Tasar Box

I love, love, LOVE getting packages from India.

They are always full of wonderful stuff – but they also have the most charming and interesting packaging. It seems like they’re put together with a particular aesthetic – like they’re put together with precision and care… out of whatever’s at hand.

The front label is pretty uneventful. LOTS of stamps, and a misspelling – but it’s pretty standard.

Stamps continue onto the side of the box.

The back label is a little more interesting – lots of stamping, and writing. The full-sheet label is glued onto the package wrapping.

This doesn’t look so much like a customs statement, as a note to the postman. Maybe a special tax stamp is supposed to go here, and they had to explain.

Both of the short ends are sealed with sealing wax. LOTS of sealing wax.

Can you see that, under the wax seals, there is stitching? The whole thing is wrapped in cotton muslin. Hand stitched closed.

Stitching shows on the inside more than on the outside. Maybe it’s tougher to open a stitched parcel and get away with it?

Inside, the actual box is made of wood. Surprisingly light, it is apparent that at least the large flat pieces have had previous lives.

It’s put together with nails. Three different sizes of tiny nails.

Inside, nestled in a bed of rough cotton-wool, is what I REALLY wanted to see – Tasar cocoons! The real deal, complete with peduncles.

These are really handsome ones. The veiny-looking outer surface of the cocoon, is specific to this species – the caterpillar chews up tree bark and mixes it with silk to make the rings and this tough outer layer.

The peduncles are designed to hold the cocoon to the twig it’s spun on. They look like little leather lassos – or actually, like little curettes.

When people say that Tasar cocoons are “as big as a hen’s egg,” they’re not just making it up. This is a Grade A Large egg, but I bet if it were a Medium, the cocoon could kick its butt. It’s about as tall, just not quite as wide.

0 replies
  1. paroxytone
    paroxytone says:

    I am constantly amazed at how much nicer some of the packages from foreign countries are. Japanese sellers will often wrap things very carefully, and they usually include some sort of post card or thank you note along with the package.

  2. snousle
    snousle says:

    My impression of the Indian post is that parcels are sealed to show evidence of tampering, because if they aren’t they will most likely have their contents pilfered. My aunt said when she was there she actually had to watch the stamps being cancelled on her envelope, otherwise the stamp would “accidentally” fall off and her letters would go undelivered.

  3. arianadii
    arianadii says:

    That package inside and out is more interesting than most of the art I’ve seen recently.

    I used to order fabrics from India and the packaging really is wonderful. One seller would send everything sewn up into a well rubbed cloth bag and actually “embroider” onto it. It just made my day to get one of those.

  4. admin
    admin says:

    Probably a little of both. I mainly want them for the display – I may try reeling with them. They’re very difficult to reel; it requires cooking in a caustic soda bath, then an overnight soak, then reeling damp in a basin. I want to try it, but may wait until I have cocoons that were a little less dear.

  5. admin
    admin says:

    That makes a lot of sense. I’ve wondered that with some other packages I’ve received, but this one really shows a lot of ingenuity to thwart tampering.

  6. grain_damaged
    grain_damaged says:

    You should save those for display and try reeling less impressive cocoons (as I recall it takes quite a bit of singles to get one decent sized “thread”… I want to say 32?) However, those cocoons are quite delightful and the packaging is most appealing as well!

  7. admin
    admin says:

    The standard number for reeling with these, I think is seven… they’re a heavier filament than Bombyx. I kinda want to try with them – but I also want to get like 100 so I can mess some up without mentally counting the dollars!

  8. grain_damaged
    grain_damaged says:

    They are massive aren’t they? ::grin:: I can see how you wouldn’t need to use as many singles if the denier was larger. I’ve never made any serious attempt myself but have a few Bombyx cocoons laying around the house that I’ve “picked at” trying to find the filament. I hand carried them back from China while working over there a few years back.

    Which reminds me, I keep thinking I need to scan in some photos I took while touring a few silk manufacturing facilities in rural China. I thought it might be interesting for you to share them with your students. Maybe once I quit my job I’ll have time while the babe naps… let me know if you’re interested.

  9. admin
    admin says:

    Very cool! yes, I would enjoy seeing those.

    I need to get over there, myself… but it’s still on the “when I have time/money” list

  10. attack_laurel
    attack_laurel says:

    Oh, awesome! You totally need to put feet on one of them.

    The stitched packaging is great – just like 500 years ago!
    (I used to have the hardest time getting people to believe that they used to sew packages into coarse cloth for shipping sometimes.)

  11. admin
    admin says:

    Yeah – this isn’t the first thing I’ve gotten from India with stitched packaging; I had some yarn samples come over looking like a hard, small pillow. I am sure that it’s designed to thwart pilfering, but it’s beautiful and sturdy to boot.

  12. de_foxley
    de_foxley says:

    Holy cow! Those surely are some big cocoons! Interesting to see the peduncles, I had no idea that this was how the cocoon attached to the tree. Thank you for sharing with photographs! I’m looking forward to seeing your thread.

  13. admin
    admin says:

    These peduncles are specific to that one species – some other kinds make a kind of silk web over the end of the branch and leaf, but only A. mylitta makes the little ring things.

  14. haptotrope
    haptotrope says:

    yup. you go to the post office, you show them the contents, they approve, you take the box to a tailor, who then wraps/seals/sews (tape and plastic isn’t readily available, and pre-adhesive things just-don’t-work in the topics — also moisture trapping!) Then you bring it back, and bring your gluestick, and glue on your stamps, then send the package.


  15. admin
    admin says:

    Wow! I had no idea. It makes sense, now that I see it all laid out… but I hadn’t even thought about issues of adhesives and such.

  16. admin
    admin says:

    Re: nice

    Hey! I had missed this comment when you made it back in May – I’ve got the info for the guy I got them from in India, if you want to order some – I paid a Pound (GBP) apiece for them, plus shipping; they ended up being a little over $2.50 each once I got them with the shipping. It’s WAAAY too high, but I really wanted to have them, and they’re just almost impossible to get.

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