Making things with harakeke

Back in April (and I’m sorry it has taken so long to write about it) we had one of our most popular educational sessions ever. Caroline Smith came over the hill from Wellington to teach us how to make flowers and other items from harakeke – New Zealand flax. For people in other countries, harakeke (pronounced hah-rah-keh-keh) is absolutely not linen flax, linum usitatissimum. It’s phormium tenax, a very different kind of plant (actually a kind of lily).

Māori, first inhabitants of New Zealand, learned to make clothing, baskets, cordage and other useful and beautiful things from the fibres of those long strap-like leaves. Nowadays harakeke can be used in traditional and modern ways.

Caroline was generous with her time, and the Tuesday evening group had the first chance to enjoy this new (to us) craft (thanks to Margaret B for the photo).
On Wednesday things got really busy. There were samples for us to admire, and even aspire to
and no shortage of eager students.
The teacher was inspiring, the students were hard-working and attentive.
Soon little containers were taking shape –
and flowers.Bracelets were a particular favourite:
The possibilities are almost endless. We hope to do more with harakeke, one of these days.



In the shop

Look at the lovely things our members have made! All for sale, for just another two weeks, at 154 Queen Street Masterton. For a closer look, just click on a photo.

Oh, the handsome Mecchia spinning wheel in the window has sold – sorry!

That time again …

What’s this about?
Let’s have a closer look (click on it to get even closer) –

The pop-up shop we have for three weeks each autumn in the centre of Masterton is opening on Monday! Our members have been incredibly busy spinning, knitting, weaving, crocheting, felting … in fact there are so many colourful items waiting to go into the shop that we can’t get into our storeroom!

And we know there’s more to come. Cosy sweaters, scarves, socks, charming items for children, stunning weaving, handspun yarn, fibres for spinners and felters … everything you might want as winter closes in.

So if you should be within reach of Masterton between Monday 21 May and Saturday 9 June, do come to 154 Queen Street (opposite Ballantynes). There will be handmade treasures to suit everyone.

(Sorry, not open Sundays or Queen’s Birthday Monday.)

We’ve been industrious

One of our Guild’s duties, as part of our relationship with the Wool Shed Museum, is to demonstrate our crafts to visitors, and quite often these are families or school groups. We usually give the children a little project making friendship bracelets, which some of you will recognise as a sort of rough-and-ready kumihimu.

First we take any firm cardboard, and cut out circles or 8-sided pieces (easily made by cutting the corners off a square). 8 little equidistant slots are cut into the edge, and a hole is poked or punched through the middle. This rough diagram is about 2/3 actual size.

Then we take seven lengths of scrap yarn, each about elbow-to-fingertip length, knot them together near one end, and pull the long ends through the central hole with a crochet hook or the hook from a spinning wheel. Finally we put each strand through one of the slots.

On Wednesday a group was hard at work preparing some. Gwen, standing at the back, is our leader in this: she makes sure we keep up the supply, and is always one of the first to show children how to use them.

They have to pick up the second strand from the empty slot and move it over into that slot. Then again the second strand away into the empty slot, and so on around. Soon the little braid can be pulled down through the hole, and with perseverance it becomes long enough to remove it from the cardboard and tie the ends together into a colourful bracelet. These two young visitors are making a good start.

We have also been experimenting with something new to most of us – dyeing balls of wool.

The wool has been wound loosely on a ball-winder

– and various colours of cold-water dyes are injected into it with a syringe.

It’s possible to use a rolled-up skein instead of a ball (this will be bright!)

It looked pretty good even before it was kept in a warm place for a day or two and then rinsed and dried.

The people at the Tuesday evening meeting had already tried it, with great success.

Soon there was dyeing again, at Marion’s with acid dyes this time.

More lovely results.

And in case all that wasn’t colourful enough, here on the floor being blocked is a chevvron blanket Trish made for her granddaughter.

Merino and other pretties

At the end of last month Hertha introduced us to the secrets of spinning Merino. She had some washed and flick-carded all ready for us – it was so beautiful and soft!

She stressed the importance of keeping the fibre’s natural elasticity.

We concentrated hard trying not to stretch it and to keep it soft and fluffy.

The same goes for plying.
Did you notice the Merino ram’s head on the top of her wheel by Derek Kerwood?

The session was popular and we had a bit of a squash in the little meeting room off the Fire Engine part of the museum.
But why is an underwear-clad man apparently doing a pole dance in the doorway?
He’s a model of a fireman, rushing down to answer an alarm in the vintage fire engine (which you can just see a bit of behind him).

Some of our members went to Dannevirke for a fascinating day of dyeing with natural dyes. These are Annelies’s amazing skeins

There were a lot of colourful things at our monthly show-and-tell, too.

We’ve been keeping Hertha rather busy!

She liked this intriguingly-constructed vest, with the finishing touch of a flower.

An unusual scarf was an effective use of natural fleece, making the most of the colour variation. Click on it to see it bigger.

Remember our work with natural fleece last year?
And how some of the participants couldn’t decide right away what to make with their skeins?

This yarn finally told its spinner what it wanted to be.


There were several nice rugs and blankets too –

spectacularly knitted …
… or beautifully woven.
Colours were delicate …

… or vibrant like this table runner.

This one was a special favourite:


Things are moving

The Wool Shed Museum has a new wing!  Just a year ago, we saw the building getting underway. Now it’s a handsome barn, and the tireless volunteers have been working long hours finishing the interior.

The Bushman’s Hut lost its walls

… and its sign

Its wall planks waited in their new home, meticulously labelled so that each could be put back in its proper place

Reassembling it in the new wing took a lot of measuring …

and serious discussion!

Eventually – success!

There was still plenty to do, with the grand opening coming up fast.

The diligent workers did enjoy a smoko occasionally. In the background is a farm cookhouse, and Scotty’s girlfriend was destined to be the cook.

Nearly ready for the great unveiling – this view is from the mezzanine, with old wool presses at back left and a model sheep in an ingenious shearing cradle. The steam engine on the right is a type that was once used a lot on farms, though this one is attached to a roller.

Time for the opening ceremony! The “ribbon” was of course a length of carded wool.

This is just a snippet of the crowd that gathered in the suddenly spacious  Wilton shed, one of the two old wool sheds moved to the site in 2003.

After a minimum of speech-making, the woolly “ribbon” was cut (with shears of course) by two very special people. (Above photo courtesy John MacGibbon)

Scotty was much admired in his kilt

while Darragh and Nita were quietly happy.
We are pleased to see two of our favourite Wool Shed people honoured.

Apart from that excitement, we’ve been fairly quiet.

The president and the librarian sorted the stuff in our storage cupboard (a job that seems to need doing rather often)

And here are the final results of our efforts at the Vintage Machinery day.

Fleece is now garments washed and ready to be worn by lucky little ones.


The Great Spinning-Knitting Race

The Wairarapa Vintage Machinery Club had a ‘Harvest Rally’ last weekend.

We were invited to participate, and to make it more exciting we formed two teams and had a fleece-to-garment competition each day. There were the ‘Wool Whisperers’ and the ‘Knitwits’ –

Here’s what teams had to do (from our explanatory poster) –
~ First the shearer shears the sheep, and each team gets enough wool to make a small garment.
~ Then team members begin preparing the fleece, by flicking-carding it with a little carder or comb. This removes tangles, vegetable matter and dirt, and aligns the individual fibres.
~ Next the wool must be spun, and then two strands twisted together to make a two-ply yarn.
~ As soon as some yarn is ready, knitting begins.
~ Finally the parts of the garment are sewn together.

On Saturday the goal was a baby jacket like this.

There was a chilly wind so everyone wrapped up well.

It was easy to be distracted!

Some found the fleece a little short and difficult –
– but soon jackets were taking shape

Sunday was warmer.

There were still lots of interesting distractions puffing or chugging past.

We made hats this time, using a dark fleece.

When teams are neck-and-neck, sewing up can be done by two people at once!

The teams finished within two minutes of each other. It was a very enjoyable weekend – we had fun together, saw all sorts of amazing machines, and talked to a lot of lovely visitors.
A big thankyou to John Thompson for this photo, and to Trish for all the Saturday photos above.