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

flax/harakeke earrings made by Birgit MoffattMy gorgeous colorful harakeke earrings are now available at Mahara Gallery in Waikanae and Expressions Gallery in Upper Hut.  The perfect original gift from Aotearoa/New Zealand.

I love colour! And I got this white cotton blouse from the second hand shop, and I had this indigo project in mind (one of the 192 projects I plan to do).

indigo vat

Summer and high temperatures, the perfect weather to start an Indigo Vat. I used the fruit vat method (over ripe bananas, indigo powder and calcium hydroxide/lime) from Maiwa. Easy to follow.

Indigo

I folded and bound the back of the blouse into a spider web pattern (kumo shibori) and for the sleeves I bound kowhai seeds to achieve a nice delicate pattern (ne maki shibori). After several dips into the indigo vat, my blouse made this beautiful transformation.

Indigo play by Birgit Moffatt

I also disscovered that the rusty looking colour on the sleeves comes from the kowhai  seeds I drilled holes in before…

Indigo play by Birgit Moffatt

Summertime and our 5 sheep needed a haircut. Susi is the boss of  a group of 5 sheep and a very gorgeous Gotland mix.
Said, done.

shearing Gotland Susi

shearing Gotland Susi shearing Gotland Susi  shearing Gotland Susi

This is the very nice fleece of Susi:

shearing Gotland Susi

After washing and carding, this is the result. The wool is coarser than merino wool but it works really well for sculptural felt.

felted vase from Susi by Birgit Moffatt

 

 

 

For a quite a while I’ve known that Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) has bright yellow bark and I’ve been keen to test their dye properties. Luckily enough, a few days ago I heard that my neighbours were cutting down their barberry bushes, so I used the opportunity to harvest some bark.

The bright yellow of Barberry Barberry wood

After soaking some bark in water (just enough to cover the bark) overnight.
Extracting the dye from barberry bark

I let the pot simmer for about an hour before I removed the bark to avoid uneven dyeing and plant matters in the fabrics. Fabrics soaked in water and then immersed. For each test I dissolved less than half a teaspoon alum and iron, and for the copper mordants I used a copper plate (any piece of copper will do, or even a copper pot if available – the old New Zealand 10 cent coin contains copper as well). These mordents help to fix the colour into the fabric.

CLoth added to the barberry to dye

I left the fabrics in the pot till the next morning and here are the results:

Image5  Barberry dyed fibres

Colour swatches from the barberry dying experiment

I did some shibori resist dye (ne-maki shibori) on the merino fabric, using kowhai seeds. The yellow of the inner circle seems to be stronger, so I assume that the kowhai seeds released some dye as well, love the delicate pattern.

shibori resist dye (ne-maki shibori) on the merino fabric, using barberry and kowhai seeds  barberry and kowhai shibori

Through my research I found out that the berries are also edible (a sour taste) and also can be used to dye fibres. I will have to wait till autumn to harvest some of those berries. You will hear from me!
I am really pleased with the depth of tone and will certainly use it for coming projects.

Haere mai ki taku ao!

My name is Birgit Moffatt and I am a visual art student now in my third year. I live on the foothills of the Tararua Ranges close to native bush and the Ōtaki River in the lower North Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand. I would love to share my experiences and discoveries relating to fibre and textile with you.

Feedback is very welcomed.

A new day

A new day

Come and join me on my journey through the world of fibres!

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