Mooncakes and red lantern made of yarn appear for the first time in Việt Nam to celebrate the full moon festival. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thu Thảo
HÀ NỘI — Social distancing has prevented Nguyễn Thu Thảo from meeting with parents for dinners, lighting paper lanterns for the kids, eating mooncakes, and moon-gazing together during the coming Mid-Autumn Festival.
However, she still has her way to enjoy the full moon. After weeks of searching and testing, Thảo has made mooncakes and lanterns from yarn, which are the first ever such products in Việt Nam and maybe the world.
"The festival is coming but we all are suffering from social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whenever I think about the full moon, I really want to taste the sweet mooncakes, and I can't wait to enjoy the atmosphere of a family reunion. A crazy idea flashed in my mind, (as a crocheter) I should crochet these typical cakes and enjoy them my way," Thảo told Việt Nam News.
"I searched online and found that nobody has done it before. I thought it would be a challenge for me and I was happy to overcome it."
Mooncakes are usually round and eaten in small wedges during the festival, and shared by family members and served with tea. The cakes are also presented to relatives or friends, to express love and best wishes.
The round shape of the mooncakes is believed to symbolise completeness in the season of reunion. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thu Thảo
In Vietnamese culture, the roundness symbolises completeness and togetherness. A full moon symbolises prosperity and reunion for the whole family. Round mooncakes complement the harvest moon in the night sky during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Thảo, living in Hà Nội's Gia Lâm District, spent a week designing and testing the first cake.
"I faced a little trouble when shaping the cake and working on patterns. I had to look at many different real cake designs to choose the most suitable. I also had to do it again and again to ensure the size of my cake was similar to a real one.
"Meanwhile, the patterns took a lot of time to make sure they are natural," said Thảo. "It required me to use basic crochet techniques but I also had to work flexibly and creatively for this kind of art work."
When the designs were done, Thảo created a chart for the cake which helped her to crochet faster at around five to six hours for a completed one including sewing pieces of cake together and stuffing.
The 29-year-old chose to 'bake' cakes with four different fillings of green bean, taro, matcha and lotus which are distinguished through their colours. It took her about a month and a half to make the whole combo.
Crocheter Nguyễn Thu Thảo has 'baked' four different designs over one and a half months. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thu Thảo
"These cakes are really familiar. And they all have their typical colours which are easy to recognise. The first three are a round shape like a normal cake but the lotus one is different. The 3D design of the lotus one was a challenge that I set for myself after being successful with the first three. Luckily, I made it," said Thảo, who has done knitting and crocheting for three years.
Her products have received great feedback since she introduced them and her idea on social media.
"I was really surprised when people found them interesting. Many people have asked to buy them," said Thảo, who joked that it might be due to her cakes' long expiration time, ease of preservation and ability to be recycled.
Many people said the yarn cakes don't need an oven, flour or fillings; they never worry about getting fat or overweight, and they are truly a feast for the eyes.
"It depends on individual product and skills of the crocheter to decide how to produce them and how beautiful they are. Crocheting is a series of the same action repeated over a long time. If you are not patient, you can't do it and you will never finish your work," said Thảo.
"But when you fall in love with knitting and crocheting, you can create many things that bring your personal trademark. Whenever a new product comes out, you will feel like you have reached a new point in your career."
Apart from cakes, Thảo also designs and crochets lanterns which are indispensable in the full-moon season.
Lanterns are indispensable decoration items for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Thảo's yarn artworks receive good feedback on social media. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thu Thảo
"In this festive time, people eat mooncakes and watch multi-coloured lanterns lit with candles. People, especially the kids, really love lanterns and I also want to test my skills (with new products). I have made two models: red and star-shaped ones," said Thảo, who expects these products help create a complete festival for her family and those who can crochet under her guidance.
Star lanterns are popular among children during the full moon season. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thu Thảo
"I want to spread the festival atmosphere through my work. I hope that this year's full-moon will see many people unite with their families after social distancing," said Thảo.
"We are all working hard to fight COVID-19. We can control the pandemic then there is no social distancing. It means we are united, our families are reunited." — VNS