There is hardly a more Tatar souvenir than a tyubeteyka, or skullcap. Craftswoman Guzel Timerbulatova acquainted reporters at the Kazan City Press Center with the history of this headwear and skullcap making techniques.
She believes that the skullcap is the most popular souvenir in Tatarstan, along with the Kazan Cat and honey-sweet chak-chak local delicacy.
When Guzel showed bead-embroidered velvet skullcaps, the audience gasped in admiration. The caps of various sizes and colors were passed around, and the reporters and volunteers were putting on a skullcap or even two skullcaps (a smaller one for ladies and a larger one for men) and taking selfies.
All of Guzel's items are handmade. She chose velvet and seed beads for her skullcaps. These are the materials she prefers. The skullcaps thus made, she argues, look prettier and more vibrant. Of course, today you can manufacture skullcaps at a factory, but there is no way to embroider them with beads unless by hand.
"Bead embroidery cannot be mass produced. All of my skullcaps are handmade," Guzel said.
She uses Czech or Japanese seed beads due to their fine quality and durability, and she designs the patterns for each skullcap herself.
The forefather of the modern skullcap is a diamond-shaped helmet liner.
"In the past, skullcaps were made entirely from fabric and were worn under helmets," Guzel explained.
The tablet-shaped skullcap came from Turkey and became popular in the times of Gabdulla Tukay. Young girls wore small skullcaps that had to be pinned to their hair. Skullcaps for married women were larger and fully covered the head.
Earlier, low-key colors were used: green, white, grey and black. Today, velvet comes in all colors and shades. Guzel's collection boasts glamorous soft-pink skullcaps. After all, Vivienne Westwood used traditional Scottish checks for her provocative mini-skirt.
The reporters and volunteers chose patches of velvet to their taste. Guzel warned them that one workshop was not enough to complete a skullcap. This may take up to two weeks, depending on the size and the embroidery pattern. The workshop participants were by no means disheartened by this fact: they were entrusted to embroider rectangular pieces of fabric with seed beads. Choosing shiny beads was a thrilling experience. And although no one managed to take home a skullcap of his or her own making, the reporters and volunteers felt like real Tatar couturiers.