This silk mat/ Pattu paai / Pattamadai pai (mat) - a beautifully crafted floor mat will remind you of the afternoon naps at your grandma's house. The mat is woven using cotton or silk in the weft. Use of silk thread gives a royal sheen and definite appeal to the mat.
This comes from Pattamaadai, a small village in Thirunalveli district of Tamil Naadu, and hence its name. The majority of mats made in here have cotton warps and Korai (Marsh reed) wefts. Korai belongs to the sedge family of plants, Cyperaceae. Korai grass is found in abundance along the banks of the rivers and in marshy areas in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The most unique aspect of a Pattamadai mat is how soft and flexible it is. The mats, depending on the weaving range from soft to super fine. The finest and most closely woven mats are called "pattu pai" or silk mats because them feel like a bolt of silk and fall like cloth. It takes nearly 45 days of soaking and processing and then about 2 - 3 weeks to make a single mat. The processing and weaving time can extend to nearly 4 months for a super fine "pattu" pai.
The grass which grows to a height of 3-4 feet is green in colour. The grass is harvested in the months of September/ October and February/March and is cut very finely while it is still green. The outer part of the stem is used for weaving while the inside of the stem is removed with a sharp-edged knife. The strips of grass are then dried in the hot sun and care is taken not to expose the grass to humidity, as they tend to turn black with the exposure. As the dried grass strips turn a yellowish green colour they are boiled in a pot of water and then dried again. The dried grass is made up into bundles and then soaked in running water so that the grass remains just below the surface of the water for three to seven days which causes the grass to swell up to three times its original size. After it is then dried again in the sun the slow process of weaving commences on a floor loom. Once the weaving is complete, the mat is dried in the sun for a short while after which it is polished.
In older times, a bride and groom were gifted with a pair of Pattamadai pais on their wedding date, painstakingly hand made and inscribed with their names and wedding date. These pais have a very long life and were meant to take the couple through their entire life and its stages, including the birth of a child and co-sleeping with an infant.