Beachcombing for flaxworks

5 February 2011

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Summer is the time for holidays, beachcombing, sun hats and plenty of free space for creativity. For me, it’s a time for putting into practice some of the weaving ideas I’ve had during the year and haven’t tried out, as well as a time for just playing around with weaving.

Hats are fun to decorate, and shells add a summery, seaside look to a hat. I found this broken shell on the beach at Ruby Bay, filled it with little flax flowers and attached it to the hat band. The natural bronze colour of the flax I used, which was growing by my camp site, happened to match the brown colour of the hat, although the colour will fade in time.

Adding natural objects to the rim of a bowl can create an interesting look. I found this smooth, twisted root on the beach and it was supple enough to wind around the top of a woven bowl. The top of the bowl was finished in a French plait, which leaves the ends of the plait straggling around the top on both the inside and outside of the bowl.

These ends are normally cut off. In this case, I cut off the outside ends and wove selected groups of four inside ends into four-plaits around the roots, which held them firmly in place at several spots around the rim. (If I had woven the outside ends into four-plaits, it would have distorted the rim of the bowl.)

I rather like smooth, curved driftwood pieces as handles for baskets. In the piece illustrated here, I wedged one end of the driftwood into the weaving to keep the handle upright and tied it on with fine plaits by drilling a small hole through each end of the handle and threading the plaits through the holes and then tying them though the weaving. This three-cornered basket, or waka kete, also features an oyster shell attached to a stone hanging on the side, as if it is an anchor.

Second edition of book

I have just released the second edition of my book, Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax. The new edition contains the same instructions as the first edition but also includes instructions for making a flax Pohutukawa, the flower of New Zealand’s Christmas tree. Real Pohutukawa flowers are stunning, but very delicate, and so not very practical for flower arrangements, but the flax version shown in this bouquet will last indefinitely. A variety of ideas for using the Pohutukawa are illustrated in the book, including instructions for making the hair decoration shown towards the bottom of Flax on the brain.

31 Responses to “Beachcombing for flaxworks”

  1. Di Eaton-Koedyk Says:

    Hi Ali
    Thanks for your book. I am still keen to make it up to Christchurch for a workshop sometime this year. I have two friends keen too.

    I have made small flax flowers to present at our school prizegivings each year for the last four years and they are a huge success. Often the recipients keep them and enjoy them long after the event.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm.


  2. Sadie Says:

    I just love your first book and promote it every chance i can I won,t let people photocopy it as it is not expensive and took you time and energy to make it LOl Sadie

  3. Ali Says:

    Hi Di and Sadie
    Thanks for your comments about the book. It’s nice to hear that people are continuing to enjoy it.

  4. Ima Reid Says:

    Book and comb arrived yesterday . Thanks Ali Looking forward to trying them out

  5. Rose Rurehe Says:

    I have been making flowers since I bought your book. They’re looking really arty too.Thankyou.

  6. Glennis Godfrey Says:

    Hello Ali,
    I have loved working with your Weaving Flowers from Flax… the instructions and presentation are excellent. I would love to find the same type of format relating to kete making… any suggestions?
    Good books are hard to find, as are websites

  7. Ali Says:

    Hi Glennis

    Thanks for your feedback about the book. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

    I’m currently writing a book on kete making and it will be in the same format as the Flowers book. I’m not sure when I will have it finished as the writing has been interrupted by earthquakes! Keep an eye on my blog for updates.

    Also you will find some interesting books if you check out the Reviews page of my website, where I have some brief comments about all of the flax weaving books that I know about. The books are usually available from your local library.

    I also have some instructions on my website that you may find useful. Check out the Instructions page for links to these projects.

  8. Christine McKenzie Says:

    Book arrived today in perfect condition. So good to have my own copy now instead of borrowing frequently from the local library (and having to pay overdue fines!!) I look forward to your second book, as there obviously a lot of interest, however I apprecaite the hard work preparing such a book.

  9. Tamara Says:

    Hi Ali,

    I have just found your amazing website and would love to learn how to weave. I actually live in North Queensland and have tried to search on line for some flax to buy, do you know of anywhere or perhaps something else i could use instead.

  10. Ali Says:

    Hi Tamara

    There are a few people from Queensland who’ve asked me the same question.

    Here are some ideas:
    I use the coloured ornamental flaxes that people grow in their gardens for flowers and smaller items which don’t need to have strength. You may find these in your neighbours’ gardens.

    Often Botanical Gardens have flax growing in them too so it may be that your local one does and you can get permission to cut it there.

    I have supplied a local florist with flax too so you may find your local florist knows where to obtain it.

    Another idea given to me by another weaver is to contact your nearest New Zealand embassy and ask them about any Māori cultural groups that may be in your area who may have a flax source.

    Have you tried any other plants? Any plant with strong, fibrous leaves should be suitable.

    Let me know how you get on with your search.

  11. Lovey Marshall Says:

    Hi Ali I have already purchased your first book. Is there any I can purchase your additions to the book separately. Can you also add me to your data base. I am enjoying your book and thank you very much for sharing your mahi with me.
    I hope it won’t take you too long to get your home up and running again.
    Take care arohanui Lovey

  12. Ali Says:

    Hi Lovey

    Thanks for your nice comments and I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. I do have the instructions for the Pohutukawa flower in a separate booklet. It’s $6 plus $3 postage and packaging.If you’d like to buy it, you can pay by direct credit to the bank account on my Book page and email me your current postal address.

  13. Tina Says:

    Hi Ali

    I found your book in the Whangarei library and loved it. Apparently I’m not the only one because I couldn’t renew it, it was already requested. But now I have my own, received it yesterday. I love it! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and creativity with us.


  14. Ali Says:

    Thanks for your kind comments on the book Tina

  15. Flowers 4 Nelson Says:

    Hi Ali,
    you book has inspired me!
    Thank you for sharing your creativity with us!

  16. Joyce Papa Says:

    Thank you for your books Ali and sharing your mahi. Two nurses in my aunty’s hospice were admiring the flax flowers and as “thank you” gifts and belated Xmas gifts, I purchased two books for them. Thanks for the prompt reply and postage as well. The looks on their faces were priceless!! Thanks for sharing your awesome mahi and till next purchase, take care.

  17. Kirsten Says:

    Hey Ali

    I received your book a few months ago to great delight. I plan to weave all the flowers for my wedding in November! With the help of your book I’m so happy I will have gorgeous flower ideas. I am also looking to weave a flax backing card for invitations to go along with my theme. Do you have any ideas on how I can achieve this?
    Thanks again for your marvelous book!

  18. Ali Says:

    Hi Kirsten

    Instead of weaving a backing card, it might be an idea to use a woven pandanus sheet and cut it up into card sizes. I say this because it can be quite tricky to get an even square when weaving flax and it can be bulky if you fold the ends under. Another idea could be to plait some flat strips and put one down one side of each card, as can be done with a ribbon. Or you could use a woven star to attach to the invitations. Good luck with the flowers and let me know how you get on.

  19. Julz Nonoa Says:

    Do you still have the inserts to your 1st edition of the pohutukawa flower available?

  20. Julz Nonoa Says:

    you also had a comb available ay some stage I think? Is this still available?

  21. Ali Says:

    Hello Julz

    Yes I do still have the Pohutukawa booklets for sale but have sold out of the combs. The booklet is $9 including postage and packaging.

  22. Jo Says:

    Hi Ali, I would like to order a copy of your latest edition book that includes the Pohutakawa instructions, how do I do that? Thanks

  23. Ali Says:

    Hi Jo
    The book can be ordered directly from me. The cost is $36.30 which includes the postage and packaging. It’s easiest to deposit the amount into my Westpac bank account 03–0823–0516382–000 and email me your postal address. I’ll send the book as soon as I receive the payment. All the information about buying my book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax is on the Book page of my web site.

  24. Tangi Taunoa Says:

    Kia ora Ali,
    i have your first book and love it i was told by a friend there was another out.
    Thank you for your wonderful ideas.

  25. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Tangi

    I’m glad you’re enjoying my Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax book. I do have another one available but it is a smaller booklet giving instructions on how to weave a large container, or waikawa, rather than a full book as the flowers book is. The instructions in the booklet will be in the kete book I am writing but that has been interrupted by the earthquakes in Canterbury and family matters, and so I put the booklet out in the meantime. If you’d like a copy of the booklet Weaving a large container from New Zealand Flax, then depoist $13 into my Westpac bank account 03–0823–0516382–000 and send me your postal address. The booklet will be sent promptly once payment is received.

  26. terangi Says:

    kia ora Ali
    Just to say I have your weaving flower book and have found it very useful, I am a learning weaver, and your ideas have been very great. Do you have anything for measuring flax when splitting it.
    Thanks to people around me that weave and yourself it is a great toanga. Keep it up

  27. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Terangi

    I don’t use any special tool for splitting flax but some people do use a sheep shearing comb and you could use a wide-toothed dog comb. If you’re handy, you could make your own tool to use. Drill a oblong piece of wood, that is the same size as a handle, with holes the distance apart that you want to make your strips. Insert a needle bodkin (the ones with a blunt end) into the holes and glue them in place. You now have a flax-splitting tool.

  28. kerri Says:

    Ali, the signed third edition book arrived promptly and I was able to gift my first edition copy to a enthusiastic 11 yr old girl, thank you. 2 questions Ali, how is your kete making book proceeding and how would I weave a tropical rose with netted flax? I have tried with dry netted flax but it tends to break and worry about mould on the finished product if I use damp flax. Many thanks.

  29. Ali Says:

    Hi Kerri

    Glad to hear you’ve found a happy recpient for your first edition of Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax.

    I’m currently working on the kete book but it’s too difficult to predict how long it will be before I publish it. I will notify people when it’s available.

    Flax, even netted flax, does need to be damp before you use it as it can get quite brittle when it’s dry. There shouldn’t be a problem with mould as long as the flax is dried out completely once the flowers are woven.

  30. Tangi Taunoa Says:

    I have muka and some have a brown thru them how do i get them white and the brown out.

  31. Ali Says:

    Hi Tangi, I’m not sure why your muka has brown patches on it. I wonder if soaking it in something like napisan will whiten it. That’s what I’d try.