Friday, 15 November 2013

"A Shaggy great coat"

This is Forster No. 107, decribed in the 'Catalogue of Curiosities' as 'A shaggy great coat.'

1886.1.1124 Front of cloak

1886.1.1124 Back

It is a rain cloak, with an outer 'thatch' of plant material, mainly New Zealand flax but possibly also including kiekie (Freycinetia arboria).  The thatch is incorporated into the body of the cloak as it is made, held within the whenu weft structure.  Folded strips of plant material form each bundle of thatch.

Folded lengths of plant material are incorporated into the whatu as the cloak is made

Work on the cloak would have started at the bottom, using relatively unprocessed bundles of harakeke, New Zealand flax, as the aho warps.  The cloak is woven in the single pair weft twining technique (whatu aho patahi).  At the neck edge, the finishing point for the construction, the warp threads and additional plant material are made into a thick plaited edge.

Braided edge at top of cloak

Sometimes, garments such as this these are called 'rough' or 'coarse'.  Yet, as Mick Pendergrast writes in "Maori Fibre Techniques - Ka tahi hei tama tu tama (Auckland, Reed Books, 2005) this designation is 'unfair to the garments and their makers...the workmanship and design is often exquisite.'