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How To Make Flowers Out Of Flax – Step By Step Guide

TUTORIAL WITH CUSTODIAN OF ST HELENA CRAFTS | Sharon Henry

(Article taken from issue 3 of the Breeze e-magazine by What The Saints Did Next.)

Long gone are the days when New Zealand flax, draped over the hillsides of St Helena represented a staple industry of fibre exports for the British Post Office.

Decades since the industry’s collapse, anecdotally brought on by the invention of synthetic fibre, flax has instead become an invasive pest.

But behold! In recent years a new use, albeit on a much smaller scale has turned the flax into a commodity once again – for weaving crafts. Or flax craftwork.

In 2012 a Maori lady visited from New Zealand to teach the art of flax weaving.

“No one did this before then,” says St Helenian artisan, Wanda Isaac who absorbed this shared knowledge like a sponge. “That is the amazing thing; we had no idea about using flax for crafts, of how to put it into anything that would be of any great purpose.”

Wanda Isaac of Abiwans in St Helena.

Wanda now teaches flax craftwork herself and makes an array of authentic island souvenirs; flowers, baskets, mats and whatever-she-putsher-mind-to. She also has excellent lace making, upholstery and tailoring skills.

“Making a flax flower is simple and easy, anybody can do it,” she smiles. “Something that I’ve been hoping to have with tourists and visitors is bookings for say an hour flax weaving lesson. So they could make a St Helena souvenir themselves to take away.”

What a superb idea! (If interested find Wanda’s contact details at the end of this article).

Here is Wanda’s step-by-step guide on how to make an arum lily flax flower.

You’ll need a flax leaf, scissors, knife and a pin.

1. Snip off the bottom and tip of the leaf. Fold in half and using your fi ngernail or a pin slit and tear off the edges along the length.
Making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

2. Split the leaf through the middle seam from top to about 10cm from the bottom, this will become the stem.
3. Make a crease across the line between the split and the intact piece.
4. Starting from that crease, using a pin split even sized strips across the width of the leaf. The thinner and even the strips the neater the weave.
5. Soften the strips by pulling and scraping each one against the back of a knife. Do this on both sides.
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

6. With shiny side up and stem pointing toward you, starting with the second strip, fold back every other strip along the crease.
7. Fold the left strip to the right placing it under the next strip (which is folded back), weave it over the next one and repeat this procedure to the centre.
8. Do the same for the next line, starting at the left, work across the line to the right.
9. Repeat this procedure until all the strips have been folded to the right except the last one. You’ve now made a quarter of the flower.
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

10. Turn the leaf so the stem is now on your right. Fold back the alternate strips as before, then fold and weave through the left strip (which was the right). Repeat the same procedure you did for the first quarter of the flower.
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

11. Turn and repeat until all four quarters are done.
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

12. To finish off, fold back the alternate strips and weave the left strip to the centre and tie off with the right strip.
13. To make a ‘stamen’ place a strip so it sticks out at the top of the flower (opposite the stem). Then turn and roll the weave into a flower shape. Tie a knot at the base of the flower to hold into place. Cut the stamen to a desired length.
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

14. Fold the ‘petals’ back to form the flower into the arum lily shape. Et voila!
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

1 flax leaf = 1 arum lily

The stem can either be tidied with florist tape or by wrapping a long strip of flax around it. Wanda then freezes her work for 2-3 days, a tip given from the Maori lady.

It’s done for two reasons, one it kills of bugs and two, the flax dries and turns golden faster when placed in the sun. Once dried, flax can be dyed or sprayed different colours.

Completed flax arum lilies.
Step by step guide to making flax flowers with Wanda.

 

Contact Wanda:

Wanda Isaac, Abiwans, Forester’s Hall, Jamestown, St Helena Island, STHL 1ZZ.

Tel: +290 22082

Click to Email

COMMENTS

  • Patrick G Henry

    May 19, 2017

    This is real craftwork very good presentation and looks easy to do and cost very little but time, skill and commitment what is needed and Wanda has all substantial qualities in this industry. Another good story and amazing pictures.

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