In Māori tradition, the first piece of flax weaving a beginner completes is given away and the giving of flax gifts extends this tradition. Weaving flax gifts can be both satisfying and fun and makes for both economical and very acceptable gifts. There are all sorts gifts that can be made with flax and this includes gifts for pets as well as people. A round basket, made using the technique of weaving a large container, which is explained and illustrated in my book Weaving a Large Container from New Zealand Flax , is the ideal place for a kitten to curl up in. After it was lined with old woollen socks and the top rolled down to give it a soft edge, the kitten took to this basket immediately, claiming it for his own.
Flaxworks can also be used instead of wrapping paper as the container for a gift. When two of my long-standing work colleagues resigned, bone carvings from master carver John Fraser were commissioned for their leaving presents. I wove a little basket with a shaped waist and a handle to hold one bone-carving and a pocket basket with a flap for the other one. Another colleague wove little flowers to tie on the baskets.
Flaxwork gifts are regularly used to represent the relationship between two organisations or groups of people. The agency where I work has a close working relationship with a Māori social service agency and to represent the two baskets of knowledge which each organisation brings to the partnership, I wove two little ketes and joined them together. These were gifted to the other organisation, the staff and clients acknowledged the representation and were delighted to accept the gift. The ketes are held together with a flax strip looped around a small flax button.
Flax flower bouquets make a welcome thank-you gift for a guest speaker. These flowers are woven with variegated flax and dyed red. The whiter parts of the variegated flax dyed a different red from the greener parts, which give the flowers an interesting twist. These soft multi-coloured flax varieties aren’t usually used for weaving but their softness is fine for flowers and makes them easier to weave. Information about netted flax is on my page Weaving a flax fantail. When making the netted leaves, moisten the netted flax and pull each leaf out into an attractive shape and weight it down while it dries.
A paua-shell kete can be very acceptable as a gift, particularly for people from other countries. It gives the recipient a taste of the culture of New Zealand, and always seems to be well received. I’ve made paua kete in several different styles, including one with a long fringe illustrated here, and a more wrapped-around version shown in my blog post An Article in the Christchurch Star, which is more compact for taking overseas.
However the tradition of giving the first piece of weaving away originated, it reflects the fact that weaving flax is not just a personal accomplishment but relies on a whole body of knowledge, experience and tradition that has been passed down through many generations and is part of the culture of giving. This photo shows a flax flower symbolising the love between two people, in this case a father and daughter — and as it’s one of the last photos I have of my late father, it holds a special meaning for me.
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 weavers. As it has now sold over 4,000 copies, there must be many flowers and bouquets being woven out there in weaving land!
© Alison Marion Brown 2015.