Thursday, 10 March 2011

New Zealand Flax weaving with Judith Ferns

...or, The Tale of a Bag.
We had another enjoyable evening meeting last night:  Judith Ferns came to teach us how to weave with New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax).  This useful plant has great spiritual significance for the Maori, but in mountainous North Wales we're lucky if we can get it to grow at all.  It does, however, grow down on the coast in the "banana belt", and supplies can be scrounged from friends.  The leaves are split along the "grain" to yield strong strips for weaving, and fibre can be peeled out of the leaves as well.  Judith brought several bags and vessels made using different weaving and plying techniques and materials.
We learned the basic technique by making a bracelet - once the principles are learned you can, in theory, make anything you fancy...

Phormium tenax (it doesn't actually grow in black bin bags)

A long wide strip wound around itself twice, and secured with a peg, and the outside layer split into 3 along the length of the leaf.
A thinner "weaver" passed round and round, woven between the "weft" strands and secured with another peg.
The finished article, showing the weaving.
Many thanks to Judith for trekking all the way from the other side of Chester.
However..... when it was time to pack up, and after Judith had left (in the pitch dark and high wind), we discovered a handbag at the back of the hall.  It contained all the usual, important things like money, spectacles, mobile phone - and a Co-Op card for Mrs. J. Ferns.....   Eventually we managed to call Mr. J. Ferns and leave a message for Judith, and yours truly went home (in the pitch dark and high wind) promising to take said bag to its' owner in the morning.  However... my lane is being resurfaced, and there was a temporary step down from the road to the slippery verge where I usually park.  To cut a long story short, in the pitch dark, I managed to wedge my car between the step and a grit bin, whence there was no escape.  So Judith and Jim had to come all the way over to pick up the bag, when Judith should have been packing to go to a Basket Makers' Event in Oxford. Judith had to walk the last bit, as the road crew were busy in the middle of the lane, but the bag is now home again.
All's well that ends well, and the resurfacing gang pushed my car free this afternoon (it took four of them -so thank you to Conwy Council Highways Department.)  They have also turned the step into a ramp, so I shall be able to get in and out again soon.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting website, lots of information. I am a mature student studying for a textiles BA. One of our courses is on weaving and I am utterly smitten. I would love to learn more about it, but I live in Spain most of the year with only the occasional visit to North Wales to visit family.