Toi Paematua Raranga

Diploma in Maori Visual Arts

Mandy's Work Journal, 2010


The learning experience of making my first whariki can be found here.


First prep lots and lots and lots of Harakeke... Seriously LOTS! The longer the better. Ok, it's not as bad as it sounds, but the longer you want your whariki, the more whenu you will need.

The whariki in the following pictures had 400 whenu in total. It took me an hour to do one ara! Including prep time, there was over 40hrs worth of work involved in the making of it. Ok, not all at once, but you get the point. If you want a long whariki, be prepared to work for it! The final whariki ended up over 3 meters long!

Instructions for prep are here

So you have this huge pile of whenu. Nicely prepped, some coloured, some not. Now what? Well, if you have more than one colour, you need to work out how you want it in there, how you want the colours to develop. I have to admit this is the part that I have been playing with all year. Each project I have done I have played around with the Maths side of colours, trying to work out how patterns develop and colours mix. I know theres lots of patterns out there already that use a combination of weaving and colour to develop, but I wanted to start getting an intrinsic feel for how things emerge and learning pieces have been brilliant for this. I know that I have many years ahead of me having fun with this!
For my whariki I dyed some whenu red (because its my best friends favourite colour and lots of my first pieces will be hers in the end) and left the rest natural, hopefully to dry a nice cream colour. And then I worked it together in a graduating increase to the middle and then back again. The count went 20 white, 16 red, 20 white, 16 red, 20 white, 16 red, 20 white, 16 red, 20 white, 32 red, then back down, 20 white 16 red, etc. This produced a pleasing check pattern.

To start! The whiri, the plait that joins all the whenu together to start weaving. Most of our work this year begins with the whiri in one form or another so its important to get this right!
The whiri is a 3 strand plait, where the muka ends of the whenu are added in in differing ways as you plait down. You start this with either some scrap dog combed harakeke or with some spare muka, that you knot and plait for a short distance before you start adding in. For a whariki whenu are added on one side only, as shown in these pictures taken courtesy of Pauui.

 You can see in this picture that he has already been adding whenu, and that he has bought the strands over, ready to lay the muka ends of the whenu over top to add in.

 Here you can see that he has laid a single whenu's muka ends over top of the existing muka.

These two pictures show how the other two strands of the plait are plaited over to lock in the new whenu. Keep adding whenu as shown until you are done then plait for a little longer, and then knot firmly. Essentially this is how kete whiri are done, except whenu are added each side rather than just on the one side.


Now you are ready to begin weaving... FINALLY!!! If it seems like there is a lot of work to get you to this point, then you are right. But I learned really quickly, rush any of the earlier steps, the harvest, the prep, the whiri, and the end result is going to disappoint. After all, you don't bake cakes and leave egg shells in the mix.

Whariki Step by Step

1: You have your whiri, lay it out straight, and give it a really good stretch. Make sure your whenu is all in order. Look at it. Admire it. It's pretty at this stage. And once you start weaving, you are going to forget to step back and look at the big picture for a long while.

2: Bring a workable section of whenu towards you, take the first whenu to the left, the second when to the right, then take the second one to the left over top of the first one, bringing that one to the right underneath as in pictures.

3: Following the pictures as a guide, take the next right and then the next to the left so that it goes over then under the whenu going right.
Continue doing this,adding in more whenu from the whiri, building up your ara until there is between 6-8 whenu going each direction.


Once you have a comfortable ara, stop working the whenu on your left into it, one at a time as you add one. This will make sense when you do it! continue working straight along to the end, making sure you pull the whiri straight as you go. The straighter your whiri, the straighter your whariki. This isn't AS important with kete, as the whiri is a lot shorter, but is still a good habit.

4:  Continue working up, incorporating any patterns you have chosen into your work. This whariki had a pattern of taki tahi and taki rua (one strand over one strand, and two strands over two strands).
You will notice at each end that you have a diagonal point forming. At the end of each ara work those sides up even, folding the outer most whenu back in to the other direction. Again, sounds confusing unless you are sitting in front of it, then it will make sense. In kete it is this bit that joins around to the other side so there is no need to fold whenu back around to the other direction.

5: Now finish off in your chosen style. Wall hanging wharikis can have a double lockdown that leaves the ends of the whenu facing down, which can then be dog combed, as with the first whariki I learned to do with Gary; a very decorative finish. Alternatively as with this whariki the work can be turned over and a 7step lockdown can be used. Whariki can also be joined together to make bigger mats or in other ways as shown in lockdowns and finishing.