'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Weaving with NZ Flax

This year I've been introduced to the craft of weaving with New Zealand flax (Maori: Harakeke, Latin:  Phormium spp.)
As I'm by no means skilled, at this point I'll direct you to a super website that will give you some background to this interesting world:  Ali Brown's website.

The New Zealand flax bears little resemblance to the Northern hemisphere flax   (a linseed plant with pretty blue flowers) but actually looks like a massive clump of grass with orange or red flowers from which the tui bird loves to sip nectar.

In a rather laborious process, the silky fibres of Phormium can be stripped out and used for a variety of purposes, or the leaves can be used more or less as they are and woven into baskets called Kete.

First you cut the leaves at the base of the plant, angling the cut away so the rain doesn't rot the centre of the clump.

Then the hard centre midrib and the thin outside edge is pinched out and pulled away and discarded.

The centre part of the leaves is then divided into even widths.  Then the leaf is pulled across something firm to soften the strip.  It can also be blanched in boiling water at this point if you don't want to weave immediately.

There are many beautiful patterns, some involving the leaves dyed as well.

   But even with just a simple over and under method we had a lot of fun, and were proud of our first efforts.


  1. I like the idea of weaving, it's a metaphor for life itself really - and we all weave our own stories over a lifetime (some of us weave a few extra ones on our blogs :-)

  2. outstanding, katherine.

    thank you again,
    for a very informative and
    interesting post.


    not sure if its just the photo,
    but that multi-colored weave at the end is just stunning.

    congratulations on another artistic endeavor gone right.


  3. How expert the old Polynesians were in making the most of the island environments in which they found themselves. A world without shops where the comforts of life and the level of your survival depended upon your own ingenuity and the social bonds you had made with others. There must have been something amazingly satisfying about living like that. They were masters of their own destinities - unlike we "westerners" who sometimes seem like pawns in a vast international game over which we have no influence.

  4. Yes Alden. Not you have me humming Carole King's 'Tapestry'

    Hello Sunny! Thanks for your comment. The last one contains strips that I dyed 'progressively' - ie I made a bunch into a loop, held the ends, then, over the course of a couple of minutes, I dipped less and less into a hot dye-bath. So the middle of each strip was darkest, and got progressively lighter and lighter towards the ends. Made an interesting graded, soft effect, even in a very naive little Kete like this.

    Yes YP. I sometimes yearn for a simper, more 'grassroots' type of life. However we must beware of 'Noble Savaging'. The Maori had a tough life, not least because NZ flax is hard to work, and cold to wear! Imagine the only way you are going to be warm this winter is if you not only weave your whole garment by hand, you also have to tie EACH tiny feather on. No mammal fur, you see? Not the tiniest bear, wolf or cat or mink or rabbit...

  5. Of course that should have been 'NOW you have me humming...' Should wear my glasses instead of guessing, eh?

  6. Oh this looks like fun. I would like to try it.

  7. Well, maybe you could find something up there that you could use instead of harakeke, Kerry?

    Welcome to TLVD, anyway!


Spam will go in the incinerator. All other comments are gratefully received. Communication is what makes the world go 'round.