Sources of Information for Weaving Lauhala and Flax

Introduction

The following article gives sources of information about the history of lauhala and flax weaving in Hawaiian and other Polynesian cultures, usage of the articles made and the biology of lauhala.

Biology, Uses and Distribution of Lauhala

A thorough overview by Gallaher (2014, ResearchGate ) gives information on a botanical introduction to hala, a survey of the uses of Pandanus tectorius in Hawai’i and throughout the Pacific, the ecology and distribution of Pandanus in Hawai’i, the named hala Groves of Hawai’i and modern threats to Hawaiian hala.

The website Agroforestry.org has many excellent publications about Pacific trees which are free to download. Here is one regarding hala:

History and Weaving Techniques of Lauhala for Hawaiian and other Polynesian Cultures

If you don’t have access to an organized class, club or teacher for weaving lauhala, a primary source would be “The Craft of Hawaiian Lauhala Weaving” by Bird, Goldsberry and Bird (1982). The book has been reprinted and is available new through Amazon and also used from Abebooks.com. It’s also possible to download individual chapters as pdf files from this link:  https://web.archive.org/web/20070713091616/http://www.ethnomath.org/resources/bird1982.html .

The above book includes descriptions of the hala or pandanus tree and its parts, advice on collecting, cleaning and preparing leaves for weaving. There are also six projects (two headbands with different edges, bracelets and napkin rings, place mats, a lauhala fan, making baskets and a glossary of Hawaiian weaving terms). The black and white photographs and accompanying text are as clear as they can be but the authors note that having an experienced teacher to explain the process in person would also be of great benefit.

How to Weave Authentic Hawaiian Lauhala Bracelets: A Step by Step Guide”, Paperback by Jim Widess  New book, very detailed, clear instructions, available through Amazon.

The Story of Lauhala” by Edna Williamson Stall (1952)  Older book  covering history, products, care and preservation, weaving (weaving), Hawaiian names for the hala and more. Available through Abebooks.com.

Arts and Crafts of Hawaii – Plaiting” by Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck), 1957, Bishop Museum Press. Also available as an Ebook from Bishop Museum.   Outstanding compilation of Hawaiian terms and technique regarding the plaiting and designs of mats in particular.

Another excellent Bishop Museum publication is “Hala and Wauke in Hawai’i” by Brien Meilleur, May Anne Maigret and Richard Manshardt (1997) Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. Thoughtful and thorough, well worth having.

The Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii has an extensive ethnology research section with many photographs of items in their collection. The link to the photographs of old Hawaiian hats made of many different materials including lauhala is HERE.

In 1906 Brigham and Stokes published an extensive memoir comparing ancient Hawaiian mats and basketry with the work of other Pacific cultures.

In the 1920’s Willowdean Handy went along on an ethnology expedition to the Society Islands ( Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Huahine, Borabora, Maupiti and others ). She went on to write “Handcrafts of the Society Islands”, Bishop Museum Publication 42, 1927. This is a wonderful publication with 80 pages dedicated to plaiting of a variety of articles. Handy herself became involved with the actual plaiting under the direction of a skilled plaiter. There are a number of pen and ink drawings to illustrate the sequence of steps and although sometimes difficult to follow interesting nonetheless.

The Victoria University of Wellington Library maintains the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection which contains downloadable pdf files regarding the material culture of several Polynesian island groups:  http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/subject-000010.html  .

Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck) wrote a remarkable series of articles in the 1920’s which are still valuable a 100 years later. There are sections on weaving both mats and baskets which have clear illustrations and instructions:

For the Cook Islands:  http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-BucMate-t1-front-d6.html

Regarding Manahiki and Rakahanga:  http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-BucMani-t1-body-d1-d4-d3-d1.html  Follow the “next section” links at the bottom of the page to see more materials.

For Samoa:  http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-BucSamo-t1-body1-d4-d1-d1.html  Follow the “next section” links at the bottom of the page to see more materials.

Weaving Flax

The Maori weavers of New Zealand use flax rather than pandanus or coconut leaves for weaving. Here are early articles again by Te Rangi Hiroa regarding Maori plaited basketry and plaitwork:
http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/volume/rsnz_54/rsnz_54_00_007750.html
http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/volume/rsnz_55/rsnz_55_00_003720.html
http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/volume/rsnz_56/rsnz_56_00_007290.html

Ali Brown from New Zealand has an extensive blog wherein she unselfishly shares many techniques of weaving flax. Highly recommended.

Rita Baker ( Flaxworkz )  is clearly a force of nature in the New Zealand flax weaving community. She has an extensive YouTube video series and merchandising of products and a subscription advice workshop. I find her videos well intended but very fast and often her hands cover the weaving that she is demonstrating. Still a great source of information for the open minded Hawaii weaver.

Making a YouTube search using the keywords “flax weaving instructions” (without quotes) also yields many videos.

Sources of Information on Weaving Lauhala on the Internet

Searching for Lauhala weaving instructions will lead the reader to additional instructional resources. Also searching for the terms lauhala; screwpine; flax; weaving; plaiting; pandanus; and twill plaiting will yield new articles and approaches.

YouTube Videos:

For something a little light-hearted to start off with, there’s the hula “The Wahine with the Lauhala Hat

Mei Lin Wong-Gary shows how to prepare lauhala for weaving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f3lm2r0KE4

Rena Labatte of Lauhala Designs shows how to soften lauhala in preparation for weaving:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_alAZoYVpU

Maurene Unasa has a five part series on making a small Samoan mat using colored ribbons rather than lauhala:
https://youtu.be/EBcobvl0XAk?list=PL5uTRpf21a675lHqUEFzRC7XzVLlrmKn5