Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
The plaiting of mats, clothing and baskets is woman's work but the men also make the quickly plaited coconut leaf baskets and sheets. Plaited materials were widely used in pre-European times, for the Tokelau atolls grow no plants from which bark cloth could be made and the people did not practice weaving. Plaited breechclouts and kilts provided clothing for the men. Plaiting is still extensively used in building and furnishing houses, and for hats for both men and women. But its use for clothing and bedding has been decreased by the introduction of European cloth.
Plaiting materials are coconut leaves, fala or kie pandanus, and strips of prepared kanava bark.
The terminology used in the description of the plaiting process is taken from Hiroa (28) with the addition of the term “commencement corner”. (See fig. 18.)
Pandanus Leaf Plaiting
Preparation of Materials
Fala pandanus leaves are used exclusively in the making of the finer mats. The green leaves are removed from the tree and tips and butts cut off. The thorny edges are removed by a sharp-pointed fishbone or the point of a metal scraping tool which is used to pierce through the butt just inside the edge and to slit the length of the leaf. The women use their teeth to sever the butt of the outer surface of the spiny midrib on the under side of the leaf and to peel off the outer midrib surface with its thorns. The trimmed leaves are toughened by being drawn over hot coral pebbles of a ground oven. Afterward they are laid on the beach for three days to dry and bleach to a pale buff brown in the sun. They are brought indoors each night to prevent their being wet by showers. To make each leaf flat, the butt is held by the left hand and the leaf is drawn between the extended thumb and the edge of a shell or metal hook held between the first two fingers of the right hand. With the butt still in the left hand, the first leaf is wound around the fingers into a small roll. Each succeeding leaf is added to this roll by placing the butt under the tip of the preceding leaf and winding it on. The roll is fastened by tying a thin strip of laufala around the tip of the outermost leaf and through the central hole left by the fingers.
When the leaves are to be used for mat-making, each side of the leaf is stripped from the midrib, which is then discarded. The halves of leaves are flattened again and split into strips one-fourth inch wide.
Kie pandanus used in plaiting soft mats for babies and men's malos receives a longer preparatory heating before being trimmed and dried. The strips of kie are laid over a bed of green leaves on the hot coral of an oven and covered with more leaves; then heated coral is spread over these. They are left in this heat for an entire day and are then removed and carried to the sea in bundles, where they are weighted down and left to soak for five days. This soaking makes them soft and pliable. After being removed from the sea, the two layers of the leaf are split apart by making an incision across the butt of the leaf, and the upper, shiny layer is carefully separated from the dull, under layer. Both layers are washed in fresh water, trimmed at the ends, and placed in the sun to dry. Then they are flattened and rolled in the same way as described for the laufala.
Many of the mats are ornamented with black strips of dyed coconut leaves which are included with the plaiting (pl. 7, B). The black dye is produced from the charcoal of burnt fibers of coconut husks. These are ground and page 131 placed in the hollow of a coconut tree trunk where rain water has collected. The rolls of coconut leaf strips (kaulama) are set in this solution to soak until they become thoroughly blackened. Nowadays the leaf is stained with a mixture of the charred fibers and kerosene.
Sleeping mats and plaited clothing are made on a plaiting board made from a piece of canoe hull having a slightly convex surface which tilts toward the worker (pl. 8, A). The section of plaiting to be worked is kept on the surface of the board where the wefts can be easily handled and evenly laid. The mat is held against the board by a stick of kanava wood 10 or 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. The stick is slightly convex on the upper surface. The worker places her right foot on the stick as she sits with her left leg crossed and her right leg flexed against her body.
The fishbone points for splitting leaf strips and shells for scraping have been displaced by a single tool made of a rectangular piece of metal shaped to fit against the palm of the hand and between the fingers. One corner is sharpened for splitting.
The plating of a pandanus mat is commenced on a foundation strip (kaso) composed of two pairs of superimposed elements of weft material which overlap at the ends and extend in a line 4 or 5 feet long. As the plaiting develops, the foundation strip is increased by adding new elements and is carried around the entire border of the mat. Its purpose is to give a basis on which to commence the plaiting and to strengthen the edges of the mat. The first part of the foundation strip is laid horizontally on the plaiting board, the left half is turned forward at a right angle, and the strip shifted to place the apex of this angle pointing toward the worker and the two branches extending diagonally away from her to right and left (fig. 19, a). These branches will be referred to in the commencement of the plaiting as dextral and sinistral foundation strips.
Figure 19.—Foundation strip and first position of plaiting elements. a, strip of laufala turned at right angles to form basic commencement corner: 1, sinistral foundation strip during commencement of plaiting; 2, temporary dextral foundation strip during commencement of plaiting. b, addition of horizontal wefts: 3, first horizontal weft; 4, second horizontal weft; 5, 6, and 7, 8, upper elements laid across angle of foundation strip; 9, 10, and 11, 12, lower elements laid under angle of foundation strip; 13, line across middle of upper elements dividing wefts into left and right for descriptive purposes.
The mats are plaited with double strips of leaf material. The strips will be termed upper and lower elements and the pair termed the weft. The beginning of the first three rows of the check pattern at the commencement corner is plaited with the elements treated as individual wefts, which hold the wefts firmly in place until the plaiting process is fully established. Two weft elements are placed side by side horizontally to the worker under the angle of the foundation strip, and two more elements are superimposed on the first pair over the foundation strip (fig. 19, b).
The elements and foundation strip are now in position for the beginning of the plaiting process. The fingers of the left hand are pressed against the wefts over the angle of the foundation strip, while the first weft is turned to make the first corner. The divisions of the weft elements separated at this point by the fingers will be called left and right elements; the weft nearest the worker, the first, and the next weft, the second. The upper left element of the first weft is laid back with the right hand while the lower left element is brought up with a right-angled turn and carried forward over the second weft (fig. 20, a). The upper left element of the first weft is brought into place again, turned forward at right angle, and passed under the upper left element of the second weft and the sinistral foundation strip, but over the lower left element of the second weft and placed directly under the former left element of the first weft (fig. 20, b). The left elements of the first weft have now become a vertical weft extending away from the worker.
Figure 20.—Establishment of commencement corner. a, turning upper element of first vertical weft: 5, upper left element of (3) horizontal weft is placed aside; 9, lower left horizontal element is brought forward at right angles over (4) second horizontal weft at a point midway between (1, 2) foundation strips. b, turning lower element of first vertical weft: 5, upper left element of (3) horizontal weft is placed under (1) sinistral foundation strip and (8) the upper element of (4) horizontal weft, and brought forward at a right angle underneath (9) the now upper element of (14) the left vertical weft. c, turning upper and lower elements of second vertical weft: 6, upper right element of (3) horizontal weft is turned at right angles and placed under (12) the lower right element of (4) horizontal weft; 10, lower right element of (3) horizontal weft is turned at right angles and placed under (8) the upper right element of (4) horizontal weft, and over (2) the dextral foundation strip, forming (15) the right vertical weft; the left and right elements of (3) horizontal weft have now been formed into (14, 15) two vertical wefts and have established (16) the commencement corner at the angle of (1, 2) foundation strips.
By reversing the same technique, the right elements of the first weft are made into a vertical weft parallel to the left elements. To establish the check pattern, the upper right element of the first weft is brought forward, first with a right-angled turn under the dextral foundation and the right elements of the second weft. The lower right element of the first weft is brought up and passed with a right-angled turn under the upper right element of the second weft, over the dextral foundation strip, and placed directly over the other right element of the first weft (fig. 20, c).
The commencement is now established with one horizontal weft and two vertical wefts. The right vertical weft and the upper element of the left vertical weft are next carried back to form the first shed for the introduction of a new horizontal weft. The page 133 lower element of this new weft is laid under the dextral foundation strip, over the lower element of the left vertical weft, and under the sinistral foundation strip. The upper element of the left vertical weft and the lower element of the right vertical weft are put down and the upper element of the new weft is laid over these and both foundation strips. The upper element of the right vertical weft is laid over this. The second horizontal weft is turned into two new vertical wefts by the same technique as described for the first weft and is followed by the introduction of a fourth horizontal weft in the same process as described for the third weft.
Figure 21.—Establishing a corner in plaiting. a, commencement of first turn of corner, foundation strip (1) represented by dotted lines as it is hidden by the plaiting at this stage, completed plaiting of commencement section up to the last sinistral weft (3) omitted to simplify illustration: 1, foundation strip along commencement edge is turned forward at right angles to establish (2) foundation strip at right edge of mat; 5, upper element of (3) last sinistral weft to be introduced into section before corner is turned is carried at right angles under the angle of (1, 2) foundation strips; 4, last dextral weft turned up from commencement edge; 7, lower element of (3) last sinistral weft. b, finish of first turn of corner: 7, lower element of sinistral weft is turned forward at right angles and laid over corner of (1) foundation strip and along (5) turned part of upper element of (3) sinistral weft. c, commencement of second turn of corner: 7, now upper element of temporary dextral weft is turned at right angles to the left and placed under (4) dextral weft and (2) dextral foundation strip. d, finish of second turn of corner: 5, now lower element of temporary dextral weft is turned at right angles to the left and placed under upper element of (4) dextral weft, and over (2) right edge foundation strip.
When sufficient weft elements have been introduced to firmly establish the corner of the mat and a working edge, the plaiting is turned, placing the sinistral foundation strip vertical and the dextral foundation strip horizontal to the worker. These strips now form the left edge and commencement edge of the mat. This also places the wefts diagonal to the worker, the former vertical wefts becoming the dextral wefts and the former horizontal wefts, the sinistral (fig. 21, d).
The plaiting is now worked to the right along the working edge, and all new wefts are added as sinistral wefts. The upper end of each sinistral weft, turned on the left foundation strip, becomes a dextral weft; and the lower end, turned on the commencement edge foundation strip, becomes another dextral weft. In the plaiting process a constant number of dextral wefts are kept in the working edge. As each new dextral weft turned up at the commencement edge is added to the working edge, a top dextral weft is dropped.
When the desired length of the mat has been reached on the commencement edge, the foundation strip is turned forward at right angles. The right-hand sinistral weft is turned twice, repeating the same technique of turning the weft on an edge to form the corner over the foundation strip angle. The upper element of the right-hand sinistral weft is turned at a right angle under the corner of the foundation strip but over the lower element and left projecting from the right edge (fig. 21, a). The lower element is brought over the upper element, turned at right angles, and passed across the corner of the foundation strip. This completes the normal turn on the commencement edge (fig. 21, b). The process is repeated for the first turn on the right side. The upper element, as the weft now stands, is turned left at right angles and passed under the lower element of the first dextral weft (fig. 21, c). The lower element of the weft is brought around the upper element, turned at right angles, and carried between the foundation strip and the upper element of the first dextral weft, completing the corner (fig. 21, d).
When the mat has reached the desired breadth on the left edge, the upper left corner is formed by turning the left foundation strip at right angles to the left end, making two edge turns of the weft, passing over this angle by the same process as described in making the lower right corner of the commencement edge. The plaiting process is completed at the upper horizontal foundation strip by turning the dextral wefts over it, forming the finishing edge. As the last working section is plaited to the finishing edge, the sinistral wefts are left projecting beyond the foundation strip (fig. 22, a). The dextral wefts are turned by the same technique as on the other edges, but as each is turned down to become a sinistral weft, it encounters the sinistral wefts of the plaiting already laid in the shed of the working edge (fig. 22, b). The downward-projecting sinistral weft from the finishing edge is overlaid on the normal sinistral weft and included in the plaiting for several rows. The end of the downward projecting weft is allowed to extend from the plaiting until this has been finished, when all the ends and the projecting sinistral wefts at the finishing edge are torn off underneath crossing dextral wefts.
The turned-in wefts of the finishing and right edges overlap as these edges approach each other at the upper right corner. To avoid extra thickness of the mat from this overlapping weft material, the inner elements are torn off at the edges and only the upper elements of wefts turned in from the finishing, and the lower elements of the wefts turned in from the right edge are retained in the plaiting. In making the upper right corner, the foundation strip of the finishing edge is torn off at the point where it crosses the right edge foundation strip. This strip is turned to the left at right angles and overlaid on the foundation strip of the finishing edge. When the turning of the wefts on the finishing and right edges is carried to the upper right or finishing corner, two dextral wefts remain projecting at the angle formed by the foundation strip. The page 135 left weft of these two is torn off at the corner, the right weft is turned to form the corner, and the elements are interlaced in the plaiting covering the ends of the left weft. The technique is the same as that described for turning the right-hand corner of the commencement edge (figs. 20–21).
Figure 22.—Turning the finishing edge in plaiting. a, commencement of turn: 1, foundation strip; 2, a sinistral weft introduced along working edge of last section; 3, uppermost dextral weft of working section; 4, upper element of (3) dextral weft; 5, lower element of (3) dextral weft, passed under (1) foundation strip, along finishing strip, along finishing edge, and turned at right angles to cross (1) foundation strip and (7) second dextral weft, and to lie over (2) introduced sinistral weft. b, completing turn: 4, upper element of (3) uppermost dextral weft of working section is carried across (1) foundation strip, turned down at right angles, passed under foundation strip and over lower element of (7) next dextral weft to the right, and laid under (5) now become the upper element on sinistral weft; the plaiting is continued and part of (3) weft overlying (2) sinistral weft is incorporated with it; 2, 6, 8, 10, ends of sinistral wefts, are torn off at finishing edge when plaiting is completed; 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, dextral wefts, are turned at finishing edge and incorporated in plaiting as part of sinistral wefts in last working section; ends of these dextral wefts, after they have been turned as weft 3, are torn off under cross wefts, when plaiting is completed.
Coconut Leaf Plaiting
Floor mats, carrying and roof sheets, wall screens, and baskets are plaited from coconut leaves with the leaflets left attached to the midribs or split sections of them. The process is exactly the same as that described in detail by Hiroa (28) for Samoa. The midrib is easily split and trimmed, each half making a base with the obliquely directed leaflets fixed in parallel and evenly-spaced wefts. Alternate leaflets are turned on this base at right angles across the other leaflets to form the second set of wefts, or two halves of a leaf are superimposed with the midribs parallel but with the leaflets crossing.
In plaiting a section taken from the left side of the leaf, with one set of leaflets naturally directed obliquely to the right forming sinistral wefts, and one set turned to the left as dextral wefts, the worker sits with the midrib before her as a commencement edge and, beginning at the left, interlaces several leaflets to form a working section. The plaiting is conducted from left to right. In plaiting the flat sheets, the projecting sinistral wefts on the left side are turned to form new dextral wefts, and the projecting dextral wefts on the right side are turned to form new sinistral wefts for the next working section above. In making baskets, these wefts are left projecting and are later plaited together to form the sides. Working sections are added until all but the ends of the leaflets have been included in the plaiting. The finishing edge of the wall screen page 136 and sheets made of a single section of leaf are completed by braiding these ends. Carrying and roof sheets are made of two sections of coconut leaf joined at the finishing edges by a double course of braiding, one half of the wefts braided to the left and the remaining half braided to the right. Baskets are similarly closed by a double course of braiding.
The joined section of carrying and roof sheets, made from the right side of the leaf, is plaited from right to left as the leaflets are naturally directed to the left.
The only serving dish, except the coconut-shell cup, is a coconut-leaf shallow bowl or platter which is used once and thrown away. It is made only for serving food at feasts and for guests. Ordinarily food is served on leaves placed on small fala pandanus mats. The serving dish is made in two forms, plaited and unplaited. The unplaited dish is made from a short section of coconut leaf midrib with 10 or 12 leaflets attached. The leaflets are divided into two bunches and knotted together. The end leaflets are pulled tightly, bending the midrib to make a curved end and leaving the middle leaflets slightly loose. The dish is turned out with the under surface of the leaflets up and with the loose middle leaflets sagging, making a shallow concavity in which the food is set.
The plaited dish is composed of two short sections of split midrib and attached leaflets taken from the left and right sides of the leaf. The midrib splits are placed end to end with the under surface of the leaflets uppermost, one set crossing the other. They are plaited together in check pattern and the projecting ends of each set knotted separately.
The two types of basket made in Tokelau differ in use and details of manufacture. The common basket is quickly made from green coconut leaves when needed and cast away as soon as it has served its purpose. It is made primarily for transporting food and copra. The second type is a permanent basket of closely-woven, dried coconut leaf for household use.
The temporary basket (kato) is plaited in check pattern from the leaflets of a single strip of midrib which is cut off long enough to make the rim of the basket. The end leaflets are left free for the joining of the two ends, the second leaflet at one end is left in its natural position, and the third leaflet is crossed at right angles to form the first weft opposite to that established by the second leaflet. The plaiting is commenced with this pair and continued, without turning the leaflets at the edges, until only a few inches at the ends of the leaflets at the plaiting edge remain free. These ends are turned back at right angles and pushed under the first cross wefts they overlie to secure the plaiting. The two ends of the midrib are brought together and joined by slightly overlapping each other. They are so placed that the wefts of one side are parallel with those of the same series on the other side; the free leaflet at the end of the plaiting, placed between the interval of the first and second leaflets, is carried through and pulled firmly around the join of the midrib ends and carried back again as a weft in the opposite direction to its natural position. The basket is turned up on its rim to finish the plaiting. The join is toward the worker. The first leaflet left free now makes a pair with page 137 the last leaflet, which was bound around the join and carried as weft opposite to its natural direction. The plaiting of the projecting wefts of each edge is now completed.
The bottom of the basket is made by braiding the plaiting edge. The basket is placed with the plaiting edge up and the join of the rim away from the worker. The plaiting edge forms two sides to be closed, as in the closing of the carrying sheet; but the extended wefts of these two edges now run in the same direction, for they are plaited from one section of midrib instead of two opposing sections from different sides of the leaf. The tucked-in wefts on the left side are pulled out, and cross the extended wefts on the right to form the elements for the first course of the braid. This is commenced at the far end at the point where the plaiting was joined on the side. The braiding is continued a few turns beyond the near end. The basket is reversed, and the free ends of the first braid are brought over and included with the braiding of the remaining two sets of projecting wefts.
A few people make a second type of this open leaflet basket, which varies in the braiding of the bottom. The plaiting of this basket was taught by Samoans and the method is described by Hiroa (28, p. 194), who states that it is a technique introduced from Niue Island.
Only one type of permanent household basket was seen at Atafu (pl. 8, A). This was very strong and tightly plaited in twill pattern with double weft sections like the Samoan chief's basket (28). Before plaiting, the coconut leaf material is thoroughly dried in the sun. The leaflets are doubled lengthwise and trimmed along their outer margins, making reenforced wefts. Two sections of leaflets are used in each set of wefts to avoid open plaiting from the narrowed wefts. The sets are taken from opposite sides of the leaf. One section is overlaid on the other, placing the leaflets of the upper section opposite the intervals of the lower strip and intertwining the two. The two sets of wefts are placed in position for plaiting by joining the sinistral set over the dextral set in a horizontal row of check strokes. The intertwined strips are laid with the midribs side by side and directed away from the worker. The leaflets on the left side point away from the worker and have the under surfaces facing down; the leaflets on the right side point toward the worker and have the under surfaces facing up. The right-hand leaflets are brought over the midrib and placed under and across the opposite left-hand leaflets. The piece is then moved with the midribs or commencement edge before the worker. The left-hand leaflets become the dextral wefts, and the right-hand wefts, which were carried over the midribs, become the sinistral wefts with the lower surface facing down like the dextral wefts. The plaiting in two-, three-, four-, or five-twill pattern is commenced at the left, the first two dextral wefts being dropped to make the join of the rim. The sinistral and dextral wefts are left projecting at the left and right edges for joining the sides of the basket, as the plaiting is worked toward the ends of the leaflets. In making the join, the midrib splits are first shaped and bent with the hands to make the ends come easily together to form the rim. The ends are joined by interlacing the free wefts left at each end, and the sides are completed by plaiting together the crossing wefts of the edges. The bottom is closed by double-course braiding and knotted at the tips, forming tails which are pushed through the ends of the bottom and tied together inside.
Fans are made in two distinct shapes; one leaf-shaped and one broadly oval with a straight lower edge. The leaf-shaped fan has slightly rounded sides which taper to single or triple points (pl. 8, B).
The construction of the fan is a rather simple and ingenious plaiting of wickerwork upon a rigid, elementary foundation whose elements radiate from the handle. The handle is composed of a bunch of coconut leaflet midribs which are bent and crossed over one another at one end and split to spread into fan-shape. The split midribs are held in this page 138 position by twining two narrow strips of coconut leaflet across them in a semicircle about 1 inch from their base. They are then wrapped in a twilled plaiting of bleached pandanus strips about one fourth inch wide.
Across the radiating splits, narrow, double strips of coconut leaflet are laid alternately on one side and the other in rows of converging arcs. These are bound in place with fine leaflet strips which are plaited parallel to and alternate with the splits of the radiating foundation. As the fan is constructed, the gaps between the elements of the foundation are filled in with plaiting of separate pieces of leaflet midrib. The semicircular double strips thus form the rigid warp, and the strips plaited across them form the weft in the wickerwork technique. The splits of the midribs leading from the handle make a rigid foundation to keep the fan stiff but do not form a functional part of the plaiting.
The border is finished by carrying the plaiting weft around the last warp and doubling the ends under a few wefts in the same manner as the finishing edge of a mat. If the fan is to be trimmed with feathers, the splits of the foundation are left extending beyond the final warp. The feather border hides the rough edge of the foundation. Some borders of fans are decorated with white feathers of the frigate bird (tavaki) or brown chicken feathers. A row of feathers is sewed at the edge of each face of the fan, with the convex side of the feathers back to back and the tips pointing outward. The tips are clipped off to make an even edge. Modern fans are further ornamented by overlaid strips of coconut leaf colored with imported dyes.
Bark Fiber Cord
Two kinds of fibrous material are used in the making of cordage, bast of fau bark and fiber of the coconut husk. The bark is stripped from the tree and soaked in fresh water, after which the outer layer is peeled off. The bast is laid on a scraping board (papa valu fau), where the remainder of the outer bark and interfibrous material are removed with a shell—a very simple procedure after the bark has been thoroughly soaked. After being dried and bleached in the sun, the fibers are easily separated by rolling them between the palm of the hand and the thigh (milo). Cord made of fau is used primarily for fishing line and nets.
Twisting is done by holding several fibers, in the middle, between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand and across the right thigh. They are rolled downward firmly with the palm of the right hand into a strand 5 or 6 inches long. Cord is twisted by the same process. According to the number of ply desired in the cord, 2 or 3 strands of twisted fibers are held between thumb and forefinger, radiating from under the thumb. The strands are held tightly during the commencement of the sweep of the palm of the hand over the thigh, twisting each strand on itself. Then the strands are released, and the end of the sweep of the hand rolls them together into a single cord. The strands are lengthened by adding new, partially-twisted strands with their ends overlapping those with which they are to be incorporated. These strands are rolled together before being twisted into the cord.
Fau cord is used primarily for fishline (alo). Because of its greater strength and durability it is much preferred to the cotton line sold by trading schooners. All large-meshed nets for fishing and snaring birds are made of page 139 fau cord. To preserve the cord fishlines and nets, they are always washed in fresh water after being used in the sea. Thread for the lashing of fishhooks, tattooing instruments, and surgical lancets is made of twisted strands composed of a few fibers of fau.
A twisted cord of coconut fiber is used for suspending wall screens, for light house lashings, and for fishlines. The fibers are taken from either green or mature nuts selected for their long husks. The nuts are husked, and the split segments of husk put into baskets and weighted with lumps of coral to soak in the lagoon. The former population of Atafu built small circles of coral slabs laid in tiers at the water's edge, in which to soak their coconut fiber. One of these circles still remains (p1. 10, B) and is used by some of the present inhabitants. After several days of soaking, the fibers are removed from the husks, washed in fresh water, and dried in the sun. The matted fibers are finally separated by beating them on the flattened side of a coconut log with a short stick to loosen the interfibrous material so that it can be shaken out. The strands of the cord are made by the same twisting process used for fau cord. Because of the stiffness and roughness of the material, twisting the strands of coconut fiber into cord is done in the hands, with one end of the cord tied to a wall post of the house.
Although the join made by twisting together the overlapping ends of the fibers in the process of rolling is usually employed in making sennit cord, this method does not always make a cord strong enough to withstand the strain applied to it. A second and stronger join is made by doubling the end of the introduced strand over the shortening strand. The new strand is laid overlapping the shorter strand of the twist and with the end projecting above. One twist is made in the cord, the shorter strand and the new strand being wrapped by the second strand of the cord. The end of the new strand projecting upward through this twist of the cord is doubled over to lie along the second strand of the cord, and the twisting process is continued, enclosing the new strand end.
Three-ply braided sennit rope is the most widely used of all cordage made by the natives. It derives its name, kafa vaka (canoe line), from its primary use in lashing the parts of canoes. It is also employed in lashing house parts and thatch, and as carrying lines for waterbottles and wooden fishing baskets. A heavier three-strand sennit braid (kafa palu) is made for deep-sea fishing, especially for use with large wooden Ruvettus hooks (palu).
The preparation of the fiber and the process of rolling the strands for sennit braid are identical with those described in the making of sennit cord except for one additional step. In preparing the strands for braid, a number of fibers sufficient for a strand are selected and carefully arranged, the short ones being plucked out and tied together with a single fiber. This is placed across the page 140 middle of the bunch, one end is twisted several times around it, the other end is doubled back, and the strand is spun between thumb and finger to secure the fiber. The stand is then rolled on the thigh.
The braiding is done by holding the three strands in the left hand, the thumb securing them in the proper position and preventing them from unraveling. The thumb also moves the side strands into the middle position as the middle strand is carried alternately from side to side. The braiding is worked away from the body, and the finished line is coiled at the worker's left side. The addition of new strands to the end of a ply is accomplished by the doubling technique, as in joining new strands in making sennit cord; but here the projecting end of the new strand is doubled back on a second ply after two turns of the plaiting and before being carried into the braiding. The line is finished by braiding until one ply has ended, then twisting the remaining two plies on the bare thigh with the open hand, and knotting the end.
Five-ply sennit braid is termed kafa tupilaulima, kafa toku niu, or kafa kalanga. This also is used for deep-sea fishing. The strands of this braid are rolled similarly, although made of thicker and shorter bunches of fiber. As each new strand is added, it is drawn between thumb and fingers, first dipped in water to make the fibers adhere tightly together while the strand is worked. In plaiting five-ply braid, the plies are secured to a stake or post and worked toward the body. New strands are added by overlapping the ends with diminishing plies, and the end of the braid is finished by dropping one ply within the braid, rolling the two remaining pairs of plies into two twisted strands, and knotting the tips.
Cord and braid are wound in cylindrical coils for storage. A loop coil is first made as a foundation in the length desired for the cylinder. The loop is wound transversely with the free end of the braid from one end to the other. From the finishing end the braid is taken in three spiral turns up the cylinder, turned at right angles, and brought down again to the commencement point. This spiral winding is continued, each turn of the braid running parallel to the last set of spirals. When the coil is completed it has a geometric pattern of banded triangles.