beaded slippers Peranakan style

One of the most popular blog posts on my site is the one where I feature Peranakan beaded slippers, both in the Peranakan Museum and in The Little Shophouse, where they are still handmade today.  So I thought I would repost it, with new links to other Peranakan related posts (see below) and some updated photos.  Enjoy…

Further to my trip to The Peranakan Museum, I am finally getting around to sorting through the hundreds of photos I took there (have camera, will go crazy)!  This week I have decided to feature the traditional beaded slippers worn by the Peranakan female, or Nyonya.

Peranakan beaded slipper

Peranakan beaded slipper

Peranakan beaded slipper

The slippers were popular in the 1930’s and the more colourful ones were generally made for special occasions, such as birthdays or Chinese New Year. For sad occasions, more sombre and plain patterns were made.

strings of peranakan cut beads

The front of the slipper was beaded over a design, usually cross-stitched first, and then the beads added one-by-one afterwards. The fabric was stretched on a wooden frame and the skilled Nyonya would sit on the floor with the frame clipped into a wooden holder to balance it.

painting by May Oon from an old photograph

templates of slipper on wooden frame

templates of slipper on wooden frame

There are a few skilled bead workers still making slippers in Singapore, take a look at this article to see a local craftsman, Robert Sng who makes the slippers in The Little Shophouse on Bussorah Street, Kampong Glam along with his sister, to see his handiwork up close.  I always call into this shop, it’s a treasure trove!  I spoke to Robert recently and he explained he learned the skill by watching an ‘auntie’ as he played around her skirts.

Little Shophouse Singapore

Some examples currently on display as of Sep 2013:

I love beads and I love cross-stitch so this craft is my idea of heaven, not sure if I have the infinite patience though!  Would love to hear from anyone who crafts in a similar way to the Peranakan beaders and see your creations.

My other posts relating to the Peranakan Musuem:

The Peranakan Kitchen

Antique Jewellery worn by the Peranakans

A Trip to the Peranakan Museum

A Stroll down Armenian Street

Little Museum Café


34 thoughts on “beaded slippers Peranakan style

  1. anyone4curryandotherthings says:

    Oh how I could do with at least a couple of pairs of those beautiful slippers (Yes, I know I am greedy – but there are such beautiful shoes). They come from a part of the world I have never been to, fascinating reading your Blog now. Thank ;you. When I still lived in London and my eyes were still “working alright” I embroidered a pair of slippers for my husband – but of course nothing like yours here and then had them made up professionally (quite costly). Carina

    • Cath at Lizzie Rose says:

      Hi Carina, thanks for taking a look at my blog, that was an old post so you must have gone back a while! The slippers are lovely aren’t they, I wish I had the patience to do even a fraction of the work involved! Well done you for giving it a go for your husband’s slippers. I no longer live in Singapore and I do miss visiting museums which show me these lovely items. Thanks for visiting and hope you have a wonderful day! Cath

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi Lizzie,
    I was wondering if you knew anyone who wants to buy these kasut manek. My grandma who is a peranakan used to make these and kebayas to sell, and my aunt knows how to sew them. I am starting to learn too 🙂 She has sewed some shoes last time and she wants to sell it so if you know anyone who wants to buy them, could you please direct them to me? I would greatly appreciate it if you could help. Thanks so much!

    • Cath at Lizzie Rose Jewellery says:

      Dear Sarah

      How wonderful that you and your aunt are continuing with this beautiful art. Unfortunately I left Singapore a year ago and wouldn’t know who to approach regarding selling them. The only place I can recommend is which is an online marketplace for handmade goods (I sell my jewellery there). It might be a good place to start! I wish you well and thank you for visiting my website.


  3. Jessica says:

    I am one of Robert’s students. I’ve known him about 10 years and in that time have beaded about 10 pairs of shoes for myself and 2 pairs for my DH – not easy as 1 pair for him is the equiv of 2 pairs for myself. Lots more surface area to cover!

    If you’re keen to learn do take a class with Robert, he’s the best out there and his patterns the most authentic. Plus he doesn’t use the cheap Japanese beads. I think the desire to have the finished product will make sure you keep at it.

    We’re Melbournians living in Penang and peranakan beadwork is my obsessin. I try to collect the old shoe faces in the junk shops here, and take inspiration from the museums here and SG. I photograph all the shoes I come across in the hope I can reproduce the patterns one day, and also collect the old 1920’s and 30’s Shaghai cross stitch books. Lots of inspiration to be found. Just need more time.

    • lizzierosejewellery says:

      Hi Jessica

      Thanks for the great information and encouragement to take up beading slippers. You have made a lot of shoes! Do you have anywhere where you display your photos like a website or Facebook? It would be great to see them. (although I’m not on Facebook personally yet). Do you use Pinterest for sourcing designs too?

      What an interesting hobby you have, collecting the shoe faces and cross stitch books, does Penang have many antique shops?

      I wish you well in your endeavours and look forward to seeing some photos if possible. I can always write a post about them here if you like!


    • Jessica says:

      Hi Cath,

      Even with the increasing shop rents in Penang and several closures, we still have some very well priced antique shops in Penang. And the Penang Peranakan Museum is amazing, and allows photography. If that’s too far, Peter the owner has opened another Nyonya Jewellery Museum in Malacca.

      Same, I’m not on FB and killed off my flickr page. Email me if you’d like some pics but I don’t really post many of Robert’s patterns online. Or at least not close-ups, just to safeguard his designs.

      For designs I tend to trade patterns with Robert, buy old Shainghai books, old DMC ( French ) books, buy old shoes ( only when $$ permits! ) and take lots of photos at the peranakan museums.

      Two good books out right now, one by Bebe Seet ( Rumah Bebe, Katong ) called “Peranakan Beadwork – My Heritage” and one by Hwei Fen Cheah called “Phoenix Rising.”

      Call me if you ever come up this way,

    • lizzierosejewellery says:

      I love the Peranakan Museum here and I can imagine the Penang one being even bigger. We don’t seem to have (cheap) antique shops in Singapore (not that are advertised anyway).

      Thanks for the book references, I’m a member of the library so would probably find them in their I’m sure. Will be sure to let you know if I’m heading to Penang!


    • dot chan says:

      hi Jessica, do you mind to let me know how much is the class with Robert? i’m interested to make a pair of shoes as a gift for a friend moving back to the US. thank you!

    • Jessica says:

      Hello Dot, Prob best you ring Robert or his sister Irene as I’m not sure of his current prices. I only see him once or rwice a year as I don’t live in Sg.

  4. the eternal traveller says:

    What gorgeous handwork. I suspect it’s like a lot of other crafts, it’s not a matter of being patient but doing what you love when you want to. When you go to the shop again you can tell the man he has lots of new fans.

  5. KerryCan says:

    I’m so glad you re-posted this since I missed it the first time! Those are truly spectacular–I can’t imagine actually wearing them but love to see a craft like this that survives!

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