I so wanted to post this sooner, but it was supposed to be a surprise, and now it has been gifted, so there you have it.
I have a very dear friend who was elevated to the Order of the Laurel DragonCon weekend, and the days up to the Con saw me madly crafting. I think I posted the Ramirez costume already, which took up a goodly bit of time (and looks great, so totally worth it). But that was broken in the middle by two weeks of even more frantic crafting, as I realized that I finally had money for the materials and was looking at a really close deadline.
The now-Laurel in question is Mistress Madhavi, the only person in the SCA (that I know of) who is researching the exact time and place I am, specifically Mewar in the mid 16th century. Actually, her persona is from Jaisalmer, and mine is from the Udaipur area, but the culture is pretty similar. So when I heard that she was going to be elevated, I knew exactly what to gift to her.
Remember all those angry patka posts I made? No? Okay, so maybe they were just frustrated emails sent to Madhavi. There was anger! Don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of patkas, both the under-pagh Sikh version and the ornate Mughal belt version. But when it comes to a woman’s patka, there has been much staring at paintings trying to figure out what in the world that thing could possibly be.
(Miniature from the Caurapancasika, or Tale of a Love Thief, 1570)
OMG WHAT I DON’T EVEN.
No, seriously. If you know WTF is going on with the white pointy bit in the front of her skirt, please do let me know, and send along your documentation as well. I love conjecture, but I have conjectured just about all there is to conjecture (and then Madhavi has done quite a lot of her own, besides, before I even got to conjecturing).
Actually, most of recreated Medieval Indian costume is based on this sort of painted conjecture, supported by a few extant descriptions of garments. The climate and culture just doesn’t support a lasting textile preservation tradition, as things got burned or rotted away in the tropical climate or were reused to make other things. For example, the gold threads in fabric are still pulled (or melted) out of garments and used to make jewelry, new threads, etc. So it’s a challenge.
Our current working theory is that this piece of white material is somehow tucked into the front of the ghagra. It’s either woven with lots of gold or embroidered with lots of gold. The men’s patkas from the same period are often heavy silk and brocade. They’re also embroidered. So I bought the nicest piece of shantung I could find (not too slubby!) and did the thing I have the ability to do, which is to embroider.
I had some really great gold ribbon, which I sewed on, and then I couched four gold laurel wreaths into the top of the folds, and chain-stitched a red stripe between the gold bands and the laurel wreaths.
(Madhavi had seen my test piece, which was on red silk, and had requested red on the final piece.)
The inner folds:
Close-up of one of the wreaths:
(One of the wreaths has two chain-stitch filled leaves, as I had originally intended to do that but determined that it was overambitious considering I was sewing this at 3 a.m. the day before I mailed it out.)
In the end, it was maybe three feet longer than it needed to be, top-to-bottom, which ended up being good, since she wore it to the elevation ceremony. Normally? Not a problem, except that she wasn’t a Laurel until she was officially elevated at the ceremony, and therefore not allowed to show the wreaths yet. No problem! Being a resourceful lady, she tucked it in with the plain end on the outside and voila! Fixed.
She had sent me an email asking me to make a book for her as well, and I was happy to oblige. One small problem, though – I make Islamic (read: Mughal) books, and she requested a Hindu book. To compound the challenge, the book she wanted was based on the miniatures the blasted patka came from (I kid!), which are single pages dispersed and then re-collected. Nobody really knows how they were bound. Or at least nobody who I could find knows. I am still researching. Instead, I emailed Kannanbala, who had done a palm leaf manuscript or three, an ancient Indian binding style (still used in temple scrolls from Tibet to Tamil Nadu). I modified this one slightly, as the Caurapancasika paintings lack the center string hole and are a totally different dimension. Luckily, the local Home Depot sells nice 1/4″ oak planks that I was able to sand down.
Unsanded but cut:
I used a file and fine-grit sandpaper to get these nice and smooth. I later discovered that smoothness is not necessarily a prerequisite, though I imagine people appreciate it over splinters.
Madhavi had recently designed her arms, so I put those on the covers.
The water lilies:
And then the green bar and crequier (tree of life):
(Sorry, am not so up on the heraldry-speak today. I’d look it up but I’m enjoying being lazy.)
The small red spot in the inside, mimicking the red dot on traditional manuscripts:
And finally, created lucet ties and small silk tassels to hold the whole thing together. The insides were loose heavyweight 100% cotton sheets that I cut to size. Yay, paper cultures.
Close up of the tassels and their gold tops:
And everything together, ready to drop in the mail:
Oh! And I waxed the book with beeswax, to seal it and give it a nice smooth shine.
Actually, I ended up enjoying both parts of this much more than I anticipated, partly because they were gifts for someone I really like, and partly because they were just so fun to make! I will be making myself a patka in the near future, and binding more books. I’m also digging tassel-making. Expect to see more of that as well.
Next project is some new garb for Red Tower, and a sekrit project for Mistress Adela, which I should’ve finished by this past weekend, but so did not have the energy for. She knows it’s coming. I also have plans to make one of each style of Mughal coat, for both men and women. Busy busy busy!