Weaving a fantail and netting flax

8 August 2011

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This woven flax fantail — or Piwakawaka, a native bird of New Zealand — is an adaptation of a common woven bird design, and I’ve placed the instructions for weaving it on a separate web page, Weaving a flax fantail, because they are too long for a blog post. Weaving the flax fantail is reasonably straightforward, and it’s fun to see the bird take shape as you weave. Once the final touches of cutting the wings and tail feathers are completed, there’ll be a cheeky, flighty, little fantail for you to enjoy. For the fantail shown above I dyed the flax to match the fantail’s own colours and netted the flax to give it a feathery look, although the fantail is still cute if it is woven without dyed or netted flax. However, if you do want to use netted flax, Weaving a flax fantail includes instructions for netting flax, and some notes on weaving the fantail with netted, dyed flax.

It’s important to note that netting flax with a pasta machine is a patented process, so if you want to sell flaxworks made from netted flax you will need to purchase the netted flax from Hapene, the holder of the patent. However, in my limited knowledge of patent law, I think it’s fine to net flax with a pasta machine for one’s own use, and also to provide instructions for netting flax. At least I’m assuming it’s OK to provide instructions, because I saw instructions for netting flax with a pasta machine in a magazine some years ago. If any readers of this blog post have more knowledge about patent law than I do, please take the time to comment on this blog post.

Participants in my flax weaving workshops have often asked me about netting flax, and a couple of commenters on my blog have also enquired about it. Netted flax is very attractive and is particularly popular for foliage in flower arrangements and bouquets. It also seemed ideal as a way of matching the feathers of a fantail.

The inspiration for designing and weaving the fantail resulted from my experience of the Christchurch earthquake in February, when life turned upside down. I was in my workplace on the fourth floor of a city-centre building when the earthquake struck. The building was badly damaged and has been inaccessible ever since. My home in Sumner was also badly damaged, is unliveable and needs to be demolished.

Two days after the earthquake, as I drove around the Sumner estuary, I noticed shags drying their wings as they always do on a rocky outcrop, and later — when I was staying with one of my sons in a rural cottage — a pair of fantails flitted and flirted around the place, bringing a sense of joy and peace. Seeing these birds living life normally and happily inspired me back into creativity and the flax fantail is the result. Thank you to all those people throughout New Zealand who sent aroha and good wishes, and offered accommodation and holidays after the earthquake. Your thoughts were very welcome and much appreciated.

21 Responses to “Weaving a fantail and netting flax”

  1. Vivienne Aubrey Says:

    I would love to participate in one of your workshops, unfortunately I live in South Auckland - you are just too clever!!! I love the Piwakawaka.

  2. Glennis Godfrey Says:

    The fantail is another challenge… I have worked my way through your “Flowers” book and loved every page. This afternoon after a particularly frustrating morning I tackled the Calla Lilly…. Success!
    Made me feel good all evening. More please!
    Thank you…

  3. Ali Says:

    Yes, it’s very satisfying to finish a flax project, isn’t it? It still seems almost magical to me to weave a flax leaf into a flower or a fantail, however often I’ve done it.

  4. Pat ngaropo Says:

    Hi Ali, I haven’t been online for awhile, but what an awesum sight the fantails you have made are.
    I will certainly try and make them. When my husband and i walk down to our beachfront, a couple of cheeky little fantails dive infront and around us, almost brushing our faces,magical is right.
    They are so special, and to see them on your page, fantastic Ali.
    (sad to hear you went through the disaster to).. Good luck and God bless….Pat

  5. Ali Says:

    Nice to hear from you Pat. I hope you have fun making the fantail.

  6. Bernice Neemiah Says:

    Hi Ali I also live in Manukau City you ever come to Aucland i would love to come to a workshop as well Thanks Bernice

  7. Ali Says:

    Hi Bernice

    I am available to do workshops in other towns, or other countries. Last year I did a series of workshops in Norfolk Island. Usually a group of people get together who want to do a workshop and we go from there. Anyone can contact me to discuss various options if they are interested in a workshop in their area.

  8. Omer skipper Says:

    Hi oh this is cute i havent attempted yet i must sit under you sometime.

  9. Rangimaria Says:

    I am looking forward to the warmer weather down here in Southland when the harakeke is less ’sodden’. The piwaiwaka is neat. If in your experimenting Ali you find the ‘perfect’ project for 5year olds please let me know. What would you do with a ‘class’ of 5 year olds?

  10. Janthia Holt Says:

    A fabulous design, Ali, I will probably give it a whirl tomorrow. So pleased YOU survived the earthquake, but so sorry to hear about your home… too much trauma to contemplate. My husband and daughter were in the city when it struck, so I have heard at first hand of all the suffering and chaos. Go well, keep safe, and keep on designing….. and smiling. All the best, Jan.

  11. Joanne Courtney Says:

    Thanks Ali for your emails it is amazing what you can do with flax, but I have been using gum bark to make flowers they have awesome texture. Try it
    Regards Joanne

  12. TeMiringa Says:

    Hi Ali, You are an absolute gem, for sharing all this knowledge out. I have your book and its been fantastic to work on, and gives me not only a since of pride, but timeout from the world outside. thanks for that. I, too would love to come too one of your workshops, but also live in Auckland, I notice that there are a few who also live here, so ladies what do you think of getting ourselves together for a workshop??

    E noho ra.

  13. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Rangimaria

    One of the things I show 5 year olds is a simple dragon or Taniwha. To make this, use one whole leaf and split it down the middle. Fold each side over the other as you would do with the Christmas chains that are made with crepe paper. Fold down the whole length of the leaf and then tie it off in a knot. This makes the long, thin zig-zag body. Cut the butt end of the leaf into a dragon-shaped head. The children can then decorate them with coloured felt pens or glitter etc. It’s always good to have a few older children or parents to help tie off and so on. The finished piece can also be used as a tail instead of a Taniwha. Tuck the butt end into the top of a waistband and the ‘tail’ bounces as the child walks along.

    Hi Joanne

    Gum bark sounds interesting. I’ll try it sometime. Do you soak it to allow it to bend? What flower did you make with it?

  14. Jasmine Brown Says:

    Hi Ali, I would really like to purchase your book and emailed you not so long ago, is it possible to email me a paypal no.

    kind regards Jasmine Brown

  15. Ali Says:

    Hi Jasmine

    Thanks for your interest in my book. I sent you a Payapl invoice on 31/1/2012 but it seems you haven’t received it yet so I’ve just sent another one. Do let me know if you don’t receive this one.

  16. carol Says:

    thanks for your fantastic book Ali realy easy to follow even i can do it. have recomended it aready to a frind. thanks, looking forward to your next book.

  17. Barbara Starrenburg Says:

    Hi Ali Your book sounds very tempting and I love your fantail. We have a “Flax Attack” floral art club competition this coming Friday and I am wishing I had found your site sooner. I would be happy to pay for your book by internet banking if this is an acceptable means of payment. I would just need your account details. It is so encouraging to hear of someones overcoming adversity with something as beautiful as a fantail. We all know and feel for your situation and wish you every blessing Barbara

  18. Ali Says:

    Hello Barbara

    Thanks for your comments. Yes you can pay for my book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax by internet banking. The account is Westpac bank account 03–0823–0516382–000. Full information about buying the book is on the Book page of my website.

    Your “Flax Attack” competition sounds like fun. I assume you’ve seen the instructions for netting flax on the Fantail instruction page. Netted flax is very versatile and is used a lot in floral work. Also have you seen my Instructions page? You may find something in there to use for your entry. Good luck and I’d love to see photos of your entries if your club would like to send some to me.

    Addendum, 29 July 2013
    Since writing this comment, I have a new understanding of the legal situation regarding netting flax, and have updated the netted flax section of this website to reflect the correct information.

  19. Denise Wilson Says:

    Can you confirm the cost of “Weaving Flowers From NZ Flax 3rd Edition ISBN 978-0-473-24749-2″ + Postage to Perth please in New Zealand currency. I will pay this using mastercard.

  20. Ali Says:

    Hello Denise

    The cost for the book plus postage to Perth is NZ$45. I can accept Mastercard through Paypal.

  21. April Waipara-Pierce Says:

    Loved making the harakeke fantail (piwaiwaka/tiwaiwaka). Love all your pukapuka.

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