Even, diagonal weaving — or finding the ara

13 July 2020

Traditionally flax weaving is woven on the diagonal rather than vertically and horizontally, as in many other weaving traditional weaving styles and I’ve noticed that new flax weavers often struggle when they’re trying to get tidy, even diagonal weaving. One of the trickier things for a new weaver is how to work out if the weaving is all at the same level — or how to find the ara or path of the weaving. As weaving is completed row by row, as in knitting for example, working this out is a basic skill that’s essential to move on in weaving. It’s also essential if the weaver wants to achieve a straight edge at the top of the weaving, as illustrated in the kete here. Steps on how to achieve even, diagonal weaving are illustrated here using red and white arrows — the red arrows show the current movement and the white arrows show previous movements — as well as steps to take if a particular strip is too low or too high.


 
Select two strips so that the one pointing to the right (the purple one) is under the one pointing to the left (the green one). Pull the strips up gently but firmly to firm up and tension the weaving.
 


 

 
Once the strips appear to be tensioned firmly, fold the purple strip that is pointing to the right back down to the left. This is the height that all the strips will be matched to.


 

 
Move on to the next set of two strips, one green and one purple and pull them up gently but firmly as before to tension them. (The white arrow shows the previous strip that was folded back.)

 

 
Lay the strip pointing to the right back down, following the red arrow, checking that it’s at the same height as the previous strip folded back. Carry on doing this all the way around the top of the basket.


 

 
If a strip folds down lower than the others, as the lower purple one has here, then it will need to be woven up to reach the same height as the others.


 

 
To weave it up to the right height, fold back the green strip from the right that is the second green strip above it.


 

 

 
Bring the purple strip that was folded back forward again.


 

 
Bring the right-hand green strip over this.


 

 

 

 
When the purple strip is folded back down over the green strip, it is now at the same height as the others.


 
If the strip folds down higher than the others, as this purple one has here, which is folded back over two green strips instead of one, then this bit of weaving will need to be undone and woven again.

 

 
Bring the purple strip forward again and then pull the green strip pointing to the left back down out of the way.

 

 

 

 
The purple strip can now be folded back down on the correct green strip and is at the same height as the other top purple strips.
 
 

Te whiri-whā kōpiko

27 May 2020

Following on from the first page translated into te reo Māori on my website, Ko te raranga i te putiputi, I’m pleased to say that there is now a second page of online instructions in te reo Māori. These instructions are for weaving a curved plait, which is suitable to make a koru, spiral and jewellery. The instructions for te whiri-whā kōpiko in te reo Maori are here.

After writing about my hope to have my website translated into te reo Māori in the magazine of Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa, I was contacted by Wi Pohatu who offered to assist with the task. Wi (Ngai Tāmanuhiri / Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairarapa) is a weaver, a member of Raranga Whatu ki Kahungunu (Napier) and Te Muriwai Weavers (Muriwai, Gisborne) and is presently Principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Hou (Napier). I was delighted to receive his very generous offer and this page is the first of the ones he has translated.

Wi also suggested adding a glossary to the translated pages, which is a great idea and I’ve added the glossary he provided at the bottom of the page. I find it very helpful and even if I’m not at the stage with my own te reo Māori to be able to fully read the translated page, I enjoy learning more weaving words in te reo Māori. For those of you who are also learning te reo Māori, I do hope you find these on-line flax weaving instructions in te reo Māori a useful resource and I’d appreciate any suggestions or feedback.

Weavers National Hui 2019

30 October 2019

The 2019 Weavers National Hui, held over four days at Labour weekend at Ngā Hau e Whā National marae in Ōtautahi/Christchurch was a terrific success in my view. Thanks go to the organising group including Ranui Ngarimu and Paula Rigby and the many obliging volunteers, who put together a weekend of weaving, knowledge sharing, forums and visits to sites of interest. The delicious food served up by Te Runanga o Nga Maata Waka completed the enjoyable experience.

One of the highlights was the presentation of two groups studying Te Rā: The Māori sail, which is the only known Māori sail left in existence and is held by the British Museum. One group is studying the sail from a practical weaver’s approach, working out the weaving techniques used to weave Te Rā. With this knowledge they hope to recreate a traditional sail. At the hui, members of the group were weaving samples using very fine weaving strips. The techniques include open-weave sections that allow the wind through the sails. Follow their progress on Facebook. The other group, looking from a scientific perspective, used a polarised light microscope to compare tiny specimens taken from Te Rā to a set of identified reference materials. They confirmed that the material that Te Rā is made from is actually harakeke, Phormium tenax, that is, New Zealand Flax. Follow their progress here.

A large part of the hui was spent sharing basic and advanced weaving ideas and techniques. For example, a kuia showed Chiu, pictured above, how to weave a sun-visor hat, potae, and I showed a weaver from Tāmaki-makau-rau/Auckland how to make a neat even finish on the top edge of her first waikawa.

Several people commented on the koru pendant I designed a few years ago and was wearing, so I showed them how it’s made. One kuia was interested to weave this pendant as she was weaving items for tourists and thought the pendant was small and light and is easy to carry in luggage. If you’d like to make one yourself, check out my blog post “Weaving Jewellery” where you’ll find instructions for that pendant and other pendants made using the curved four plait.

This year, the exhibition at National Hui celebrated the weaver and kete — a kete made by the attendee, or one brought, gifted or inherited. The stunning display of kete in this exhibition showcased the wide variety of designs, patterns and weaving techniques that encompass the weaving of the past and present. I don’t have permission to use images of the ketes in the exhibition, apart from this one which is the first kete whakairo, or patterned kete, I wove. The pattern is Koeaea and represents whitebait swimming.

The National Weavers Hui is held every two years and it’s well worth going to. The next one in 2021 will be held in Otaki and I look forward to meeting up with old and new weaving friends there.