Kawakawa (Piper excelsum) is a tree native to New Zealand. All parts of the plant from the bark to the berries are used, making it an important medicinal plant in rongoā (natural medicine).
The inspiration for the design are the iconic heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are chewed to treat toothaches, infused as a tea to treat stomach ailments, used externally for skin disorders; dried and grounded for seasoning, and burned to repel insects. The leaves are also used in powhiri (ceremonies) to welcome guests onto the marae, and worn as a wreath on the head as a sign of mourning during funerals.
I was drawn to the leaves because the shape is similar to the leaves of the Mexican Redbud, a tree we grew when we lived in Texas. The leaves of both trees have a heart shape. Similarly, as with all leaves, when you hold them to the light, you can see the veins. Both trees are also hosts to a moth or butterfly that feeds on the leaves and as a result leave openings.
The Kawakawa Shawl pattern draws inspiration from the diverse uses of the Kawakawa leaf to heal; and its construction: the heart shape, veins and openings.
I hope your knitting experiences are healing, and that each piece you construct helps you visualize the creation of something beautiful the way nature does. Sometimes the network of each thread can only be fully appreciated when you hold it to the light, and when it passes from your hands to another.
Kia ora, I’m Francoise, aka Frenchie. I’m a Franco-Maori, American-Australian living in Osaka, Japan, working as a knitwear designer and design coach.