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. Additional sources of information that appear relevant to modern weaving are also included.
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.
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:
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.
Additional Sources of Information for Weaving Concepts – Books
“Plaited Basketry: The Woven Form”, (1982), Shereen LaPlantz, Press de LaPlantz, Bayside, California, 95524. This is simply an extraordinary resource book for weaving a huge variety of materials including lauhala. The breadth and depth of the weaving instructions are excellent. The book can be a real eye opener for local weavers open to new ideas.
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.
For something a little light-hearted to start off with, there’s the hula “The Wahine with the Lauhala Hat“
Michele Zane-Faridi and her haumana Kai Naone have a nice short video on caring for puhala and initial prepping of lauhala.
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:
Maurene Unasa has a five part series on making a small Samoan mat using colored ribbons rather than lauhala:
Bill Keoua Nelson, sixth generation lauhala weaver, has a very nice talk story video with interviewer Kamaka Pili:
Ep. 5: Bill Keoua Nelsen – Lauhala Weaving – YouTube
The late Auntie Elizabeth Lee, Master Lauhala weaver, shares her manaʻo (wisdom):
Aunty Elizabeth Lee, Lauhala Master – YouTube
Kaʻohu Seto of Hilo, Hawaii talks story about weaving lauhala:
Ulana Lau Hala – YouTube
Lynette Roster is a librarian at Punahou School in Honolulu who has a passion for weaving lauhala. This is a charming video and one of my favorites:
Weaving from the Heart: A Lauhala Hat Weaving Documentary – YouTube
Wailana Malie shows how to make a lauhala coin purse. There’s no dialogue so this will test your observational powers:
Making a lauhala coin purse – YouTube