Bands for the boys (and girls)

12 November 2007

Click here to visit an upgraded version of this blog post on my new website at

flax wristbandI ran my first flax weaving workshop for “at-risk” teenagers last weekend, and was a little nervous before the workshop, because I wasn’t sure that all the participants were coming to the workshop entirely of their own free will, and if they weren’t it might have made for an uneasy atmosphere. I needn’t have worried. It went off well and all the participants appeared to enjoy themselves.

I decided that wristbands would probably be good to weave, as both boys and girls might find a use for them and they would easily be able to get them finished in the time we had.

flax wristbandThe wristbands are made with a strip of flax which is long enough to go around a wrist four times. Prepare this strip about 2 cm wide and as long as it can go without using the thicker white butt end of the strip. Soften the strip before using it by placing the blunt edge of a knife against the dull side of the flax strip (the underside of the leaf) about halfway along the length of the strip. Hold the strip against the knife with your thumb, and pull the strip through on about a 90 degree angle to the knife. Scrape the flax in each direction, pulling to the end of the strip each way.

flax wristbandWind the cut end of the strip around twice into a circle that is just big enough to fit over a hand. Secure the strip at this point with, for example, some tape. Split the free end into strips of an even width and make two extra strips that are the same width as these strips. These will be used to weave through the three strips of the main wristband.

flax wristbandThe simple wristband pictured here shows the circular strip split into three strips of the same width, with a separate weaving strip of the same width laid across them, going over the outer strips and underneath the middle one. Take one of the narrower strips and hold it with the thicker end out to the left. Position it under the middle strip of the three strips on the wristband. Leave about 10 cm poking out to the left.

flax wristbandflax wristbandAs shown in the photo on the left, fold back the two outer strips over the top of the weaving strip, and hold down the folded strips with your thumb. As shown on the right, pass the end of the weaving strip through the middle of the wristband.

flax wristbandflax wristband As shown on the left, bring the weaving strip back around to the front and lay it across the top again, over the middle strip. As shown on the right, fold the two outer strips forward over the weaving strip, and then fold the middle strip back, and hold it down with your thumb.

After this, take the weaving strip through the middle of the wristband again and bring it around over the top. Repeat these weaving steps right around the wristband.

flax wristband 
When the weaving strip gets near the end of its length, add another strip by laying it over the top of the first strip and then use the new strip for weaving.

flax wristbandWhen the strips have been woven all the way around, weave the ends of the strips into the start of the wristband. Thread any other ends through the inside of the wristband and cut them off. If the wristband is not quite circular, push it down over a glass or jar until it fits tightly. This will help it dry into a circular shape.

During the workshop the participants shared some of their own experiences with flax and weaving. A Tongan lad had used coconut palm leaves for weaving in his homeland. A Māori lad told how he used the gel from the flax leaf as a skin repair ointment. This gel is the sticky substance that glues the bottom part of the leaf together and is found when the two sides of the leaf are pulled apart. (Not all flax varieties contain appreciable quantities of gel, but most do). I was already aware that the gel was used in traditional Māori medicine (and is also used to glue two or three feathers together when they are woven into a traditional feather cloak), but for some reason I’ve never tried out the gel on skin cuts myself. However, after this personal recommendation about its effectiveness, I certainly will try it.

The wristbands are fun to make and you can make up your own patterns by weaving different numbers of strips into different sequences or by using different-coloured weaving strips.

Addition October 2010
Several commenters on this blog post mentioned that they found the instructions on the post a bit difficult to follow. It is one of my earlier posts and didn’t include as many steps in the instructions as my later blog posts. I’ve now added two more images, showing a more step-by-step process for weaving the wristband. I hope this addition makes the instructions clearer.

49 Responses to “Bands for the boys (and girls)”

  1. yvonne weily Says:

    congratulations for taking on these kids and giving them the chance to make something for themselves that is not costly. also think that it would give them a connection to the past, be they maori or european it will have made a difference to how they think.

  2. Lynn Hayes Says:

    Hi Ali, a couple of years ago I was taught to weave a kete. it wasn’t the muka plait but it started with 4 strips an then one at a time new sinistrals and dextrals were added until you have the required length. you then weave the required height, bring in the sides finish the top and bottom. what is this way of weaving called? and is there a step by step pamphlet or book showing how to weave like this.
    I look forward to your reply.
    thanks Lynn

  3. Ali Says:

    Hi Lynn
    I’m not quite sure from your description about the method you’ve used although it does sound like you may have twined the strips together in a row to start. In this method, you twine all the strips together in a row, weave up for three rows and then join the edges so that a cylinder is formed. Is this how you started? If so, sorry but I don’t know of any book that has this method.

  4. wiki Says:

    Hi Ali, is the join on a whariki the same as a double lock off. What an awesome page

  5. Ali Says:

    Hi Wiki

    A whariki can be joined in different ways so it depends on the finish you want. Joining the whariki with a double lock will result in a ridge in the weaving. Another way to join is by laying a new strip over the strip that is about to run out and pushing the end of the new strip under the strips that have crossed over the old one. Continue weaving until the new strip is crossed by about four strips altogether. Now weave the end of the old strip in by turning it down at a right angle and it will be secured in as you continue weaving. This method results in a flatter join and is secure if the old and new strips are worked together for a while like this.

  6. wiki Says:

    kia ora for that Ali i have a week off work so shall do this. I think your page is really awesome.

  7. Tracy Says:

    Wonderful site, have just started to teach the kids in my class and they are loving it.Many thanks

  8. Tristan Says:

    Hi Ali, thank you so much for producing such a beautiful and informative website. Your careful and easy to follow instructions on all aspects of the flax weaving art are great and have helped me hugely.

    however i do have one problem, i made a wristband similar to the one described above by following your instructions but i wasn’t sure how to prepare the flax properly i think and the day after i made it it had shrunk and the weave was out of place and unsightly. how can i stop this happening?

    thank you again.

  9. Ali Says:

    Hi Tristan

    The strips do need to be softened with a knife before you weave them, as I show on the Preparing flax page on this web site. This softens the flax which makes it easier to weave and also removes some of the moisture content which makes it less likely to shrink. Keep the strips tightly pulled together as you weave and push the finished band over a glass or round shape as it dries which will also help to keep the shape.

    If you still have the problem, the other thing you can do is to leave the flax to dry out a little after you’ve split and softened the strips. The flax will become a bit more leathery and will still be pliable enough to weave with.

    Let me know how you get on.

  10. Tristan Says:

    thankyou so much ali. that worked brilliantly, the shrinking has been minimal after softening with the knife. they look great now,i will let them dry on a glass too and see how that works. oh yh and i made a tiny putiputi and then wove it into one of the wristbands that i made too, which looked really good. thanks again.

  11. Ali Says:

    Hi Tristan

    I’m pleased to hear it went well for you and the tiny flower idea sounds good too.

    I also think these wristbands would work well if different coloured weaving strips were used to create the patterns.

  12. Tristan Says:

    I recon they would look sweet too, however, i cannot buy any dyes at the moment, and i tried to dye some flax in mud but it didnt work very well at all. could you give me any pointers on how to dye flax effectively using natural dyes please or direct me to a source from where i can learn. thank you again ali.

  13. Ali Says:

    Hi Tristan

    I haven’t done much in the way of using natural dyes although I have read a bit. I do know that you’d need to use a mordant, or something that makes the flax receptive to the dye, if you are using mud. Tannin is a mordant for this, I think, and tea bags have tannin in them. I’m not sure if this works or not but you could have a go at soaking some boiled flax in tea leaves and then try the mud. I think the mud could be the sort of mud that has a lot of leaf and plant debris that has broken down in it. An experienced weaver once told me that the mud I had in the bottom of my fish pond looked like the right sort of mud, and that had a lot of plant debris in it, but I never tried it as a dye.

    Walnut husks that are around walnut shells are a good source of black dye too, and they are ready about now. Let me know how you get on.

  14. Donna Hone Says:

    How do you use the dye from walnut husks? Do you leave the flax in the pot with the husks or do you boil the husks first then dye the flax seperately?

  15. Ali Says:

    Hi Donna

    I’ve never used walnut husks but from what I read on the internet, the husks are soaked in water for a few days and the water is then strained off and used as the dye. I suggest you Google using the search term ‘walnut husks dye’ (but don’t use the quotation marks) as quite a few people have written about their own use of walnut husks to make black dye.

  16. heather smith Says:

    Love your site! Can you provide instructions for weaving a flax fish? Many thanks

  17. Louisa Humphry Says:

    I have bought your latest book on flowers and would like to know if you have any objections to me using it at school to demonstrate making flowers. I do understand copyright and all but it will save me doing a new set of photos and I think your illustrations are wonderful. I don’t know whether you remember me - I was with a group of ladies in Christchurch with the Oscar Conference Group. I’m originally from Kiribati. Love your book. Louisa

  18. Ali Says:

    Hi Louisa
    Yes I do remember you from the Oscar Conference. It’s nice to hear from you. Yes you may use my book to demonstrate making flowers at your school. Happy weaving. :-)

  19. Louisa Humphry Says:

    Hi Ali,

    I have just completed four Wednesdays talking and showing a juniour school all about weaving. They have loved every minute of the weaving! It was very hard to find projects for little ones that they can complete but just creating a twist and tying fish (from flax) onto a line has generated interest. Your book came in handy when demonstrating making flowers. Thank you Ali. Have you got your book on making baskets yet?

  20. Ali Says:

    Hi Louisa

    Nice to hear from you. Sounds like you have been busy. I’ve recently completed a 2-day creative workshop for a primary school too.

    The ages ranged from 5 years to 11 years so I chose three different projects for the different age levels and, as I only had three-quarters of an hour for each group, the projects needed to be small. The new entrants made snakes, or Taniwhas and then decorated them with felts, the older children made small mats and flowers and the oldest children made wristbands. They all seemed to enjoy it, as yours did.

    The proposed book on making baskets will be a while away yet and, as it took me much longer to complete Weaving Flowers from New Zealand flax than I had predicted, I’m hesitant to make any predictions about any other books. :-)

  21. completely stuck Says:

    hello ali
    i dont understand the laid aver across the top bit and i cant seem to macke it work
    is there an easier way to explain this ???
    completely stuck

  22. Ali Says:

    Hi there

    Sorry the directions aren’t clear for you.

    If you look at the second picture, you will see the weaving strip coming out through the middle of the wristband at the top left of the photo. It is the top one of the two strips that are pointing out to the left. Take that top strip and bend it back to the right over the top of the wristband. Place it so that is sitting just above the folds of the two vertical strips that have been folded back. You will see it is also sitting over the top of the middle strip. Hold it tightly in place and then fold the middle strip back and the two outer strips forward, as they are shown in the third photo. Then fold the weaving strip through the centre of the wristband and over the three strips again. Now fold the centre strip forward again and fold the two outer strips back. Repeat these steps.

    I hope this helps. Please let me know if you need any more assistance.


  23. Harriet Says:

    Hello Ali
    Umm, I am sorta stuck on doing this. Is there an easier way that I could understand? I think that it si a littel bit too hard for me…


  24. Ali Says:

    Hi Harriet

    Can you tell me how far you get before you get stuck and I’ll give you some more step-by-step instructions which should help.

  25. BrookieandCharlotte Says:

    Hi Ali,
    My friend and I (12 & 13) are weaving lots of flax creations, and selling them door-to-door to raise money for our trip to Australia at the end of the year. Anyway - we were wondering if you could post instructions on how to weave a whole flax basket, because we can’t find any on google. Thanks.


    P.S Thanks to you and your site, your other instructions have been a great help, especially the bracelets, Brooke Loves them! Thanks once again!

  26. Ali Says:

    Hi Brookie and Charlotte

    I’m glad you’ve found the instructions on the web site useful. I currently don’t have written instructions for a basket but you can find instructions for a simple basket in the book Maori Weaving by Erenora Puketapu-Hetet which should be available from your local library. Check out my Reviews page for information on this book.

    Good luck with your fund-raising! :-)

  27. Becky Says:

    Hey Ali!
    Just wondering are those braclets eatable? I have a 3 year old daughter at home and she swallowed an entire one and shes been pooing bricks ever since. I know this sounds like a joke but im serious… help me please Ali

  28. Ali Says:

    Hi Becky

    Gosh I can’t imagine how a little one could swallow an entire wristband. She must have chewed on it a bit to be able to get it down!

    To the best of my limited knowledge, I’d say that flax is not poisonous. However, flax does have a laxative in it, which does make you poo, so I imagine that’s what’s causing her to poo so much. I would think that as long as she doesn’t have a tummy ache, she’ll be fine.

    At a guess, another possibility is that the solidness of the wristband could cause a blockage and she stops pooing, in which case I’d get her checked out at a doctor.

    However, I’m not a doctor, so keep an eye on her and if you have any cause for concern, do take her to your doctor.

  29. Jill Says:

    Hi Ali
    My friend wants me to weave a simple flat flax strip to go around her wedding cake. Unsure how I was given this task! Anyway, would any of your instructions for the lovely works on your website have the technique.

    Kind regards,

  30. Ali Says:

    Hi Jill

    None of the techniques I show on the web site would be suitable for you to use for the cake band. Have a look at Mick Pendergrast’s book Fun with Flax where you’ll find several different plaited bands. You’ll probably need to add strips in as you plait, to get the full length to go around the cake. To do this, just lay the new strip over the strip that is running out and work together for a little while. Make sure you start with the same end of the new strip as you started with the old strip, so that you have a thick and a thin end together. This will help to disguise the addition of the new strip.

  31. Alex Says:

    This is cool because in school in 3D Art, we are making wristbands and purses (for girls) backpacks (for boys) because our teacher went to live in New Zealand for a little over a year. I was doing research because I wanted to show my sister and because I wanted to make the wristband and handbag magnificent!!! Thanks so much for the EXTREME help you have given me. Hope to see more of your posts!!!

  32. ocean Says:

    hi this is ocean i dont like the website cause it wont come up with something how to make them step by step thing you know

  33. Ali Says:

    Hi Ocean

    Sorry this blog post doesn’t provide enough steps for you to weave a wristband. I agree that I could have broken down the weaving of the wristband into more detailed steps, though the steps shown above would probably be enough for someone with a bit more experience in weaving.

    Try weaving the flower on the Weaving a flax flower page. I hope you’ll find its step-by-step instructions are detailed enough to follow. After weaving the flower, try out the wristband again.

    A suggestion: don’t try to understand all the instructions before you start. Just take the first step on this page with two pieces of flax held in your hand, and then the next step will probably be easier to grasp.

    Written instructions are never as easy to follow as learning in person with an experienced weaver, but I wish you good luck with your weaving.

  34. Di Says:

    Cant wait to show my after school programme kiddies.
    Instructions were very easy to follow

  35. debra Says:

    i am currently sailing south of Australia with my husband , we both are missionaries and i was watching a demo of how to make the palm crosses ;) and the fish , im new at this weaving stuff but have done origami in the past . We have easy access to palm leaves
    also please send me more info i would love to learn more
    God bless
    Debra G

  36. Ali Says:

    Hello Debra

    Check out my Instructions page which has links to instructions for a variety of different weaving projects. You may also be interested in my book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax, which has instructions for weaving 16 different flower and foliage designs. The book can be purchased directly from me.

  37. Jo Picot Says:

    Hi Ali, I have just come accross to your website and was wondering wether you could send me the instructions for a 2 corner and 4 corner kete. I am doing a weaving course at the moment, I really enjoy it but there are many of us and it goes to quickly for me to follow! I would be grateful if you could help. Kind regards, Jo

  38. Ali Says:

    Hi Jo

    I’m currently in the process of writing my next book which will include instructions for simple 2 corner and four corner baskets. It won’t be published for a while yet but do keep an eye on my blog for updates on the progress of the book.

  39. Ali Says:

    Hi Jo

    I’m currently in the process of writing my next book which will include instructions for simple two-corner and four-corner baskets. It won’t be published for a while yet but do keep an eye on my blog for updates on the progress of the book.

  40. ora Says:

    kia ora Ali,

    Just want to say how much I love your site. I am able to follow your instructions (it helps with pics :) ) and now can do a flat top finish to my 2 and 4 corner kete, thankyou!
    Also, the wristbands are great, I learnt how to do it just by reading your instrutions, how cool is that, and have shared it with others. Kia kaha to mahi whaea, nga mihi, Ora

  41. Chrissie Says:

    Kia Ora Ali

    I’m continually blown away by the courage of the community in Christchurch, it all appears “sweet as, and carry on” although of course the reality will be much more difficult. The rest of us can only help by sending love and support in bucketfuls…
    I purchased your book on flowers a few months back, and its generated lots of interest up here in Taranaki. I’m very much looking forward to your next book being published, but no pressure, just as that unfolds,
    To any budding weavers out the in South Taranaki, an awesome lady and weaver, Puhi Nuku is sharing her knowledge through Stage One (Lysaght Watt) Gallery in Hawera on Thursday evenings from early February. Iwould also like to thank Sue Rine, a very respected lady and weaver, for an extremely pleasant afternoon relearning some basic techniques with me yesterday…You have the patience of a saint, Sue!
    Ali is there any chance you could please post instuctions for the Double lock and lift technique, for finishing the top of ketes please…long wait at our library for Mick’s book!
    Thanks for your help and knowledge and for sharing that with us all,
    Peace and Love Chrissie

  42. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Chrissie

    Thanks for passing on the names of weavers in South Taranaki who are sharing their knowledge. There are always people seeking weaving knowledge.

    Sorry, I don’t have the time to write a post on the double-lock-and-lift technique, and perhaps it’s not a great idea for me to spend time putting up posts on just one part of a larger project, and writing these for relatively experienced weavers, as I have done occasionally in the past. It’s probably better to write out full instructions suitable for a beginner, and take enough photos to match this. If these instructions are too long for a web page, they can go in a book. Alternatively, if they are short enough for a web page, like the fantail, and don’t form a part of a book I’m working on, I can post them online. Mind you, I’m never very sure which way to go, and I can sympathise with your difficulty in waiting so long for a library book.

    The book Fun with Flax is usually available in book shops and I think it is worth having your own copy, so it may be worth buying one for yourself.

  43. Vanessa Pekama Says:

    Hi Chrissie, I know a friend Lillian Barrett who is willing to travel from Whanganui to Taranaki to share her weaving knowledge & skills with whanau there. Someone in your community would know when she comes to visit. Together Lillian and I joined Te Wananga O Aotearoa (Toi Paematua Raranga), we’ve been trained by our kaiako Lisa Mareikura and Trina Taurua. I know you would benefit from hands on sessions with Lillian. One of the many techniques we learned is the double lock down which can be used as a top finish on kono, konae and also kete. I certainly hope my suggestion may help you and others interested to share and learn from one another. Happy weaving Chrissie :)

  44. dee Says:

    Thank you for these instructions I have just successfully made a bracelet although it is too small for my hand I am happy! O have made it and it will be forever stitched into my brain! Thanks again :)

  45. Sophie Says:


  46. Cilla Hogg Says:

    Arohanui, tena koa to mahi raranga. Thank you for your weaving….I was wondering what to do on this cold day and found this blog. I loved making these earlier on. Cheers for this. I haven’t made these in ages.

  47. Tangi Taunoa Says:

    Hi Ali.
    how do i get muka white some have brown blemishs in
    thank you.

  48. Jenna James Says:

    Thanks for sharing! I had fun making this project. I am looking forward to giving my kids a go. Kia Ora!

  49. Ali Says:

    Thanks Jenna, kids love this project.