Weaving a flax planter

19 December 2016

Many people enjoy creating gifts to give to friends, family, colleagues, and strangers, rather than purchasing gifts. A gift of flax flowers as a thank you, flax containers holding home-made preserves, a little flax kete to hold a piece of jewellery, or a shredded flax tie on a parcel are all received with appreciation, from my experience.

Recently I wove a waikawa to hold some nasturtium seedlings as a gift for a fortieth birthday. The basket was made with 16 full leaves and woven with a square-base. The sides were woven up higher than the intended end height of the basket and then rolled down three times to make a firm rolled edge. A piece of hessian from the sewing kit was used to line the basket to hold the dirt in place. The basket was then filled with potting mix and the seedlings planted.

Although I used bought seedlings and potting mix, for people looking for gifts of little cost, this gift could be made at no cost, apart from your time, by using materials that are commonly found in people’s homes. The flax to weave the basket is usually a free resource, the material to line the basket can be any natural material, such as cotton or wool, that could be an old unwanted garment or towel, for example, and the seedlings could be found in any home garden. Vegetable seedlings, cacti or self-sown annuals can be easily transplanted.

Planters woven from flax don’t stay in perfect condition when left outside. The flax will fade and bleach and parts will discolour as can be seen in this pot illustrated here, which has been outside for two seasons. This container has also been squashed down which accounts for the wonky shape.

If you’d like instructions on how to weave these pots or containers, they are available in my book Weaving a Large Container from New Zealand Flax, which can be purchased directly from me.

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!