About 40 years ago, my wife Helen and I took a lauhala weaving class at Kalaheo High School in Kailua, O’ahu Hawaii. We made the usual place mats, hot pads and so forth. Getting materials was easy because there was a lauhala tree with good leaves in the back yard. What I didn’t appreciate at that time was the extent to which her mother, aunts and uncles had been involved in the collection, weaving and selling of all sorts of lauhala items during the 1940’s and ’50’s.
Fast forward 20 years and we each made a hat under the direction of one of her cousins who was a good teacher and a very fast weaver.
Then several years ago I rekindled my interest in weaving as a result of talking story with Helen’s Auntie Rosie who had woven hats along with her sisters and made many other lauhala articles. Auntie Rosie’s husband Richard had made a number of tools for weaving including leaf strippers (cutting tools for making uniform strips of lauhala), and different rollers for softening the leaves and smoothing them. Along with that we were shown different articles that she had made as well as rolls of lauhala (kuka’a) that had been collected 40 years earlier.
So I enrolled in a lauhala weaving class at Kamana, the senior activity center in Hilo, Hawaii where we now live. There I met weavers of all levels, some of whom were generous enough to share their knowledge with me. As I slowly progressed from simple projects to more complex ones, I began to write little how-to articles for myself regarding the different steps necessary to make an item. The articles are similar to what I have done for ukulele making, fishing and birding on this website.
What follows then is a series of these articles, written about many aspects of lauhala weaving and updated as time permits. The articles are A way of doing a certain process. I wish to emphasize that I am not a kumu (teacher) of ulana lauhala (weaving lauhala). I am simply a weaving hobbyist sharing what works for me.
There are many who have strong feelings about the way weaving should be done and it is their right to have their opinions. But without change and differences of opinion, lauhala weaving as we see it today would never have come into existence.
To quote from Ōlelo Noʻeau: “ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi – All knowledge is not taught in the same school. One can learn from many sources. – We shouldn’t be hoʻokano (act superior) when it comes to knowledge. There is waiwai (value) from all resources, and not all knowledge is the same.”