop songs, and even play softballs, but no needlework nor cooking.
Suddenly I was about her age at the boarding school, yet I was in the national-wide SIP from schooling days and years due to the “cultural revolutions.” My playmates invented all kinds of games, and in one springtime, the needlework was pushed to the top of the games we played.
Mom could offer little help. She was terrible at it. Nevertheless, she still recalled some basic techniques and passed them on to me.
Those were the years when no music, movies, radio, books, or toys existed. I took the needlework game with full rigor and absorbed all the bits that Mom showed me. I quickly master these basic skills, such as sewing a button, mending a small hole, or shortening a pair of pants with an invisible line. But Mom and I could never figure out how to needle a rose with leaves on a pillowcase like we saw other girls show off.
“It’s your grandma’s fault. She refused to teach me, citing only those illiterate housewives and servants need these skills. I was expected to become a professor teaching in a university one day, which I am.” Mom sighed and surrendered.
That was the end of my brief prentice of needlework. In Chinese, it is 女红. In the olden times, it was something all the female members of a family should be trained to master from a very young age. But that tradition started to get pushed to the lower classes when the last dynasty was overthrown in 1911. The sentiment of anti-tradition got to the extreme in the cultural revolution era as needlework was deemed “old, bad (for women), and non-revolutionary.” So it was sheer luck I was exposed to it for a year or so and built a lifelong fondness for it.
So I googled “needlework technique seamless” and got the essence in less than 5 minutes.
I put it to good use. In less than 30 minutes, the bosom area was reduced to show off the cleavage of a person with much more modest assets.
I was deeply taken by the sheer joy I experienced while making this happen.
It brought back so many memories of my black-and-white-like childhood time and how my dear mom’s clumsy teaching me the needlework basics.