Monday, 2 December 2013

A Red Woollen Thread

This cloak is thought to be Forster No. 103 'A dogskin coat'

1886.1.1132 Maori Cloak

It is made of muka, the prepared fibre of the New Zealand flax plant (Phormium tenax), twined in the whatu aho rua technique (double-pair weft-twining).

The 100th aho row, is in whatu aho patahi (single-pair weft-twining) - this is the only row made in this technique.

The cloak was worn as a paepaeroa, with the aho rows vertical. 

There are 7 whenu warps per cm with a 6-7mm spacing between each aho weft row. 

A single length of red woolen thread is woven into the kaupapa of the cloak.

Red wool thread woven into the cloak

The pattern formed is known as paheke, which means 'trickle' or 'flow'.   This strand of red wool must have been obtained by unravelling fabric or clothing obtained during the first voyage, and it is clearly woven in as the cloak was constructed, rather than being added afterwards.

Detail of paheke design

Because of the way that the red wool thread is woven into the cloak, with the 'tails' of the thread woven in after the main pattern,it is possible to tell that construction began at the edge furthest from the wool insertion.

Shaping rows, aho poka, are present.  There are two clear wedge inserts are present, one near the side furthest from the commencement  (1240mm from this edge) and one near the centre (790mm from the commencement edge).  A third set of aho poka are present which do not form a clear insert - these are approximately 40mm from the commencement.

Cloak showing the ends of the aho poka marked with paper triangles.  The right-hand edge was where weaving commenced.

The bottom of the cloak, the left hand edge as constructed, is finished with a twisted three-ply braid of dyed muka.  Each ply in turn is held by a successive aho row, so that each ply is attached to the cloak every third row. The muka used to make the cord is natural in colour, and also dyed black and brown, giving a variegated effect.

Cord of plied muka fibre used to edge cloak

The top of the cloak, the right hand side as constructed, is finished with a fine plaited border made of dyed muka.  In some areas the colours are mixed,  so that plies of black, brown and naturally coloured flax fibre produce a variegated effect to the plaited edge.

The plaited edge to the cloak, as well as the method of attachment of the dogskin tags

Tags of dog skin are attached to the upper corners of the cloak.  The dog skin strips are approximately 24cm in length, and are folded in half and tied to the cloak with a length of plied muka cord.  The cord is threaded through the body of the cloak, a single length being used to hold all the strips in place.

This finely made taonga (treasure), with its use of dogskin and precious red wool, was clearly a high status item of clothing.

The description of the cloak is based on information and descriptions found in Whatū Kākahu / Māori Cloaks, edited by Awhina Tamarapa. Wellington: Te Papa Press (2011)