When the Olympic champions of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games receive their usual bouquets at the medal stand, no one will be prouder than Shanghai retiree Mou Guoying.
She and about 150 others – mostly elderly women – have spent the past three months painstakingly crocheting the yarn roses that will become the centerpieces of the medal winners’ bouquets.
“I’m sure when I see the athletes holding the bouquets, carrying the medals, and then taking them to their country, I will feel very proud in my heart and very happy,” the octogenarian said.
The women produced 4,400 roses – meant to symbolize the blossoming careers of successful athletes – for more than 1,200 bouquets of flowers.
A woolen version was chosen because, unlike a real perishable bouquet, it can serve as a keepsake for life.
The retirees are part of a craft club at a women’s and children’s activity center that has become nationally known for the skills of its members.
These skills are evident in the finished product, a long metal rod wrapped in green wire that leafs down the path to exquisite, tightly clustered crimson rose petals.
Before the Olympics, women spent much of their time making high-quality sweaters, socks, scarves, hats and even entire dresses for charities, which were then usually donated to the needy to help out. through China’s cold winter.
A range of government and corporate organizations also regularly request the club to create various items as gifts.
– ‘Made with love’ –
For members like 68-year-old Huang Hongying, who grew up with clothes handmade by his parents and grandparents, it’s a labor of love.
“We knit with love, to inherit love and spread love,” Huang said. “We are deeply and lovingly attached to knitting.”
Their Olympic contribution – a project presented to them by the Shanghai Women’s Federation – is by far the group’s biggest and most important endeavor to date.
Their style of craftsmanship originated in China in the mid-19th century when practitioners in Shanghai, a global warehouse, fused Chinese and Western techniques.
However, there was quite a bit of trial and error, as the club set out to perfect the vibrant look of the roses, buying real flowers and peeling the petals one by one to reveal the secrets of nature design.
Each craftswoman uses a ball of yarn, two needles and more than 50 types of stitches, taking several hours to make each rose.
“Sealing is key,” Huang explained.
Finished roses are sent to be combined with other elements – olive branches, laurel, hydrangeas, lilies and osmanthus – created by other clubs across the country.
Approximately 35 hours of work go into each complete bouquet.
It’s hard work, and most grannies in Shanghai have bandages wrapped around their fingers to protect them.
Mou, who is 80 or 81 – her exact age is lost in the hustle and bustle of wartime Shanghai – is happy to put up with any discomfort.
“It’s rewarding for someone my age to be part of this Olympic project. I’m very happy and lucky,” she said, skillfully twirling and looping bright red thread with its needles.
“The bouquets will represent our nation and will be brought to countries around the world by athletes,” she added.
“So I knitted very, very meticulously.”