Weaving with GM

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Mon 20 Jul 2015 22:47
Learning to Weave with Grandma
I found myself pottering around this morning at half past six, I know I’ll put in the waypoints to get around the corner to the Sandspit anchorage. As I went upstairs the morning greeted me with a handsome sunrise.
IMG_1901  IMG_1904
It almost darkened before the sun broke above the rocks.
By seven the sun had his hat on – it was going to be a hot one.
After breakfast we met Maj and Steve ashore - the boys were off to learn how to carve and the girls were going to learn to weave with Grandma. On the beach we were welcomed by Aquila who said he was off in his kayak to tend his cassava fields and to cut some for lunch. S-F and BN fell into easy chat on the twenty minute walk from the beach to the village and as we entered Grandma’s house we were met by Tui, he began as this mornings interpreter. Grandma pulled out a roll of pandanas grass. The men usually cut the grass and hang it or lay it out to dry for three or four days in the sun. The ladies then neatly roll the grass for later use.
IMG_1911  IMG_1912
Next, we were introduced to a jar of ‘the tools of the trade’, various widths of cutter are used depending on the article to be made. We were going to use number four – for mats and placemats.
IMG_1915  IMG_1916  IMG_1917
Grandma held up a piece of grass and scraped it with one half of a medium sized shell. Then the first blade was positioned near the central stalk and she began a cut from four inches down to the end, repeated on the other side, the thicker centre was discarded and we ended up with two matching pieces which were entwined and laid on the floor. The process was repeated and those two were added to the originals and repeated again. The three each way became a bit of an unwieldy beast at this point.
IMG_1918  IMG_1919  IMG_1921
To tame the beast a very heavy flat, handled weight was used and another followed on the other side. I happened to mention to Tui that I couldn’t work ‘mid-air’ like Grandma and would need a work surface a] to bring the work higher as not to bend over so far and b] to stop me cutting anything important like the floor mat or me, with that a low table was soon in use. Grandma had quickly entwined a few strands of grass and the whole thing became stable and handed over to me. I had to fold back every other strand until I had four, lay one from the right, fold up the new first, down up alternately and lay the next from the right. That was easy, but when did it suddenly become lifting three and when did the whole thing get turned over to begin a new series of four. I would clearly need to write down what these ladies do by rote from being little more than toddlers...........
IMG_1923  IMG_1924  IMG_1926   
One of Grandmas five daughters appeared as if by magic to begin a base for Maj who watched very attentively. The same beginnings were whipped up in a few seconds as Grandma continued to cut more grass.
IMG_1929  IMG_1930
Meanwhile, I had to learn the turns. A forty five degree fold, then another to form the next ‘across’ piece and off I went again with my four ups and four downs. Maj did say I had a few slack bits but I was told these would be pulled tight before any finishing happened, I must clearly do better.
IMG_1931  IMG_1933  IMG_1934
Another lady, we think Tui’s wife appeared and spoke good English. Nettie appeared and soon Maj was at full speed, fingers whipping the grass into shape.
IMG_1938  IMG_1939  IMG_1940
Bearing in mind all the ladies can sit crossed legged or one leg out straight ALL day, we really struggled. We both tried kneeling, sitting with both legs out, curled to one side and then the other, the smile on Maj’s face barely covered the grimace of back pain. At one point the ladies were in stitches as I rolled flat onto my back, the cramp in my right foot was awful but a few wiggles and the addition of a very old piece of sponge helped but only a little......... We had visits from several small people too young for pre-school so we assumed this was a kind of crèche, the children just got on with playing and several cries from outside didn’t get any of the ladies away from the task in hand.
We both adored this small person, who was very cheeky but a lot of fun.
IMG_1937  IMG_1943  IMG_1944
By twelve after just two hours of weaving, we were at the placemat size. The finishing this side was easier, a fold back on itself and a tuck in through three under-laterals to be trimmed later was more logical to follow. The boys appeared at half twelve and the four of us were served lunch of fish in a flour batter, cassava and scones with lemon tea. The ladies ate when we had finished so we took the opportunity for a walk to leave them in peace for a while.
IMG_1948  IMG_1950  IMG_1954
The boys took us to their ‘workshop’ and showed us how to use the chopping/cutting tool. Maj had a go and of course Bear took the opportunity to get Maj back for his beating on Vanua Balavu. Aquila appeared and showed us a bread oven and took us to the ‘other side’ to a different group of carvers.
We returned to the ladies but found it almost unbearable to settle into any comfort, the boys had said they were at a natural break in their ‘club’ making so we took the threat of heavy rain as our saviour. Certainly, if I had had to stay for the rest of the afternoon I would need a new coccyx, probably a new hip – if not two and a serious back massage. Maj and I were out like a pair of racing snakes – once we were upright of course........ I crawled to the door and used the frame to heft myself up. Maj and I held a more complex and prettier weave and felt this would be our next challenge and tutorial, we looked at each other and could easily have broken into hysterical laughter or simultaneously burst into tears....... We were told of one set of yachties had visited six days a week for three months until he could make a carver bowl on four feet and she could finish a mat unaided – good luck to them is all we could say............ After Grandma had done some tidying and finishing I would be the proud owner of my very own placemat.
                     VERY IMPRESSIVE RESULTS