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The Coming of the Maori

Downward Weaving

Downward Weaving

In the process which developed, a vertical set of threads is crossed at right angles by a single-pair twine in spaced rows from above downward. Though the technique resembles basketry in the use of a spaced twine, it resembles weaving still more. The vertical threads, therefore, may be termed warps and the elements crossing them, the weft. As the weft works downward, the process may be appropriately termed downward page 165weaving and as the fingers manipulate the weft pair around each warp, it may also be termed finger weaving. Thus the use of the terms downward weaving or finger weaving prevents confusion with the more widely used technique of loom weaving.

In practice, a set of warps is set up by doubling a long weft thread around the upper end of the first warp, making a half turn to enclose it, and adding successive warps with a half turn of the two weft threads in the single-pair twined technique (Fig. 26a). When the weft row reaches the required width of the garment, the two weft threads are tied around the last warp with a reef knot. Separate threads are tied to the two ends of the weft row, the row is drawn taut, and the ends tied to the upper ends of two sticks stuck in the ground. The warps thus hang down
Fig. 26. Single-pair twining.a, commencement; b, attached to weaving sticks.

Fig. 26. Single-pair twining.
a, commencement; b, attached to weaving sticks.

vertically and a second weft row is commenced on the left, a little distance below the first weft row. The second row is worked across to the right edge in a manner similar to the first and subsequent rows are added in the same way (Fig. 26b). The space between the weft rows varies with the type of garment but the same interspace is maintained throughout in individual garments. When the weaving approaches ground level, the lowest weft row is raised and hitched to the upper ends of the sticks. Some weavers use a second pair of sticks to which the lowest row is raised. Successive weft rows are added until the depth of the garment is attained.

There can be little doubt that the first garments made with the single-pair twine were rain capes with outer overlapping tags of flax to shed the rain like a shingled roof. In weaving, the outer surface of the garment is towards the weaver in order that the tags may be applied to the warps as the work proceeds. The garments are also woven upside down so that the first or top weft row becomes the bottom row when the completed garment is worn. The reversed position in weaving serves two important purposes. First, the long ends of the tags are directed upwards so that page 166they do not interfere with the twining of the weft row below. Secondly, the warp ends are left long, after the last weft row and these ends are plaited in a thick three-ply braid to serve as a finished neck border. When the completed cape is reversed for wear, the rain tags hang downwards in overlapping rows to form a complete thatch.

The Maori term for weaving is whatu which distinguishes it from plaiting which is termed raranga. The warps are termed whenu and the weft, aho. The single-pair weft is termed aho patahi and weaving with the aho patahi is consequently whatu aho patahi. The neck of a garment is the ua, the lower border the remit, and the side borders the tapa. The general term for clothing is kakahu or kahu but the different types of garments have received specific names which may vary among different tribes.

Fig. 27. Tags and warps.a, pake; b, pureke; c, pota; d, hieke.

Fig. 27. Tags and warps.
a, pake; b, pureke; c, pota; d, hieke.

The rain capes which are made with the single-pair twine have developed into a number of varieties in which the formation and attachment of the rain tags indicate the process of evolution which has taken place. The simplest and coarsest is the pake or para in which the warps are formed of short lengths of coarse, poorly scutched flax. A certain length of the warps is left free or projecting to act as tags and the subsequent short lengths are added in the same way (Fig. 27a). An improvement is made in the pureke cape (Fig. 27b) in which the unscraped ends of the short warps are left out as wider tags to form better thatch cover. In the preceding two types, the warps are formed of short lengths, one end of which forms the rain tags. As long warps involve extra work and care, it would appear that the warps composed of short pieces joined together by the twining technique indicate the early stage of development.

The pota cape (Fig. 27c) shows an advance in which long complete warps were used and separate rain tags with short scraped ends were added, the scraped ends being fixed under two or more weft rows. A page 167further improvement was made in rain cloaks in which warps of scutched fibre were made the extra length to convert a cape ending at the waist into a hieke cloak extending to the heels. Tags of double length were scraped in the middle which, being caught under the weft row, formed double tags (Fig. 27d). See Plate XI.

A rough rain cape was made of kiekie leaves which were soaked in water until the interfibrous material could be easily removed by drawing the leaf through the fingers. This material was used in the para type of cape. A superior cape was made from the leaves of the Cordyline indivisa (toi) which were treated in the same way as the kiekie leaves. The cape was well made with long warps and the fibre was thick and strong. The cape was used by warriors and it was honoured by being named a kahu toi (91, Pl. 16).

A superior type of cape was thickly covered on its outer surface with long flaxen rolls which were scraped at intervals to expose the fibre which was dyed black. The flaxen rolls were prepared by the same process as the material in the dance kilts (piupiu). The cape was a social garment being devoid of rain tags. The black and white rolls gave it a decorative appearance and they could be made to rattle as the wearer moved about. The thick three-ply braid was the usual form of neck border in all capes but there were a number of variations (91, p. 184). Extra length fringes at the neck border of both capes and cloaks were termed kurupatu. The rain cloak (hieke) was the earliest form of cloak and it continued to be the most useful. It was worn or carried on expeditions or visits, for one never knew when it would rain. At night, it formed a satisfactory bed cover. The rain tags were usually dyed black and relief in decoration was obtained by spacing tags of the mountain flax (Phormium colensoi) which turn a distinct yellow in colour. The orthodox technique was the single-pair twine but the two-pair weft was used occasionally. See Plate X.