Weaving jewellery

30 May 2018

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Crafting personal jewellery from natural objects is a universal and ancient pastime so it’s not surprising that people who work with New Zealand flax, harakeke, make jewellery as well as baskets, hats and other larger items. A variety of interesting jewellery pieces can be fashioned simply by plaiting four strips of flax into either an enclosed, rounded plait or an open curved plait and then shaping the plait into a necklet, earring, brooch or bracelet. For example, the pendant illustrated above shows the rounded plait being used to make a necklet and the curved plait being used to make a pendant shape to hang from the necklet.

The curved version of this four-plait works well to make various shapes of pendants, like the two heart-shaped pendants illustrated here. The pendants are made by curling the plaited flax into a koru shape — a spiral shape based on the appearance of a new unfurling silver fern frond — at one end and then curling it up in the reverse direction the other end, leaving a single piece of plait in between them. The point of the heart is shaped by pinching together the single strip of flour-plait between the two koru shapes while the flax is still soft and shaping it into a curved point. The heart shape is held together with a small stitch with thread in the centre. A waxed linen thread is added for hanging. The green pendant’s shape is a classic heart shape but I rather like the offset shape of the naturally-coloured pendant which is made by joining the two koru shapes so they are slightly offset from each other.

Illustrated on the left is a variation I made of the koru pendant. This design has a small koru in the centre which is encircled with a larger single row of curved four-plait. To complete the pendant, the ends are threaded through into the plaiting of the outside plait, by threading each end twice through into the plait pattern. This secures the outer encircling plait. A waxed linen thread with a loop at one end and a paua shell button at the other end is used for hanging the pendant. I also made a smaller version into earrings. To allow the earring to hang freely and on an angle which shows the pattern fully, the koru circlet needs a jump ring, or extra ring, between the circlet and the earring hook. Unfortunately I only made one of these earrings so have never worn this one as an earring, although I do wear the pendant regularly and have received favourable comments on it. (I must make that second earring sometime!)

I’ve played around with a few different ideas for making jewellery with a four-plait, including enclosing a small shell or stone in the centre of the koru. The curved four-plait makes a nicely rounded bracelet, or a ring. A smaller version of the bracelet could be used for napkin rings, or with a few more layers, a toggle to hold a scarf if the hole in the centre is a bit larger than the one illustrated here. I like long tails on the koru but haven’t yet found any practical jewellery use for this style, although I can see it being used in other ways. Do you have any more ideas for koru jewellery? I’d love to see them.

I’ve written instructions on how to make the curved four-plait here and there are instructions for the rounded four-plait cord on this blog post, including an idea on how to make a clasp for the cord.

© Alison Brown 2018.

23 Responses to “Weaving jewellery”

  1. Kaye Robinson Says:

    Received the books Weaving Baskets, Backpacks, Boxes and other Projects and Weaving a Large Container over the weekend. Lots of great tips and ideas in them, looking forward to weaving a couple of projects from them. Thanks so much Ali.

  2. Lynnette Margaret Harrison Says:

    My daughter bought your flower weaving book for me and I have just got around to going to a flax weaving class at matakohe museam so thought i would get the basket weaving book as my aim is to make one each for my sisters for xmas I need heaps of practise and looking at how do do the techneque that is for sure. Also gave out your website details to others from the class as I showed them the flower book

  3. Ali Says:

    Hi Kaye and Lynette, Thanks for buying the books, I’m sure you’ll find them useful.

  4. Cath Says:

    Thank you for the book, it arrived today. I live on a remote coastline South of Taieri Mouth and have flax everywhere. I used to know what to do with it but now have grandkids and looking forward to showing them the amazing things that can be made with flax. Your book is amazing and was shown to me by a friend who also lives down here. Would love to have classes here but don’t know anyone who has experience so will just have to do it ourselves. Very excited about it.
    I will also buy your other books once I get going.

  5. Bronwyn Flemming Says:

    Received Weaving A Large Container today. Have been going to weaving classes, looking forward to using this book to make larger containers.

  6. Ocean Says:

    Kia ora Ali, thank you so much for Weaving Flowers with Harakeke Flax, it is fantastic! I was extra thrilled to find your book includes instructions for making tulips, iris, pohutukawa and even kowhai! Each of those flowers has heritage significance to either me or my fiance. So your book has given me the inspiration and confidence to at least have a go at making a harakeke bridal bouquet, and other decorations. So far I’ve been making heaps of roses, leaves and hyacinths. The instructions are super easy to follow. It’s great that you don’t take any shortcuts on instructions or photo guides - someone could turn to any page, a flower of any level of ease or complexity and get the complete instructions needed. Thanks again for such an amazing resource in the books and the website. Toitu te whenua, toitu te tangata.

  7. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Ocean, thanks very much for your comments — I’m glad you’re finding the book and instructions so easy to follow. Have fun weaving your bouquet and I’d love to see a photo of it when it’s finished. Happy weaving!

  8. Angevahn Says:

    Hi Ali
    Thanks for sending my order for the 3 books so quickly. I’ve only had a look through for now, but wanted to say how amazing these are. I am looking forward to following the step by step instructions with those lovely photos to illustrate what you’re saying.
    Thank you for the many hours of putting these together, and for making weaving accessible in this way.


  9. Ali Says:

    Thanks Angevahn

  10. Karepe Says:

    He tino pai rawa atu tēneki pukapuka ki te ako mahi raranga. Mā te pukapuka nēki e whakatuwhera i te ahuatanga o te ao raranga, ara, kia mama ake taku haerenga ki te ako.
    Ngā mihi atu ki a Ali Brown

  11. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Karepe

  12. Ruth Smits Says:

    Hi Ali
    My partner gave me your set of three books as a xmas present. I mentioned it to him so he got the set for me. Angevahn (mentioned above) and I have just completed L4 raranga cse in NP. I haven’t had time at this moment but they will be an excellent step by step (with photos) Taonga to learn from and a valuable weaving resource to have. Thank you Ali

  13. Ali Says:

    Thanks for your comments Ruth. I do hope you find them helpful with your studies.

  14. Rebecca Says:

    Kia ora Ali,
    Thank you for sending the Weaving a Large Container book which arrived in the UK within 6 days. I’ve been keen to learn how to weave waikawa for a while. Your instructions are so clear and easy to follow-with pictures demonstrating each step. It’s great to be able to learn different ways to finish the containers, skills I can also use for other weaving projects!
    Ngā mihi,

  15. Ali Says:

    Thanks Rebecca, glad you’re finding it useful. Happy weaving!

  16. Teresa Says:

    Just received the flowers book this week and enjoying getting lots of practice and confidence. Could wish for just a couple of more steps/photos in one or two of the designs though.

  17. Ali Says:

    Thanks Teresa, feel free to email me with any questions you may have regarding the instructions.

  18. Deb Says:

    Brought the set of books for which I love and just brought one for my daughter……

  19. Ali Says:

    Happy weaving Deb!

  20. Dianne Says:

    Hi Ali, I belong to a flax weaving group in Karamea. Between us we have three of your amazing books. They are great and pretty easy to follow. One thing I would like you to verify for me is. In the ‘Weaving A Large Container’…the large container with the tassels….laying the split flax ready to weave the butts. Page 3….does the first leaf butt that is on a 45degree angle face away from you as it says in the instructions or towards you as it is in the photo? Look forward to your reply.

  21. Ali Says:

    Hi Dianne, the butt end is closest to you and the top end of the leaf is furthest away.

  22. Monica Zaini Says:

    Kia ora Ali

    can you please let me know how many strips I need and the width to make a little kete for jewellery like a brooch or pendant or bracelet.

    thank you

  23. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Monica, depending on the size you want I would suggest very fine strips, say 3-4 mm wide and perhaps 8-10 for the whole kete. Chose thinner flax as the thicker flax will be too bulky.