Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Art Of Raranga

A Maori Craft

Today I went to a Raranga demonstration and learnt the art of flax weaving - that is I made a few simple roses with the aid of a marvellous Maori teacher! This simple weaving and plaiting is done without the aid of any loom or other materials - just with the fingers.

The Maori teacher, Emma, was an amazing woman, who apart from teaching Maori crafts also runs the local kindergarden while caring for her big family. She also collects flax and weaves.

In Maori the flax is called Harakeke and for centuries has been used for mats, baskets, fishing nets and bird traps. Very strict protocols are followed when harvesting this treasure. Before the harvesting a special prayer is said for the area, the plant and life in general, and the cutting can only take place in daylight and during fine weather. The cutting of outer leaves is allowed but inner leaves must not ever be touched.

When weaving, again strict protocols are followed, menstruating and pregnant women may not take part and the first woven article must always be given away as a gift. Children and food must not be near the weaving area and sacred songs, prayers and Maori proverbs are to be sung or recited during the weaving process.



New Zealand Flax (The Phormium or Harakeke) grows locally in the wild and is collected in bundles, while being cut carefully so as not to damage the plant and its future growing abilities. At this point it looks like this ...

These cut reeds were around five feet long and about one and a half inches across. They are quite firm and a little porous emitting a highly effective laxative (top tip to myself to wash my hands thoroughly before I leave!)

The rose weaving was a fiddly process and needed two hands - hence no pics of the proceedure. Needless to say I was not very good at it but still managed to make some fairly decent flowers.
At this point the flax is a bright green but over a few days while drying it becomes a pale straw colour. Many of the woven goods are dyed with a natural dye, which was bubbling away in a pot on the verandah.

After a quick dip the flowers became a lovely beetroot colour - apparently when eventually dry this will dull down to a softer shade of red.

The Maori women all sat around a large table at The Heritage Centre, Founders Park, in Nelson, NZ., making mats, pots and bags, which are sold in local craft shops. Many were intricate works of art.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

NZ - The 'Lord Of The Ring' Country

Did You Know ...
I arrived in the beautiful Nelson, South Island, New Zealand after three long flight (two were twelve hours each) and the sun was shining and the countryside as amazing as ever. This area is well known throughout the world because of the filming here for The Lord Of The Rings series.

The flight from Auckland to Nelson takes place in a tiny twin engined sixteen seater (with propellers) plane, which flies very close to the sea (The Cook Straits - aka Captain Cook) and I sprinkled some fairy dust over Wellington as we flew over as requested by Hadley for her sister. The flight in such a tiny plane always makes me a little nervous but I survived without too much discomfort.

The Lord Of The Rings

Did you know that much of  the filming for 'The Lord Of The Rings',  J.R.R Tolkien's masterpiece was filmed in and around the three National Parks of Nelson, in The South Island of New Zealand?

Middle Earth

The War In The North

Mount Owen (Dimril Dale) and Mount Olympus (Eirigion Hills) provided many of the fantastic settings in and around Rivendell and Chetwood Forest. The rough country of Kaharangi National Park, where some of the most spectacular filming took place, was so inaccessible that all the film crews and equipment were transported by helicopter to these remote sites. (Nelson Helicopters now provide a special 'The Lord Of The Rings Tour').

The One True Ring

Nelson is known as a creative destination and the local artisans provided many of the props for the film. 'The One True Ring' was made by local jeweller  Jens Hansen  as were the rings for Hugo Weaving (Elrond's 'Ring Of Power'), the ring for Viggo, the ring for Cale and an adorable band with an Elvish inscription. All these beautiful rings are now produced as replicas and can be bought at Hansen's The Jewellers.

Bag End

Pottery used throughout came from local potters and carvings, steelwork, glasswork and costumes were all provided by the accomplished artisans in the region. Even the beer served at 'The Prancing Pony' in Bree, was brewed at the local Nelson Brewery, Harringtons, something of which they are particularly proud.

The Animaajes


The Misty Mountains

Friday, 26 October 2012

Tokyo Airport


Arrived in Tokyo during a hurricane and heard that a tornado was on its way! . Everyone very jumpy and deciding to take cover from the promised weather. I did not enjoy the twelve hour flight from London - hated the food and drink options (green tea anyone?), although I love sushi in England (ie. the European variety), and am a real tea addict. Also felt weird sitting in a plane with almost the entire community surrounding me wearing full face masks.

Arrival  in Tokyo



The country is awash with 'Hello Kitty' stuff. This superbrand has been around since the cartoon was born in the mid-seventies, yet I have never seen it in such mammoth quantities. It is on everything!

Hello kitty character portrait.png



T shirt

I am most definitely not a fan of this far too cute phenomenen! Sadly even the adults have the logo on their clothes, their bags, their wallets and purses, even their hairslides and hats.

My other observation is that teenagers the world over wear the same weird hairstyles and clothes. The girls often have too-short skirts and silly shoes, and the boys constantly hitch their trousers up just enough to hide their modesty but not enough to cover the tops of their designer pants!  Orange hair dye must also be the biggest seller in these parts as every other teen sports this stunning hue. There is a distinct 'Japanese style',  however, it is that just about anything goes - and the wackier the better.

Street fashion

Weird and wonderful


Airport views

Tokyo International Airport

Shopping Tokyo style

Tokyo International Airport

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Guess Where I Am Going?

Another Trip

Sadly I cannot resist another jaunt before Christmas - guess where I am going?  I am setting off alone fom London, England, tomorrow  to visit my family in New Zealand, and after a short stop over in Tokyo, Japan, and then Auckland in the North Island, NZ,  I will stay in Nelson in the South Island, NZ, for six weeks and then travel back alone to London, England, via Auckland, NZ,  and Hong Kong, China, arriving home in London well in time for the Christmas chaos. Anyone want to come with me?

London, England

Tokyo, Japan

Auckland, New Zealand

Nelson, New Zealand

Auckland City photo
Auckland, New Zealand

Hong Kong, China

London, England

I have often done this journey alone and do not feel too concerned about it this time and am hopeful that I will stay well and have some fun. Poor Mr Whizz Kid, The Devil Child, and all the other children/grown ups will just have to miss me (or not)!

If you have any suggestions of a craft for me to do while there, do let me know (quickly) - usually it is knitting socks but I would love to try something else simple that travels easily. My immediate thought is to practice some embroidery - a small hoop, some fabric and silks and a needlecase take very little space in my luggage - and I have recently been inspired by a sampler tree over at  Bearpaw. I think that a variation on this theme could be such fun and I have plenty of time to make several. What do you think?

As for Kaffe Fassett and his inspirational works - they will just have to wait until I get back home!

I shall post lots of pics along the way and am excited by the fact that Nelson, New Zealand is the centre of many arts and craft communities and is also  in the middle of the flourishing wine area of Marlborough. Do travel along with me.

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Who Ever Came Up With Zips?

After struggling with sewing my latest zip into a tiny pouch, I got to wondering how this amazing invention ever came about. So ... after a bit of research I can tell you ...


A "continuous clothing" device was the first time a 'zipper' as such was patented by Elias Howe in 1851. He was rather preoccupied at this time, trying to perfect a sewing machine he had earlier invented in 1846, and so never concentrated on this small wonder long enough to take the 'zip' to the masses.

Whitcomb Judson, an inventor, patented a similar "clasp locker" in 1893 and by 1905 these early 'zips' were being widely used in the clothing industry. One of Judson's employees, a Swedish scientist called Gideon Sundbach, refined the "clasp locker" into "the hookless fastener" and later an improved version known as "the seperable fastener" was patented in 1917 and immediately became the successful fastener we know today.

By the beginning of World War One the invention was so reliable and well known that the US Army ordered it to be included on all army clothing and equipment for the troops. It is thought that at this time the term 'zipper' and later 'zip' came into common usage. (Maybe ... "Walter your seperable fastener is undone and we don't want to scare the horses" ... was a bit of a mouthful!)

Zip it up!

Today the majority of zips are made by the YKK Group. Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha, a company founded by Tadoa Yoshida in 1934,  makes around ninety percent of the worlds output. Many zips still bear the initials YXX on the zip closure.

All colours and sizes

Beckham zip dress


Friday, 19 October 2012

All The Way From Oz

Do You Remember
The Swap?

Taking part in a swap was good fun - I love waiting to see what other crafters send ... well  Kirsty of Four Happy Violets came up trumps and here is what I found in my post this morning ...

A very pretty cuff in shades of blue and pink  ...

Some lovely charm squares in orange, green, blue and browns ...

And a very useful covered journal ...

Thank you so much Kirsty. The cuff fits beautifully and the fabric charm squares are just perfect for a project that I am in the middle of right now.  I had actually been to John Lewis Fabric Department this very morning looking for fabrics with a ginger/orange hue ... to shape into applique ginger cats! These are just perfect, thank you. The journal is beautifully covered and will remind me of you and Australia whenever I use it. Aren't swaps fun? I do hope that Kirst is equally pleased with my parcel to her.