Just came back from a 5 days workshop in Whanganui to meet the lovely Australian artist Meredith Woolnough and to learn some of her sewing techniques.

Here are some of her samples she brought to show us. She basically sews with her sewing machine using the free motion food onto soluble paper which will wash away later. This way she creates wonderful fragile flat or sulptural pieces she frames or put in resin.sample samples  Whangnui-9

I had a few arguments with my new sewing machine as I haven’t done hardly any machine sewing in my life but just when I lost confidence in her (and me) the magic happened: I did my first sculpture, some threads are lost and hanging loose but I still like my very organically looking shape and the shadows.

stitched by Birgit Moffatt     I also tried to put objects into resin, one piece is stitched and the other is harakeke paper. The almost transparent look is amazing.

harkeke paper in resin by Birgit Moffatt stitch in resin by Birgit MoffattGetting braver I stitched three leaf shapes to be mounted on foam board.

leaf machine emboidered by Birgit Moffatt leaf machine stitched by Birgit Moffatt

At the end of the week we had a little exhibition showcasing everybody’s lovely works. It was a week full of learning, sharing and fun thanks to the organizers Trisha and Julz, the tutors, and the crew from Ad astra hostel. Sure I will be back next year!

Whangnui-14 Whangnui-12 students work Whangnui-13

It is amazing to work with such a versatile plant, harakeke (engl. flax, phormium tenax) is not only such a valuable plant for weaving, rope making and medicinal use to name a few. You can make paper out of 100 percent harakeke fibres. During this years studies I have the opportunity to learn to make harakeke paper.

I used my waste bits from harvesting for weaving, cutting pieces about 1 to 2cm long (its a very time intense occupation,). I cut about 500g and soaked the whole lot for about 48 hours in water. Then it had to be boiled with in water with added soda ash (I used washing crystals from the supermarket).boiling flax pieces

boiling harakeke

Boiled for about 3 hours, it depends on the harakeke how long it needs to be boiled, important is that the leaf starts to fall to bits. Finished that, I rinsed it well till the leaves dont feel slimy anymore. Afterwards it goes into the flax beater (Hollander) which beats the fibres till its ready to use (it took about 20 min).beating paper in the hollander

Clare and the hollander (beater)

I personally like to have it beaten so there are still fibers visible.

The pulp is then ready for the actual paper making. It took a bit to figure out the proportion of water to pulp, I guess its personal preference and depending on the use if you want to have thicker or thinner paper.paper pulp Birgit Moffatt
yummy pulp

These are a few examples of my paper, which I will use in my art work. I didnt size my paper as I dont intend to write on it at that stage.Harakekepaper (8)
detail harakeke paper, so gorgeous

silk, eco print stitched on flax paper
eco printed silk stitched on harakeke paper

leaf embedded in harakeke flax paper
dyed akeake leaf embedded in harakeke paper

crunched harakeke paper
just lovely crunched up paper (crunched wet and let dry so it keeps the shape)

finished flax paper by Birgit Moffatt
a simple sheet