Sunday, August 30, 2015

Problems and solutions

At Te Tomairangi marae I was shown a cloak made about 15 years ago. It was a very nice design and used lots of different feathers.  I saw Pukeko, kiwi, kereru, titi, and weka. It had a lovely taaniko pattern and am interesting way of attaching a tie that I haven't seen before.

 But they were having problems with feathers falling out. Partly this may have been caused by use, but on close inspection there were problems with construction that may have added to the rate of the feathers dropping. This was a very useful teaching tool and I learnt a lot about why we make things a certain way.

Firstly I noticed that the ara (rows) were done in taaniko stitch. The simple twist of taaniko was often used for the kaupapa or body of the cloak in old korowai but I don't think I have seen it done with feathers. This stitch may not be sufficient to keep feathers in.  The aho thread was wool and this was broken in a few places so the feathers were falling out as the row was compromised. Make sure the threads are strong enough and the row ended well enough so that nothing comes undone.

Secondly we saw that the aho cotton was too thick for the size of the whenu. This meant that there were gaps between the whenu so the feathers and their stalks poked through the fabric. This required a lining so that the wearer didn't get scratched. If the proportions between the thickness of whenu and aho are good, and the tension is good then there will be no gaps and a clean back is formed which will not require a lining.  The thinner the whenu the thinner the aho. The old kakahu and korowai used a very fine aho, each thread only 4 muka fibres thick.

Thirdly the feathers had not been trimmed. This may have meant the feathers were knocked out as people's arms caught on quills which stuck out. If the feather quills are trimmed to about 2.5 mm before being woven in it is lot easier as afterwards they can get forgotten or the feathers or whenu are in danger of getting cut by mistake. It also helps with feathers sitting well.

I have found such a lot to learn from all sorts of cloaks if you know what to look for. However I think for this cloak the best idea is to preserve it in a cabinet and make another to be used. It would be a pity to change it in any way in order to keep the feathers from being lost. Some of the ladies there will soon be good enough to attempt a big cloak for the marae.


What a lovely excursion to invercargill I had this weekend.  I went down via Gore where I visited the art gallery. What a treasure.  The most interesting store of statues and masks from the Congo, which I didn't expect to find,  and the art of Theo Schoon.  Now his work resonated with me because here was a Dutchman being inspired by maori art and becoming so immersed in it that he helped to keep some traditions alive. I feel very privileged to be able to learn korowai and then to teach it,  even though I have no maori blood.
Such a great stop, and a lunch at a cafe in town with plenty of gluten free choice.

Then on to Invercargill where the Museum visit was most inspiring. There was an exhibition of cloaks made by schools and kindis. This one made with material children's hands was fabulous and such a simple idea but very effective. 

Then after a quick visit to Bluff to see the entry to the wonderful marae there, ( I was too chicken to find the office and ask to see inside. Maybe next time), it was back to invercargill to Te Tomairangi marae.
This marae was where we were having our wananga. There were about a dozen ladies who came to learn the basics. And I was amazed at how much they got through in the Friday night and Saturday. Everyone worked at their own pace and because we will have another wananga next month there was not the pressure to get through the work before the end of the day. Hopefully everyone will have finished their last feather row by the next session. Running the weekend this way was a new trial but it was a very good alternative to a single weekend. I am very happy with how it went and grateful to Sharne and the others who made it happen.  I loved being able to stay overnight with some of the girls in the marae. Thanks again

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Getting there slowly.  It takes ages to do all the feather bundles but only another 200 to go.  What do you think Pauline, how long does it need to be for kindi kids?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Little korowai

As it will be another week before I can get the feathers I need for the Museum cloak I have started a small korowai using the hen feathers from the strings of feathers used in the starter kits. Using them flicked up gives a nice thick feel to the cloak however it takes lots of work and feathers as they are on every row.

This Saturday I will be at Te Tormairangi marae in Invercargill to teach weaving. If anyone is interested to pop in between 10am and 3 pm to see what we are doing or ask any weaving questions I'm sure that would be fine.  I will be down again in late October if anyone wants to book a space.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thursday night in Temuka

I spent a lovely evening with some of the Temuka girls weaving at the marae weaving room on Thursday night. I had been up in Timaru looking after my sick mother so was able to meet up with them again. It is great to see their enthusiastic and adventurous approach to weaving.  Debs had made a lovely little basket for a tiny baby with matching korowai.

She had a great idea for making kete too. She was weaving the sides around a cardboard box the exact size of her bag. It seemed to keep it straight and even. 

Lavinia was also making bag and Vicky had some really interesting string from a trade aid shop that she was experimenting with.  
Well done girls. Great to have been with you, your enthusiasm is catching. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The taaniko is finished

Hooray,  at last I can move on.  60 rows at an hour and a half per row over 800 whenu. It's just over 10cm wide.

Now for the next step. I have applied for some birds from DoC and hope to pick them up next week. But what design? I think I won't do all over feathers but will incorporate some tags. This afternoon I have been counting strings and tying them in knots according to my ideas. It does help to have this sorted out before you start especially making sure the sides are mirror images. My maths gets me in trouble if I don't be very careful about that. 

I have realized that on my first book "Making your first small korowai" I have made two confusing passages. The first is where I show how to do the stitch and say to cut two aho strings of different colours. The problem is we only supply one colour in the starter kit as I expect people will want to use the one colour throughout their piece. I hope people realize this and don't use the taaniko thread instead. 
The second is where I specifically say to put the feathers in with three whenu between bundles. However with the whenu we have at the moment in our starter kits being a bit thicker and some of the feathers being skinny it would have been better to say to put the feathers in as needed to make a piece with no white whenu showing whether that needs one, two or the whenu between bundles.
I hope to fix this soon but meantime I do hope people can work through these problems. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Another great weekend away teaching six ladies in Alexandra.  It was lovely to meet new folk and see their enthusiastic response to the weekend and their results. This time, as well as cutting back the whenu to 34 plus the feather rows to three, we did more on the Friday night. By trying the whatu stitch and casting on we were well ahead. Saturday we finished the feather rows by lunch time and did the taaniko in the afternoon so that on Sunday we only had to do the turning row and the mawhitiwhiti and we were done. We left by lunch time. It snowed Sunday morning but the sun was out by lunch and the snow all gone. There was more snow coming over the Waihola to Taieri Mouth road than anywhere on the road from Alexandra.
Here is our group photo of proud ladies and their mahi.

There were also two ladies from Hawea way who joined us for some of the time.  Enger was working on a big korowai she had started already using Pukeko and pheasant feathers. Interestingly she was putting in the pheasant feathers singly on every second whenu instead of bundles. This saved a bit of work and because they were quite fluffy they seemed to fill in quite well.  I have seen old cloaks where feathers, especially kiwi, were put in singly but haven't tried it.  

The other visitor was working on an exciting piece using stripped harekeke and other native plant leaves. It is so good to see people experimenting with different materials. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tuesday with the dedicated few

The first Tuesday of the month we meet at Ocean View for a morning for chat, morning tea and weaving. This is a time I get a chance to actually weave with the girls. My piece is coming on slowly. It takes an hour and a half to complete one row as it is so big. I am halfway there now.

Elaine is putting tags on her cloak

Glenda is nearly finished her pink and white baby memorial

Helen is finishing her Christmas decoration

And Judy is working on another pattern for her taaniko sampler. 

Tomorrow I am off to Alexandra to take a weekend school.  That will be fun. The classes seem to be gathering interest quickly.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday weaving at Ocean View

This Saturday we had the pleasure of the company of four ladies from Invercargill. Our own numbers were lower today so the extras were very welcome and now they are part of us. It is so good to get together to see what everyone is doing as it stimulates ideas and interest. 
Elaine, as usual was busy on a new cloak getting bigger all the time. 

Jacquie had finished her first and had started a jute string one with a very nicely done taaniko. She had a Pukeko pelt to start the feather rows. 

Sharne started an interesting piece for her son using harekeke rolls and bleached jute string.  She also is organising a Saturday workshop with me in Invercargill at the end of August.

Donna and Paula are on to their second using the feathers flicking up or 'floating'. They have really improved and are planning their next weaving adventures. 

Jasmine continued with her first piece, I made a 34 whenu small starter piece to show the people at Alexandra next weekend and Lyann finished a row on her big taaniko.

So, all in all a good days work. Well done everyone. I am looking forward to seeing what you have done next month.