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No. 50 (March 1965)
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MAORI
FLAX
SANDALS
and how
to make them

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These old sandals are in the Dunedin Museum.

Paraerae, or flax sandals, were once a common sight in the South Island. They were also used at times in the mountainous parts of the North Island, especially in winter. Many kinds of paraerae were made, the more complicated kind requiring a considerable amount of preparation.

Today a simple kind of sandal, intended for everyday wear, is still made by a few people.

The following instructions describe how they may be made.

Use long flax leaves and divide them into strips approximately half an inch wide. Ten strips will be needed for each sandal.

Soften these by pulling them against the back of a knife or a shell.

The strips are used double. The dull sides of two strips are placed together as in the photograph. These double pieces are then treated as single strips.

Plaiting is started from the toe, and the five strips are plaited in the following order.

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Bend the first strip as shown (diagram A) and lie it to the right. Lay the second strip through the middle of the first one (diagram B).

Then plait the third strip across to lie parallel with the second piece.

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A

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B

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C

Bend the strip indicated by ∗ to make an edge (diagram D). There will now be three strips pointing to the right. Plait the fourth strip through these (diagram E).

Bend the lowest strip to lie parallel with the three lying to the right.

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D

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E

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F

Plait the fifth strip through these four (diagram G). Bend the lowest strip to lie to the right. There will now be five strips lying to the right and four to the left (diagram H).

Now bend the last plaited strip (fifth) back over and plait it back to the left so that there are now five strips in direction. The plaiting will have formed a peak (diagram I).

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G

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H

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I

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Now turn it slightly so that the flat toe of the paraerae is horizontal. Working from each side, alternatively bend over a strip to form the side and plait it through the others until the paraerae is the desired length. The plaiting will still form a peak in the middle.

To finish the heel, take two finer strips and knot them. These two strips are then plaited through as shown.

Beginning from the left, the first strip winds around this extra piece, then back over it to tuck down on itself and under a plait before being trimmed.

The next strip winds under, over, then under the extra piece before tucking in on itself. Treat the other strips on each side of the knot in a similar manner to these two until all the strips are tucked in. Trim these ends off. Do not cut them too close to the plait.

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Tighten these extra strips then knot each on itself so that there is a loop for the lacing to thread through.

Thongs are made from muka flax and are rolled on the thigh to make miro. To make this, strip several flax leaves into fine strips.

With a sharp knife cut across the dull side of the leaf. With a shell or a knife pull against the shiny side starting at the cut. Long strands of muka (fibre) will be obtained. Separate the strands into two bundles and roll them down the thigh; as the hand pulls back, the strands ply together.

If this is not possible, then long, thin strips of flax can be used instead, although they do not wear very well.

When the threads are made the paraerae is laced as shown.

The threads then cross each other to thread through the loops. This may be tied in front of the foot or caught around the leg in the manner of a Roman sandal.