Tribal Tassels

They’re all the rage right now in boho chic fashion and home decor: tribal tassels from lands now known as Rajasthan, Punjab, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan … but the tribes that make and use these fringy textiles have been around longer than states and nations and cross many borders. Their traditions have lasted generations too, of draping their yurts, their clothing and their camels with colorful tassels and poms. You might find tassels clustered together in threes, as this was auspicious and protective.

Here are vibrant beaded Paktika Kuchi and Baluchi Afghan vintage tassels from Tribal Muse:

Tribal Tassels from Tribal Muse Shop

From northern Afghanistan, here are Turkoman tribal tassels from Tribal Souk that are used to decorate animals, people, cars, trucks, and motor bikes. These bright colors are now popular in the region:

Turkomen Tassels from Tribal Souk

Those tassels are 15 inches long! You can’t miss them.

If you wonder how these can be worn with more western styles, Vivienne Tam showed us how back in 2011, when obviously I wasn’t quite paying attention yet:

Vivienne Tam 2011 Tribal Tassel Style

If you like this look either for fashion or home decor and want sources to find such treasures, let’s look some more …

The rich jewel colors of these Uzbek tassels – gorgeous.  From Dancing Tribe Etsy shop:

Uzbek Tribal Tassels from Dancing Tribe Etsy Shop

From Luxethink on Etsy, these vintage Turkoman tassels have a sophisticated color combo:

Turkomen Tassels from Luxethink Etsy Shop

These fringy camel decorations from Rajasthan are so fun! Brought to you by Woman Shops World on Etsy:

Camel Tassels from Woman Shops World on Etsy

Anthropologie is hanging tassels on handbags, such as this Samirah Tassel Bag which is now sold out (so, get your tassels and make your own handbag tassel!):

Anthro Samirah Tassel Handbag

Tribal tassels can also be used on pillows, such as this pillow from One Kings Lane with Gosha tribal tassels:

Tribal Tassel Pillow from One Kings Lane

I hope this brightened your day with the possibilities of how to add a bohemian touch with tassels!

The White Buffalo Styling Co.’s DIY Moroccan Wedding Blanket

This deserves more than just a pin on my DIY board. Way more! As a maker of globally-inspired DIYs myself, I am in awe at how Lindsay of The White Buffalo Styling Co. found a way to make a Moroccan wedding blanket:

DIY Moroccan Wedding Blanket by The White Buffalo Styling Co

I’m not spilling the beans here on how this was done, because that’s not cool - you simply must visit her tutorial over at East Coast Creative and show this project some love if you like it. You can do this too, with a few easily-found supplies and she shows you how! Not everyone can afford the real deal. I haven’t sprung for one yet. If you like Moroccan wedding blankets, this is a way to add their shaggy and sequin-y texture and boho look to a room, in an affordable way.

East Coast Creative has “Creating with the Stars” going on now. Have you heard of it? Hold on to your chair before you click over there. It’s amazing what people can create with imagination and resourcefulness!

India Craftsmanship: Coppre

Whenever Coppre’s photos pop up on Facebook, I practically salivate. The warm luster of copper makes it my favorite metal, far above silver or gold. It’s like copper wants to reach out and embrace you, while silver is far too cool and gold is a few levels too high. Copper’s warmth is welcoming.

Copper from Coppre

Coppre is a company in Pune, India that is keeping a traditional skill alive. They work with the Tambat metal craftspeople in Pune who have a 400-year history with creating copper wares. Coppre helps to connect these craftspeople with modern product designs and gives them a worldwide marketplace. As I scrolled through their Facebook, I was fascinated with their story. So I did a little interview with them to share it with you …

Why copper as the metal you use?

We love the sheen of copper. Copper reflects even the minutest changes in light quality; Light is a muse to copper. It is so amenable and versatile in accepting finishes – it can be made to shine bright, it dulls if left unfinished and can age to a rich natural patina over time. Also, copper is one of the oldest metals. It is very traditional and we want to present it in a contemporary fashion.

Table Setting with Coppre Wares

Coppre Song Bird Platter

So, this is a 400-year old art form from Maharashtra? Can you tell us more about the history?

The ‘Tambat” craftspeople we work with are traditional metal-working artisans. The craft itself has a recorded history of over 400 years. The skills and craft tools are passed on from one generation to the next. They migrated to Pune, in Western India, in the 17th century on the invitation of the Peshwas when they set up Pune as the administrative base. Under the Royal patronage of the Peshwas, the craftspeople flourished and made products such as artillery, seals and coins, ritual objects and utensils until the British victory over the Peshwas. The craftspeople were then relegated to making utensils.

Over the years, the craftspeople have had to face enormous challenges from growing copper prices, competition from machine-made and other easy to use materials such as plastic and steel. Coppre is an effort to make the heritage traditions relevant to today’s times with our design and marketing interventions. The craftspeople also work with Traders and are paid either on a kilo basis or on daily wages.

Coppre wants to bring in a paradigm shift in this – so we remunerate our artisans for each product crafted by them. We want their products to be perceived as a piece of art rather than an as an object.

Raw Materials to Become Coppre Products

Can you tell us about the process of making a Coppre product? What tools are used?

Tambat craft is a skill intensive craft and needs strength, dexterity and a keen hand-foot-eye coordination. The skills are passed on from one generation of the family to the next. ‘Matharkaam’ or beaten work is the distinguishing feature of Tambat craft. The hand-beaten indentations, made by profiled beating hammers, strengthen the object and enhance the inherent rich surface by imparting a mirror-like appearance. It is the only skill that the community could save from the onslaught of mechanization with the coming of British rule, which to date has not lent itself to be mimicked on any machine.

Here is a step-by step process of how Coppre’s popular Meditation Urli is made. Click the photo to open a larger size:

Making a Coppre Meditation Urli

Some of the tools used are khod karvai (metal worker’s saddle), shaping hammers, beating hammers, shears, marking tools, pincers and the like. These are passed on from one generation to another within the family.

The Tambat community has faced many challenges. The loss of the patronage of the Peshwas, the introduction of mechanization and the bans imposed by the British, forced the Tambats to set up their own shops to sell their wares to the commoners. Over the years, the members of the Tambat community practicing this craft have continued to dwindle. There were upto 800 Tambat households in the early 1970s. By the early 90s, The Tambat households in Pune city fell to 250. Currently, about 80-100 families directly depend on the Tambat Craft for their livelihood.

Tambat Copper Crafts in Pune India

Hit by changing traditions, rising copper prices on the commodity markets in recent years, the convenience offered by materials like stainless steel and plastic and the provocative economic opportunities outside the confines of their craft, has led to a near stagnation. Yet some families of the community persevere with this craft of shaping objects from sheets of copper they carry on the ghadkaam (raising, sinking and shaping of the utensil), the crafting of ritual wares, nakshikaam (repousse and chasing), and the crafting of one-off temple objects.

Passed on through apprenticeship from one generation to the next, today the craft remains in the hands of a few craftspeople with even fewer willing to take on this heritage craft.

Khod Karvai Tool for Making Copper Items

You have a modern take on traditional Indian wares which is a nice twist for today’s homes, such as your meditation urli. Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

We believe that there is much warmth, richness and cultural integrity in India’s designs and skills of yore. Traditionally, craftspeople lived and worked closely with the communities they serviced. Contemporary market requirements have now become alien to craftspeople as trends and fads are now dictated by a class (and geography) of people that are several times removed from our craftspeople. Coppre’s Founder and its Design Lead, Rashmi Ranade, believes that skilled craftspeople should once again have a direct link and contact with markets.

Some of Rashmi’s inspirations for Coppre’s collections include:

In the inaugural series, ‘Beautiful Copper’ she contemporarized her grandma’s trinket box and her mother’s meditation urli. The Ayurvedic practice of drinking Tamrajal (water stored in a copper vessel) from the lotta and kalshi, inspired her to create the bedside water carafe.

Coppre Bedside Water Carafe

In ‘Lamps & Flowers Festive Collection 2012’, she drew inspiration from nature- from palm leaves, castor leaves, peepal leaves and lotus buds.

In ‘Vintage Inspirations 2013’, she draws from influences of from a trunkful of antique brass/copper utensils, puja/ritual accessories brought to India by her friend’s grandmother during partition, from erstwhile East Pakistan.

Coppre Trinket Box

Will Coppre products develop a verdigris patina?

We coat our Coppre wares (except the Bedside Water Carafe and the thalis & katoris) with an imported lacquer which retards the oxidization. The shine on the Coppre wares will remain for 2-3 years depending on the humidity.

My husband grew up in India and he says during his childhood, the family’s drinking water was kept in a big copper vessel. I’ve heard that copper has antimicrobial properties. Is this true?

Traditional wisdom and practice prescribes the use of copper for storing drinking water. Copper vessels used for drinking water were ubiquitous across India. In Ayurveda, it is recommended to drink tamrajal (or water stored in a copper vessel). Scientific studies today show that water has anti-microbial properties amongst other benefits.

I see you can put together gift packages for wedding guests? What a wonderful idea. How could a bride go about doing this for her wedding?

Indeed! Copper is an auspicious metal and it makes for great wedding gifts. Besides, a handcrafted product is even more special. In a sense Coppre is a marriage of good design and our precious heritage. You could write to for more information.

Coppre Wedding Gift

How can people find out more about Coppre products?

Get in touch with us on Facebook: or you could write to us at

Coppre Coaster Set

P.S. I own a set of these coasters. Coppre is right when they say they can give a traditional craft a modern design sense! And their packaging is lovely too, with little copper stamps.

DIY Chalkboard Menu + Don’t Forget the Plastic Rooster

It was spotted at Hobby Lobby – a red chippy paint chalkboard menu. I have no need and no place for a chalkboard menu every day. But it could be a good occasional decoration for a dinner party or holiday meal. So I wanted to ”DIY it” on the cheap. Here’s the finished DIY chalkboard menu:

DIY Chalkboard Menu

Breaking the menu down into its parts, it’s very easy to put together yourself. Here’s the supplies (some I already had):


All supplies passed inspection by Chaai the Crafty Cat. From the bottom-up, the menu is built with:

  • A wood base
  • Candlestick
  • Small wood dowel
  • Two picture frames glued together back-to-back
  • Chalkboard painted inserts in picture frames
  • Plastic animal

Before I continue, you’re going to see some lack of continuity in the photos here. Because I tend to break things:


Yeah, two candlesticks fell over and broke! After that I decided not to try again with this candlestick style, and got a different one instead. The base of the new candlestick was too wide for the wood base you’ll see below, so that’s why a wood base is not in the final photo/finished project.

So here’s the first steps:


  1. I used two pieces of square beveled wood that are in craft store woodworking aisles for 79 cents. These two pieces were glued together. (Is the clamp overkill? Probably. But it was nearby, might as well use it! Made me feel like a super serious DIYer.)
  2. I chose a heavy resin candlestick because the menu should be bottom-heavy so it doesn’t tip over. I put wood filler in the top of the candleholder to make more surface for glue. Then I glued the candlestick upside down on the wood base.
  3. The frames did not have glass, so I cut heavy chipboard to make the chalkboard.
  4. Then the chipboard was painted with chalkboard spray paint. If you use two frames as I did, put the chipboard back into the frames before you glue the frames together. Sounds obvious, but I almost didn’t!
  5. Choose very lightweight picture frames so the menu doesn’t get top-heavy and tip over. Two $1 picture frames from Michael’s were glued together to make the menu two-sided. The frames were not exactly the same size (hey do you expect quality control for a buck?!), and this left obvious seams along the sides. I added some wood filler to blend the size difference.
  6. Next I glued the finished picture frame assembly to the candleholder.

See how using the candleholder upside down gives more surface for gluing the frames. This gives more stability because there will be pressure while writing and cleaning the chalkboards:


The frames came with tiny wood dowels. I wanted to cut a dowel to hold chalk in place. But looking at the options around here … there was a chainsaw … and there were  Xacto knives. Nothing in between that’s just right! It’s like the Cinderella story of tools around here. So I hacked at a dowel with a kitchen knife. After that chop job and sanding, I glued the dowel to the candleholder, leaving space to hold chalk:


Then I glued a lightweight plastic rooster to the top of the frame. Because the Hobby Lobby menu had a rooster there. So I guess I was stuck on the idea that a rooster must be there. It’s better than other plastic animal options at craft stores: tiger, dragon, pterodactyl … those are not exactly charming. Our menu shouldn’t include animals that would eat us. But hey if pterodactyl is your style, go for it. A rhinestone skull? Go for it! I should have been more unique! There was a turkey at Michaels – perfect for a Thanksgiving menu.

Now this whole assembly looks so weird, right? Like a Franken-menu:


What if I stopped here, and said “wow, isn’t this great looking!” You’d tell me honestly what you think, wouldn’t you?

We’ll fix this so it looks good. This was very simple to do with paint. I painted two coats of Annie Sloan Emperor’s Silk chalk paint. Then I dry-brushed brown and ochre colors of acrylic paint to make distressed highlights here ‘n there.

Antique Effect with Dry-Brushed Paint

Painted Plastic Rooster

Candlestick Painted with Antique Effect

Finally, to protect the chalk paint, I buffed the red painted areas with Annie Sloan clear soft wax. Obviously you don’t want to put wax on the chalkboard paint.

And here you have it, a chalkboard menu!

DIY Country Chalkboard Menu

Isn’t this something to crow about?

Painting and Stenciling in India

A few months ago I was sitting in my in-laws’ home in Chennai, India and kept staring at a big blank wall just inside the main entrance of their flat. It’s visible from the entire living room/dining/kitchen area. And I imagined, what if? What if it was a bold color? What if it had a design on it? Wouldn’t it make the place feel different? It would  welcome people as they stepped in. It would embrace people with color. But no one we know does things like this to their walls there.

But now they have this wall:

Stenciled Wall in India

I chose deep red to coordinate with the textiles found around the room.

Painting supplies from the U.S. were already stashed there, waiting for when they’re needed to decorate our own apartment. And I know my way around Asian Paints locations near T Nagar neighborhood in Chennai very well! Better than anyone who lives near Chicago should know about paint sources in Chennai! Because when I wasn’t looking, I somehow turned into a painting addict.

That’s why I got the itch while sitting in a chair. Staring at a blank wall. In India.

It so happened my father-in-law said he’d like birds on the wall. And I knew that Asian Paints has a stencil with branches, foliage and birds (they call stencils “wall fashions”). So we visited our local friendly Asian Paints dealer, who is within walking distance down dusty Usman Road:

Asian Paints in T Nagar Chennai

Asian Paints Store in Chennai

Yes, this the dealer of my painting drug when we’re in Chennai! Don’t be fooled by appearances. If you haven’t been to India, a lot of places are not like our Home Depots, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have good stuff. They can mix anything you want here. Even rich gold shiny metallic paints! I have some. They said that only designers buy that kind of paint. My husband assured them that I’d know what to do with the shiny gold metallic paint. People aren’t really into DIY there. Labor is affordable so you pay people to do many laborious things. Except, what if you enjoy doing these things?

It was a spectacle for awhile. Relatives stopped by.  My husband’s cousins. Many cousins dropped by, curious to see this painting going on.

Painting Wall Stencils in India

If that tube light is bright for you in the photo, imagine your eyes up next to it!

Stenciling a Wall in India

That wooden bench is said to be about 100 years old and belonged to my husband’s grandpa. Apparently the bench had a beautiful old worn wood patina. But they wanted it to look new so they painted it “new brown wood” color. We joked that we’ll strip the paint off of it on the next trip. Okay maybe we are serious about that …

Sometimes I had to improvise because supplies aren’t available like they are in the U.S. So a Q-tip (AKA earbud) became a touch-up brush. It worked fine. I didn’t have a stencil brush or sea sponge, so I used edges of paint rollers to “pounce” paint color onto the stencils. The only paper towels I had were from a roll brought from the U.S.

Painting Stencils in India

The best thing was seeing the pride in my father- and mother-in-law over their new wall! Smiles all around! They even sent roses to our Bangalore hotel (we had to move on to our next city the next day) because they were so happy about the wall.

Asian Paints Wall Fashion on Wall in India

I’m starting to think it can be even better to paint for other people, than to paint only for myself.


DIY Sari-Inspired Stenciled Wall Panel

So when I saw Royal Design Studio’s new Indian stencils last month, I saw a sari! The patterns of India’s saris are so gorgeous, I could drape all the walls and windows in my house with them, and live inside a silken sari tent. But I don’t do such craziness because I live with a guy, and he wouldn’t be happy living in a tent made of women’s clothing. He’s already told me that his male business associates who stay in our guest room sometimes might feel funny sleeping under a sari bedspread. So, okay we can pass on that. But there is a sari canopy over the guest room bed and apparently that’s acceptable for guests.

I indulged in lust for more sari patterns by painting a sari-inspired wall panel with some of the new Indian stencils:

Stenciled Sari Pattern Wall Panel

Well, something had to be done with the doors removed from the closet I recently turned into an exotic sitting nook! And indeed this is a huge door-sized panel, it’s about 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Head on over to to see my post where I share all the how-to-do-it stenciling details. There I show how to lay out the stencils to get the backgrounds and patterns lined up just right.

To get this look, I recommend using Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes. They have a shimmer that’s just like silk! To create a silken look, as you can see in the photo above, I created vertical lines by drawing the paint brush down in long continuous vertical strokes. Yeah my arm got tired, and five-foot tall me had to stand on a step stool, but don’t lift that brush off the panel! Keep making long unbroken vertical strokes the entire length of each background color. This way, the stencil creme looks like the threads of silk. So cool! I didn’t expect that when I started painting, but was thrilled when I saw it happening.

And would you believe, there are only three colors of paint used here? It’s true! I used Peacock Fancy, Patina Green and Smoked Oyster stencil cremes. Often the patterns of saris are woven with only a few colors. You just switch the colors of backgrounds and foregrounds/patterns to make it look like there are more colors. Here is my “formula” for choosing stencils and paints to make a sari panel:

Formula for Creating a Painted Sari Look

Choose the darkest of your three paint colors for “Color #1.” This will be the background color at the bottom of the panel, and will visually “ground” your sari panel. Then choose a medium and a light color for Colors #2 and #3. Make sure you have strong contrast between the colors so your stenciled patterns will show up well. I think it looks more like a sari if one of the paint colors is a metallic like a gold or a silver.

Painted Stenciled Sari Panel

Can I take a moment to rave about the Annapakshi Damask Stencil? It’s the pattern at the top of the sari panel:

Annapakshi South Indian Motif Damask Stencil

I especially loved the Annapakshi motif because it’s a South Indian motif often used on Kanchipuram (or Kanjivaram, spelled different ways) silk saris that are hand-woven in a village by the same name in South India. These saris can be woven with real gold and are very fine. They’re often worn by brides and for very special occasions. Here’s an example:

Kanchipuram Sari

Hmmm, can you see my color palette was probably influenced here?

The Annapakshi, as explained by Sarangi, a Kanjivaram sari shop in Chennai that often uses this motif in its designs, is a mythical swan bird. You can find it carved into the columns of ancient temples in India. Today it’s often used in brass lamps that are lighted for important events. It’s auspicious to light a lamp with an Annapakshi which symbolizes purity:

Annapakshi Brass Lamp

And the motif is often woven into South Indian saris like this one from Sarangi:

Sarangi Sari with Annapakshi Bird Motif

They do look sort of like peacocks, but they are not peacocks. They are said to be white birds like swans, and they can separate milk from water when they drink, so that they drink only the purity of white milk.

I will definitely be on the hunt for brass Annapakshi lanterns on a future India trip. In the meantime, I was happy to paint with the Annapakshi stencil!


India Travel Memories in Stenciled Silk

Oh how I love silk! I love the sheen. There’s nothing like it in other fabrics. Silk can take on the boldest, strongest colors and hold them fast and never let go. I love the “hand” – how silk feels when you scrunch it up in your hand. It even makes a crunchy sound as a sewing machine needle punches through it. Silk appeals to all your senses. And now, I love painting on silk. This is not the last project where I’ll stencil on silk, that’s for sure.

Painting on Silk

This is the cushion in a closet nook that I converted into an exotic reading nook. I wrote previously about the stenciled bench front below the cushion. And now for the “how-to” for the cushion stenciling, you can find my tips about stenciling on silk at my post about this cushion at Paint and Pattern blogzine. Paint and Pattern is a fun, creative, inspirational website run by the company that creates these gorgeous stencils I use a lot, Royal Design Studio.

Stenciling on Silk Fabric

The stencils used here are new India-inspired stencils that Royal Design Studio created: Taj Tile Border along the edge of the cushion, and the elegant Rani Paisley Damask stencil on the top of the cushion. The paint is their Stencil Creme formulated specifically for stenciling (and it’s great for other painting too). The cremes make a perfect crisp edge with the stencils, and they have a slight metallic sheen that looks great on silk. If you want to stencil on silk, I highly recommend these stencil cremes. A paint that would dry matte like an acrylic or fabric paints wouldn’t look quite right on the sheen of silk. But as you can see in the photos, the stencil creme has an iridescence that matches the silk.

India-Inspired Stencils on Silk Fabric

The cushion is made of a teal color silk dupioni that I found at Nalli sari shop in the Malleswaram shopping district in Bengaluru last year. I like to buy raw materials like fabrics while traveling, then turn them into my own unique souvenir when I get home, like a pillow or a skirt, or a bigger ambitious project like this seat cushion.

This piece of silk is also special to me because I found it during my first foray out and about an Indian city by myself. I was on my own wandering around the whole day, and it was a very freeing experience. Malleswaram has a huge mall with many American brands – Mantri Square – where most travelers will find refuge and great shopping therapy. But honestly I preferred to walk around the streets and their mish-mash of tiny local shops. I started the day in Mantri Square but was quickly itching to get out of there and into the streets. I did not worry about anything, as I’d already been to India three (maybe four? forgetting now) times before that trip, and felt comfortable enough to deal with the challenges. Such as, to deal with crossing road traffic safely, I walked behind other people who knew what they were doing and used them as shields! No harm done!

I liked the Malleswaram neighborhood because my husband is Tamil from Chennai and Malleswaram is a neighborhood of Tamilians in Bangalore so the whole neighborhood felt familiar. Just seeing familiar things was comforting. The streets are shaded by towering trees so the temperature was comfortable too.

I was thrilled to be wandering up a street and saw way up ahead, the familiar “Nalli” sign I know so well from Chennai!

Nalli in Malleswaram Bengaluru

And there I found the silk dupioni in the perfect shade of teal for the nook cushion!

Anyway, just looking at this silk makes me remember all of that. And the fun conversation with a young lady who was selling kolam designs from her sidewalk blanket.

Travel Lesson in Bangalore

She had plastered the sidewalk with samples as advertisements, leading you right to her blanket. People in India might ask you very personal questions pretty quickly, and years ago I would get annoyed because in U.S. culture you don’t ask people you just met such intensely personal questions, but now I just let that go while in India and run with it. And of course she asked me questions, and we wound up laughing and having a great time chatting, and a great big familiar hug good-bye. There’s a lesson there! I think it’s all in how you respond to it, and when traveling you can learn so much by letting go of hang-ups.

Yes, there is a lot to remember in a piece of simple but special silk. And now it’s a part of a special corner of my home.

Stenciled Closet Nook with Silk Cushion