Flax weaving for Christmas

19 December 2010

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

A bright, decorative look suitable for Christmas can be given to any piece of weaving by adding coloured strips of flax over the top of the existing weaving to make striking patterns. In the example on the left, I created a pattern by adding red flax strips on the top of a piece of undyed weaving. The good thing about this sort of patterning is that it can be removed later and the weaving will return to its original state. To overlay the pattern, I cut strips of red-dyed flax into lengths that were five times as long as the width of the strips used in the original weaving. I then inserted a length under one strip, over three strips and then under the next strip, on a diagonal, to create the first piece of the pattern. The next length was woven alongside this in the same way, to create the next piece of the pattern. For the dots, I inserted a shorter length of red flax over just one strip. The red strips were dry when I used them, although it may be easier to dampen the dyed flax before use. Be careful if you do moisten the dyed flax as the colour of the dye may come out onto the dried flax if the dyed flax is too wet. This red-coloured patterning would also look good against fresh green flax.

This way of putting patterns into weaving is quite different from the traditional way patterns are woven in flax weaving. In the traditional way, the dyed strips are woven into the main body of the weaving, and the pattern is made by the way the strips are woven together. In patterned flax baskets, or kete whakairo, the plan for the pattern, or whakapapa, is set at the beginning of the weaving when the dyed strips are included into a plait at the bottom of the basket. This way of incorporating patterns into the weaving is an advanced weaving technique, and examples of kete whakairo can be found in museums around the world. I wove the black and white kete pictured above using a pattern from Mick Pendergrast’s book Raranga Whakairo listed on the Reviews page of my web site.

On another Christmas note, Phil — a customer who bought my book — sent me this photo of his wife Anne’s wreath, which is made from shredded flax and paua shell, and has three red woven flax flowers attached to the bottom of the wreath. I do like the way Anne has created the wreath, with a randomness in the use of the flax shreds but also structure in the shape, resulting a very attractive and original Christmas wreath. The New Zealand theme is further enhanced by the addition of pieces of paua shell attached randomly around the wreath. Instructions for making the woven flax flower that Anne has attached at the bottom of the wreath can be found here on my web site, and also in my book.

While internet searching I found another interesting woven wreath, which is based on the three-dimensional star shown on the right. The wreath is made by shaping a number of these stars together in a circle. I haven’t been able to contact the owner of the photo of the wreath, Elmer, for permission to use it in my blog, but you can see the wreath here. If you’d like to try making this wreath, I have instructions for the three-dimensional star on a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Addition 16 April 2011
Te Rangi Hiroa mentions in his book, The coming of the Maori, that there are samples of historic weaving from the Chatham Islands and the Waitaki River area that have been woven with decorative strips overlaid on the foundation weaving. He concludes that “… overlaid plaiting was present in two marginal areas, which forms evidence that it was an earlier form of decoration which was supplanted in the North Island by the use of coloured foundation wefts.”

13 Responses to “Flax weaving for Christmas”

  1. Will Says:

    Hi Ali

    Thanks for the idea about putting patterns on existing weaving. You could do this on a bought piece of weaving too.

  2. Jan TeWao Says:

    Hi Ali
    As a learner weaver how do you correct your tension with weaving. I find that I can be quite loose and my work seems to slant. Your advice would be of great help for me.

  3. Ali Says:

    Hi Jan

    First, it’s important to weave horizontally along one row at a time. Beginners don’t always do this. They sometimes weave up one section of the weaving, or several separate sections, and then weave other strips on either side of these sections to join them up. You need to weave one row at a time and finish the row before starting the next row.

    In order to keep on weaving along the same horizontal row, hold each weave you have just done with one hand so that you know which strips to weave with next.

    Second, pull up each flax strip firmly to keep the strip tight as you do each weave. Make sure each strip is pulled up on a 45-degree angle to the horizontal row you are weaving. Beginners are sometimes hesitant to pull the flax firmly. Flax is strong and can be pulled up quite firmly.

    To keep track of a row, you may find it useful to mark the beginning of each row with a clothes peg. You may also find it useful put some clothes pegs at different points along the row to keep the weaving tight. When weaving a basket, it is particularly useful to hold the corners with clothes pegs.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Bess Kingi Edmonds Says:

    kia ora ,
    love your work,where can i purchase your book/s
    i am an intermediate weaver & want to make a bodice.
    please add me to your database.
    kia ora ano

    ps i really want to get away from kete now and do something like bodice,baby carriers,etc

  5. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Bess

    You can purchase my book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand flax directly from me. All the information is on the Book page of my website.

  6. Lovey Marshall Says:

    Hi Ali I have always admired your mahi. I also have your book and visit your site often. Could you please put me on your email address for further information

  7. Harata Says:

    Hi Ali I have received my book, booklet Id just wanted to thank you for sending me this book. I will treasure this book. I have showen some of my friends and whanau and they all want one so ive given them all your details as i wont leave them my book. Thank you Ali as you have given me something that ive being trying to get into this for ages and now i have it. Did i see you have a second book out too. Love to get my hands on it. Would you be able to send me more information on the second book. Thank you so much Ali your books are worth it. Kind Regards Harata Tanenui-Brown.

  8. Jan Says:

    Kia Ora Ali,
    Would you be showing instructions about a simple kete or a simple potae at any time. Or putting out another book in the near future. I find your teachings in your two books very easy to understand.

  9. NZ flax weaving blog » Blog Archive » Flax weaving for gifts Says:

    […] Some other ideas for gift-wrapping are on my previous post Gift wrapping with flax and decorative ideas for Christmas are in the blog post Flax Weaving for Christmas. My book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax is regularly gifted as a present for a weavers. As it has now sold over 4,000 copies, there must be many flowers and bouquets being woven out there in weaving land! […]

  10. Jayne Monthomery Says:

    My husband has terminal cancer. I am looking for a large spray made from harakeke to place on his coffin. Where can i buy one. He is in his last few weeks

  11. Ali Says:

    Hello Jayne, I’m sorry to hear of your husband’s illness. On the Links page on my website I have links to people who weave flowers for sale. You should be able to find someone there. If not, let me know and I’ll try and put you in touch with someone.

  12. Nyronne Says:

    can you send me more flax bracelet ideas it’s for a project it would be much appreciated

  13. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Nyronne, have you seen my blog post Bands for the boys and girls which shows you how to weave a bracelet. Also you could use a rounded four-plait cord or a curved four-plait cord to make a bracelet.