Today was the first day of my 8 week flax, or harakeke, weaving class at the community center in Massey. We started with learning very basic flax flowers, 3 in total. The first was the rose, the second the iris and the third the fern. I’m sorry that my photos are so horrible, I meant to bring the digital camera but forgot and resorted to using my camera phone.
Ali Brown has some wonderful information on her website about flax weaving, from gathering and preparing the flax to dyeing and weaving instructions, so I’ll direct you there rather then repeating what I was taught today. I will add though that we did offer a maori prayer of thanks to nature for allowing us to take the flax for our use and I was also told that you need to wash your hands after preparing flax as the flax juice will send you to the toilet, enough said.
Just to clear something up: New Zealand flax (harakeke) is not the same as linen flax.
I became interested in flax after friends opened the Flax Cafe at Kiwi valley farm in Henderson Valley. On display in the cafe there were 2 corseted dresses (that’s the best way I can describe them) on the wall, they were 3D flax sculptures I suppose, and they were very very cool. Also scattered around were flax mats, baskets and so on, useful every day objects made from natural renewable resources. The waste from weaving goes into the compost and when the item has finished it’s useful life, it too can just go right into the compost. Flax is easy to grow and looks great in a garden, it’s a very common plant in NZ and as long as you respect the plant and the methods of harvesting, there is no problem with being able to use what is readily available on public land.
Sunday or Monday I’ll go and harvest a few leaves and on Thursday I’ll prepare them into 16 strips ready to weave into my first basket type item next Friday. I’m really looking forward to this, and my head is already buzzing with ideas and uses for what I could make.