Beetled garments

The beetled garments are part of the culture I created around my DnD character Gram Crackers, a goblin druïd. Her tribe lives in symbiosis with a massive white beetle that is treated as their protective god. As such, beetles are a significant part of their everyday culture.  
The Kakkle swamp goblins of Grolkeehee have mastered the craft of making beetled robes. They gather the delicate elytra of beetles and sew them on to their best clothes. A true master can make even embroideries with gems look dull in comparison.
— Baba Hawker, Traveling merchant

Manufacturing process

Every year during summer the beetle population of the Grolkeehee swamp islands explodes. The beetles lead short lives and the surroundings will be littered with dead beetles for months. During this timespan, the Kakkle goblins will go out to gather as many corpses of their preferred beetle as possible. These will be cleaned and processed until only the shiny clean elytra (wing shells) are left.
After cleaning, a goblin will spend days sewing every elytra onto their garment of choice with a very fine needle made of bone. The patterns will often become more and more complicated as the goblin adds to it with each passing year.

Materials

Every piece is unique, as every goblin has different preferences for beetles, fabrics, colours and patterns.  
Some goblins will choose to use the elytra of large black beetles while others prefer the appearance of the tiny gem beetles that shimmer brightly under the light. Goblins with little skill will often choose for a more common beetle that is easy to find so they can afford to make mistakes and start over. Lucky for them, the rarity of the beetle does not seem to factor into how the others perceive them.
However, goblins like shiny things and thus the beetles that shimmer and glimmer are far more popular than those with dull exteriors.
Gathering
Most of the goblins will wait patiently to gather the beetles they want after it has done its thing and died. The Kakkle tribe lives in symbiosis with their surroundings and uphold the principle of 'nature is ruthless, cruel and beautiful'.
Elytra processing
After gathering the desired beetles the goblins will carefully remove the elytra from the corpses, clean them and leave them out to dry for a few days in order to remove any undesired beetle parts, such as the wings.
Then the wing shells are steamed in small batches to soften them up* so they can be cut in the desired shape and pierced without breaking.
    *Note: elytra are made of the same material as nails, who knew?
This principle is why the tribe doesn't care too much if a goblin is too impatient to wait and takes steps to more efficiently harvest their desired beetle. That is, as long as these actions don't interfere with the balance of the swamp's ecosystem and that goblin is the only one to face the beetle gods potential wrath.

Underlying fabric

There are no rules for what the underlying garment and embroidery thread should be made of. Even though the goblins will always use the finest materials they can acquire, the fabric and thread can still range from coarse linen to smooth silk. They may even use thick wool that is far too warm for the climate if it is the best they can find.
These fabrics will often be of a solid colour or have very subtle colour variations in order to let the beetle-work stand out and speak for itself.

Significance

The cultural significance of the beetled garments is immense. A goblin may spend their entire, often short, reckless lives working on gathering the elytra and sewing them onto their chosen garment their entire life. It is a time-consuming job but the garments are important in both life and death.  

Status, skill and age

The quality of the wing shells and the intricacy of the patterns are a dead give away of the goblins skills and concentration.
The elytra are extremely fragile and must first be treated before being stitched on with a fine needle. It is a job that requires immense amounts of time, patience, precision and nimble hands to display its full beauty. Otherwise, the wing shells that had been gathered with much effort will crack or begin to decay.
Properly making a single garment may take years. This is why many goblins of the lower classes choose to spend what little time they have on a single garment with intricate patterns made with the elytra rather than the amount.
by MPoel
  A goblin who has more than one garment is either old by goblin standards or is of high status and has a lot of free time to work on the garments. The amount of Elytra used has a similar indication.
The base fabrics used underneath, as said previously, will always be the best quality that the goblin could get. Naturally, this is heavily influenced by the goblins social status within the tribe. Low ranking goblins most often use coarse linen fabrics and sometimes leather, which is difficult to work with. In contrast, the goblins of high status often have garments with a silk fabric base or wool from the mainland.   Due to the garment's function in the showing of their social status, skill and age the goblins wear their pieces as often as possible while taking good care of it. For a goblin working in the field, this often means that they'll only wear it on special occasions or around the house so it doesn't get damaged. The spiritual leader, on the other hand, would wear their pieces nearly every day while outside because there's less possibility for them to get their garments damaged.  

Burial clothes

When a goblin of the Kakkle tribe dies they will be wrapped up in their beetled garments and buried with it. The reason for this was a mystery for ages until a curious traveller actually bothered to ask.   The second function, and maybe the most important one to the goblins, is that of a duplicate soul. The saying of "putting your heart and soul into something" is taken very literally.
The Kakkle tribe is an avid believer of reïncarnation similar to Buddhism. The goblins believe that the beetled garments can be used to pay off debts your soul may need to pay so your next life will be a bit better than it should be.
Of course, such a deal would only work if enough time and effort are put into the garments and it is their own soul. This is why the goblins spend years on one single piece and it is incredibly uncommon to have someone else make the garments for you. Even if it isn't forbidden to have someone else do the beetling, it is frowned upon.   Asking a Kakkle goblin to sell their garment is perceived as an immense insult.
The goblin that ferried along to the mainland has a simple blue robe embroidered with beetle shells that shimmer in more colours than opals. All delicately stitched in swirling patterns with not a single one cracked. I wonder how much they would sell it for.
— Baba Hawker, Traveling merchant, moments before he got stabbed
by MPoel
Item type
Clothing / Accessory
Raw materials & Components
  • The finest fabric garment available
  • A fine thread, preferably high quality
  • An ultra-thin bone needle
  • Lots of Elytra from your favourite beetle

Fine bone needle

A thin needle carved from bone that has an extraordinarily sharp tip. It is made for the explicit purpose of poking holes in the wing shells of beetles for embroidery.   The especially old and valuable versions that are passed down as family heirlooms are decorated with detailed engravings. These engravings often depicted local fauna or beetles.
by MPoel
Eternal beetle
God | May 13, 2021
 
Kakkle tribe
Organization | May 9, 2021
  Author: MPoel
World: brass_phoenix
Art: MPoel
CSS: brass_phoenix   A nice and short article over real-world beetle-embroidery Here en Here.

Cover image: by MPoel

Comments

Author's Notes

This article is an entry for the Costume challenge and is a cooperation between MPoel and brass_phoenix. Comments and feedback are appreciated!


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Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
7 May, 2021 14:56

Nice article, I like that you've used inspiration from a little-known real world technique. It's also nice that your goblins are not killing the beetle directly but wait for them to die naturally. Although I have to wonder if anyone ever becomes impatient… What if they find a rare beetle and just want "accelerate" the natural process? How is the killing of beetles perceived if they have a beetle as a god?   Since the robe is so important for their culture, do they even have anyone else make a nice robe for them so that they can pretend to have that kind of skills? You say that it is rather taboo, but hasn't anyone still tried to do it? What about asking a friend for a little help here and there? Would that be ok?   Do the goblins use those beetle robes for everyday life or just for special occasions? Do they have more than one robe or do they prefer to focus on making one magnificent one?     Small remark: you could also use a tooltip for your note if you want.

Feel free to check my ship challenge article.
7 May, 2021 17:22

Okay, I am going to adjust the article because I realised I forgot to elaborate on multiple things.
In the meantime, here are my answers in order:   They are firm believers of the balance of nature in the 'nature is cruel, ruthless and beautiful.' This basically means they don't care how you get the shells as long as it doesn't damage the balance of the swamp's ecosystem. And you alone face the potential wrath of the beetle god.   The tribe itself is fairly small so trickery would easily be discovered, not that it is forbidden. But the secondary function of the clothes is to be a 'secondary soul. If someone else made it for you it would lose that function and typically a goblin would spend their entire short and reckless life to complete one single garment. This is why asking to buy such a piece from a goblin is considered an insult because you are essentially asking them to sell their soul to you. They take the phrase 'putting your heart and soul into something' very seriously.   How often they wear the robes depends very much on the status of the goblin. Workers in the field would only wear their piece on special occasions while the higher ranking goblins would wear them much more often because there's less danger of damaging their clothes in day-to-day life.
Some goblins have more than one piece of beetled clothing. But like I implied earlier goblins don't typically live long lives (DnD 5e-This is mostly because they are reckless and impulsive) and beetling a robe takes a long time. If a goblin has more than one garment it either means they are old by goblin standards or/and high status with a lot of free time (my character is both).

7 May, 2021 18:22

Okay, sTOP it. Gram Crackers? That's too cute. Love it.   I realize you've made some updates since reading/replying to Amelie's comment, but I think it's important to expand, tweak on those subjects. While I was reading, I had the thought, "I bet this would result in a serious demand for goblin seamsters to make really, REALLY fancy beetled garments!" Until I got to the very end, and then read your reply, which is when I realized the personal/soul aspect. That's important! I'd emphasize it, maybe expand on that.   But seriously, love it. Shiny garments are good. *thumbs up*

8 May, 2021 07:49

Thank you! I'm glad you like it.   Gram Crackers also likes her name a lot. :)   I also realised only with Amelie's comment that I should probably have expanded and emphasised that bit....

8 May, 2021 19:05

Oh very original idea for garments you made here! Love it. I like how they actually wait for beetles to die of natural causes to show respect for nature. It is nice how detailed you worked out the social importance and the method of making the garments.   I saw the other comments and the suggestions they made and it seems you made some nice answers to them in the article ^^ Really like the fact that the garment is seen as part of the goblin who died! Nice read.

Feel free to check out My Ship entry if you want to see what I am up to!
9 May, 2021 06:44

Thank you Kefkejaco! I started out with thinking "I bet using beetles for embroidery would look awesome" and was correct. Then I just went on questioning how this nature-attuned tribe would do so and why they would choose such a time-consuming method of showing status and respect to the beetle.   I'm also glad to have confirmation I actually do answer those earlier questions in the article itself now. :)

22 May, 2021 11:32

That was a lovely article! I love the idea of tribes of goblins more interested in harvesting dead beetles than the usual shenanigans we see them do in fantasy.   I do wonder, however, whether a word such as "elytra" would exist in this setting. It is a highly specialized word in our world. How advanced is this world to have technical terms for something like insect parts? Alternatively, is this perhaps a goblin word, given the importance that such a beetle part has to them?   This ties in with another aspect of the article: you make several, out-of-world comments. I personally find them very intrusive, and they take me out of the fantasy of reading about your world as if it was a real world. This is personal preference, of course, but I figured I should mention it so that you are aware of the potential effect it has on readers.   Last off, I loved the idea of the cloak being absolutely taboo to sell or transfer in life, but being quite useful to pay off debts and improve in your next life. While it may seem like a contradiction, is precisely the sort of weird fact you'd find in our world. It was all very neat :)

26 May, 2021 13:20

Hi mcGatta. thank you for the feedback. Could you maybe elaborate on what 'out of the world' things I put into the article? I never wrote it from the perspective of the goblin tribe. At most, it would have been an interested merchant. I used the world elytra because that's the actual word for that specific part of the beetle. Which is something these bug lovers would probably know about.

26 May, 2021 14:23

Hi there,
Please note that I didn't say that you wrote it from the perspective of the goblin tribe. Or even make a mention as to what perspective was the article written from. So I'm not 100% sure what do you mean by that.
About your question of out-of-world comments: I don't have time to re-read the whole article and it's been a few days since I read it. But things like "I created around my DnD character" or the links to real-world examples are the sort of thing I was talking about. And again, as I said in my previous comment: this is entirely personal. Some other people may like these touches. I find them immersion breaking.

26 May, 2021 14:38

Oh, that's what you meant. I was a bit confused. Thank you for the comment and the like! I always enjoy reading other people's feedback because it points things out I never considered.

26 May, 2021 02:39

This is a really great article! The concept is very unique, and it helps to flesh out the cultures of your world as well. I really enjoy the manufacturing process behind this outfit. Adding onto the outfit every year is a nice little addition that really makes not just the outfit itself, but every little bit behind it, all the more interesting.   Also, I'm just a sucker for Goblins, and Gram Crackers is just a terrific name.

Come and take a look around my world, Totania!
26 May, 2021 13:24

Thank you so much!!!
Goblins are wonderful especially when trying to give them a culture that doesn't contradict their established image too much. It opens up the possibility for... slightly off-kilter habits and rituals.

30 May, 2021 19:17

"The reason for this was a mystery for ages until a curious traveller actually bothered to ask." So many historians that never bother to ask and just assume... -,-   Also, that foolish merchant had the stabbing coming. o_O You don't just ask people to sell their clothes!

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
31 May, 2021 15:56

Thank you for the like and the comment!
People will always view things through the lens of what they know and unintentionally invent things about others on their own. Sometimes that's annoying and sometimes it makes for funny misunderstandings.

3 Jun, 2021 12:03

This is great! What a lovely article. You got me with "putting your heart and soul into something". That's just a lovely sentiment and ties the whole thing together.   Congratulations!

Visit my campaign world at the World of Wizard's Peak.

3 Jun, 2021 12:36

Thank you very much!

3 Jun, 2021 17:46

Oh a Goblin article.. This is cool. I love the artwork and descriptions. I am looking forward to more articles like this one.

Check out Corrigenda and 2275 earth
3 Jun, 2021 18:42

If you like goblin things there are going to be detailed goblin-themed articles in this world. I've been given a free pass by brass_phoenix. Though probably with less artwork.   There are also many talented writers and world builders participating in the Costume challenge. So you're bount to find more fun things.

7 Jun, 2021 02:58

This is a very unique take on the challenge, and I really like your artwork. I love that the goblins are making beautiful things from beetle elytra.

- Hello from Valayo! And Happy WorldEmber 2021!
7 Jun, 2021 07:23

Thank you! I try my best. :p

18 Oct, 2021 14:21

I love this concept so much...! It really fits for a very goblin aesthetic, and I can only imagine the trouble someone would be in if they took a garment off of a dead goblin and were discovered later. And in theory, the garment itself would be a way to identify a person to their people, since material/design would probably be quite well known to friends and family. Absolutely delightful to read, and honestly quite inspiring.

18 Oct, 2021 17:37

Thank you! You're absolutely right about those notions. It would be a very efficient identifier. Though it would be fine to take the garment if you're the goblins warlock patron and the deal involved their soul or something... Otherwise, it's just plain grave robbery.