Weaving raffia is an interesting pastime. Very beautiful mats, bags, and other articles can be woven, but this method of using raffia is chiefly employed for making table mats, round, oval or square, for use under hot plates.
There are various styles, but each kind of mat is made on a cardboard shape. Those with a large hole in the centre are bound with raffia in the natural colour, as many as three strands being used in the needle at once. This is by far the easiest and quickest way to make raffia mats for table use, and when the card-board is well covered the edge is made firm by threading a needle with two strands of raffia, and working overcasting Stitches or buttonhole stitohes on to the extreme edge.
These stitches not only make a nice finish, but protect the edge from getting split after much wear. The more raffia wound round the card, the better the mat will protect the table.
There are cardboard looms for weaving patterns.
To use one of these looms, first thread a needle with a long length of raffia, and use it double, then put the needle through one of the small holes and bring it out in the centre, then insert it again in the same hole to make four thicknesses of raffia.
When the raffia reaches the centre hole again, take the needle through the next hole. Jt does not matter in which direction the work is done, but when all the holes are worked, fasten off the end of the raffia neatly near the centre, as it will be hidden under the weaving.
For this weaving use the flat needle, or the one with upturned point, shown in the diagram. When a fresh length of raffia is taken, moisten the end with a little paste to make it stick to the end of the last strand, but always try to pass the ends under as far as possible.
As the weaving proceeds from the edge of the centre hole, press the raffia down until a tight weave is formed. Note that smaller holes are pierced in the card between the larger holes. These are for working the extreme edge in two colours. The method of working can be seen. Two stitches must be taken through each hole, so only single raffia is used for the edge binding, as the holes are not large enough to permit four strands to pass through.
Oval or round mats can be made on another kind of loom. There is no centre hole in this loom, but to begin the raffia must be started from the centre and held there with the thumb and finger of the left hand, while the raffia is passed across to the edge, and put between two of the little points, then carried across the back to the points opposite.
When the raffia reaches the centre again the needle is slipped under the strand at the centre and the raffia is put between the next two points, then carried across at the back and through the two points the other side of the first strand, so that each time the raffia crosses the other strands in the centre.
When there is raffia put between all the points, fasten the end off in the centre very firmly. This can be done by interlacing it between a few of the strands.
Note the white cross in the centre. This is worked first, then the points of the star with another colour, and alternate points with another colour.
For the dark ring in the background a dark raffia is used, and a lino of chain stitches is worked to form this ring over each strand, except those which are left plain, reaching from the centre to the extreme edge.
When all the weaving is finished, take a pair of scissors and cut off all the points of the cardboard as close as possible to the stitches, then with a needle work an edging of buttonhole stitches, inserting the needle each time through the end of the raffia strands which are passed between the points. Press the mat under a warm iron when finished.
For use on white tablecloths, it is best to weave with natural raffia, as some of the dyed raffias are liable to stain when wet.
An oblong mat is just as easy to make with a serrated cardboard loom, or if a square mat is required, choose a loom of that shape. These looms cost only a penny or two each, according to size.
Weaving is also adopted when making a pair of slippers, a handbag, or tea-cosy, and looms can be purchased for all these shapes. The cardboard loom is taken away after these articles are made.