Last week I was in such a flutter trying to get the house and menu ready for two dinner parties- one on Sunday and the other Thursday- that I got completely ahead of myself. Meaning I woke up Wednesday to find that the house was clean, the table set, the shopping done, even the laundry done! I had nothing left to do!
So, I broke out a mehendi cone and painted my hand. Rather, I drew on my hand... Anyway, if you want to try it yourself, it's not all that difficult. You'll need:
- Mehendi: I buy prepared cones from the Indian store, which is easiest, but if you want more control over the quality of the paste (and depth of color) you can buy powder and mix it yourself.
- Plenty of paper towel: for practicing lines and dots when you start, clearing the tip of smears and clogs, checking the consistency before you start your design, and to fold or roll into tiny points to clear up any flubs.
- Scissors: to adjust the width and angle of your tip as you go.
- A nice dark surface (or cleanable one!) on which to work.
You'll also need some inspiration for a design. There are LOTS of great designs available online. For this particular session I was inspired by the inside of a tea box!
Before you snip the top off the cone, squish the paste around a bit to make sure it's well mixed. You don't want all the liquid running out the tip leaving dry lumps somewhere in the middle! Start with a very very small opening- you can always make it bigger! Try making a few lines and dots on the paper towel to check the opening size. The practice is good, too!
When you're ready to start, it's generally easiest to draw in the largest design element(s) and fill in around them. And when you do get to the filling in part, use the candle lighting method- start with the parts farthest from your drawing hand so that you have a spot to rest your drawing hand as long as possible. (Except, of course, when lighting candles it's so you don't burn yourself!)
If you're like me, you're slow at the application and the places you did first will start drying before you finish. Some people apply a mixture of lemon and sugar at this point to keep it damp and make it stay on the hand longer. Personally, doing that drives me crazy! I don't think it makes much of a difference in the result, but it makes it IMPOSSIBLE to do anything in the meantime because your hand is so darn sticky!
I let the paste flake away as it dries. If you've used good paste you'll see the color developing into a bright orange within an hour.
After a couple of hours I invariably get a little impatient with the bits that are still clinging, which I scrape off with a butter knife. The one thing you DON'T want to do is get your hand wet! For some reason that seems to halt the color development altogether. And let me tell you, when you've spent two hours painstakingly penning the design out on your hand, it's INCREDIBLY frustrating if the color doesn't take!
If however you are patient enough, after 5 or 6 hours you'll have something like this:
Depending on the paste you used the color may develop to a dark reddish brown over the next 24 hours. The color will start to fade in three or four days, and is usually completely gone in a couple of weeks. After about one week you can really only see it if you're looking, at which point Hubby insists it looks like a skin disease!
In the meantime, however, you will discover yourself an instant fascination for just about every Indian person you run into! And there's also the lovely (and occasionally overpowering) herbal fragrance that you can smell as long as there's a speck of color on your hand!