Flax weaving for charity

31 August 2016

Eighteen people, coming from Okains Bay, Decanter Bay, Charteris Bay, Pines Beach, Loburn and Havelock as well as Christchurch, took part in our charity flax weaving workshop last Sunday. As usual for a workshop, there were beginners and experienced weavers attending, which is a great mix as experiences are shared and people help each other. Most people wove a two-cornered basket or kete and a couple of people tried their hand at the open-weave basket made with the kupenga or fishing net weave illustrated here. Later in the day people had time to make large containers.

There were three different types of splitting tools in use in the workshop, apart from awls and fingernails! Sharon’s splitting tools, which were originally used for shearing sheep, had been modified with the addition of a paua-inlaid wooden handle.

My splitting tools were made by my husband Rob using bodkins inserted into blocks of wood at equal distances. Kay’s were very original, being made from corn cob holders. Kay adjusts the distance between the prongs depending on the width of strips she requires.
In this workshop we raised over $1,000 for my 92 year-old stepmother’s only grand-daughter, who lives with the loss of her first-born son, to return to New Zealand from the UK and spend some time with her grandmother.

A number of people gave their time and contributed to help make this workshop a success: Rob Brown who helped gather flax, set up and put away the workshop tables, chairs and tools, Toby Brown who ably assisted with tutoring (his first time), Joy and Dave Bishop who made afternoon tea and helped tidy up and last but not least, Pat Talbot my lovely step-mum, who also helped with the afternoon tea.

Future workshops, which will be held to raise funds for other charities, are advertised on the Workshops page of my website. The next flax weaving workshop is 25th September 2016. Contact me to secure your place!

Weaving baskets, backpacks, boxes and other projects

19 March 2016

The book I’ve been writing, Weaving Baskets, Backpacks, Boxes and Other Projects, is now ready for sale. This book covers a comprehensive range of basket-making, starting from instructions for a simple woven folded-over basket to complex patterned baskets and backpacks, as well as boxes, platters, trays, vases and pots. Each project has illustrated instructions and colour photos that show step-by-step instructions for weaving, using diagonal weaving. Over 70 different techniques and methods used in basket-making are included.

Most of the samples in the book are woven with New Zealand flax but any natural or manufactured material that can be made into long thin strips can be used, including palm leaves, strapping, bark and paper, like the basket illustrated here which is made with strips of packaging.

The book has instructions for traditional weaving techniques such as the ones used to weave the backpack with the stone toggle illustrated here. As well as instructions for weaving backpacks, several different ways of weaving larger baskets are described in the book, including starting at the base with a plait, starting at the top with a plait and starting in the middle with a cylinder.

More modern weaving ideas are also included in the book. The rounded-shaped basket illustrated here is reminiscent of other traditional styles of baskets, such as those seen in UK, Europe and USA. Instructions for making different types of basket handles, like the twisted one on this basket, are also included. Other projects give instructions for weaving more contemporary items like vases and pots, as well as serving platters and boxes.

The book has new techniques to be learned in each project and so is also suitable for a course book as well as for individual weavers and groups. More illustrations from the book are shown on the web page Book on weaving flax baskets. If you buy the book, do post a comment below if you can see how it might be improved, or post a question if any of the instructions are not entirely clear. Also if you have any photos of baskets you have woven, I’d love to see them.

The book can be purchased directly from me, along with my other books, Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax and Weaving a Large Container from New Zealand Flax. I do hope that people find this book useful and even inspiring. Happy basket weaving!

Flax weaving for gifts

25 June 2015

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!