The screw-pine mats have an old romantic history. Screw pine weaving of mats is one of the oldest crafts practised by women in Kerala. The leaves for this mat are taken from the sword-shaped thorny screw-pine plant. The Mats were once the favourite of sailors who used to employ them as sails for ships. There is a place near Quilon called Kadalpai sail mat which indicates that this was once a centre for producing the sail mats popular at the time even with the foreign ships.
There are two varieties of screw pines used in the making of mats. The short variety is used for a number of items as it can be both bleached and dyed. The entire process is laborious as the leaf has sharp thorns growing in both direction on its ribs. A long and thick coconut fibre is used to remove the thorny edges on the midrib of the leaves, followed by the splitting which done with thinner coconut fibre.
The finer varieties of mats need narrower splits and as they need to be extra silky, so they are boiled in milk. The strips can be dyed in a multitude of colours for ornamental designs. The weaving is done crosswise; and interlacing continues as new strips are added. On completion the edges are hemmed with narrow screw-pine strips. Superfine mats made of very fine screw-pine leaf splints placed at 8 to 10 per inch are woven by the experienced craftsmen.
But In the coarser variety of mats the edges are woven simultaneously and the weaving starts with two strips, while at the edges it is continued with a single strip. Embroidery in the form of decorative stitching adds to the attractiveness of the products. A two-ply mat consists of a fine upper layer and a coarse bottom one stitched at the edges. The coarser variety of maps is commonly used as a sleeping mat, while the large and rough mats are used for drying grass.
Artifacts made of Screw Pine
The products made are tablemats, beach hats, bags, wall hangings, and cushion covers.