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The Coming of the Maori


Floor mats, sleeping mats, baskets and other accessories formed a necessary part of the household equipment in tropical Polynesia and in temperate New Zealand. In Polynesia, the raw materials were coconut and pandanus leaves and in New Zealand, the indigenous flax formed a stronger and more durable substitute material. The various types of articles were manufactured by the technique of plaiting. Plaiting and weaving are distinct crafts though many ethnologists still use the term weaving as if it were a synonym of plaiting. The error is due to both crafts using a process of interlacing two sets of soft elements to form what may be regarded as a textile but the methods of obtaining the results are different.

In weaving, the elements are divided into two classes termed warps and wefts, another less-used term for weft being woof. All the warp elements, composed of yarn or threads, are set up vertically or horizontally for the full width of the proposed textile. The warps are divided at their upper or near ends into two alternating sets, alternate singles for a check pattern or alternate groups of more than one for patterns termed twill. Along the shed formed by diverging the two sets of warps, a single weft thread is passed from side to side at right angles to the warps. The two sets of warps are crossed over the weft to enclose it and to form another shed for the next turn of the weft. By successive crossings of the warps over the single turns of the weft, the textile proceeds along its full width until the required length is attained. In more primitive forms of weaving, as opposed to loom weaving, the weft may consist of two or more threads which necessitate different methods of interlacing with the warps.

In plaiting, all the elements needed are fixed along a commencement edge from which they are directed obliquely towards the right and towards the left so as to form crossing elements. As the weaving terms of warp and weft are not suitable, it is better to drop the term warp and page 145term all the elements wefts, those inclined towards the right being dextrals and those towards the left, sinistrals. The crossings of the wefts are oblique to the commencement edge but there is a form of plaiting in which the crossings are at right angles to the commencement edge.