Lauhala bracelets

Lauhala bracelets. Photo by Janet Miller

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, It’s Worth It!

A few years ago, not too long after my arrival on the island of Kaua’i, I attended a fundraiser with a theme: Purses.

All of the donated items up for bid were purses.

Big ones, small ones, short ones, tall ones, red ones, blue ones, all brand new ones!

Buyers walked around and examined the auction fare before the bidding began.

One particular purse caught my eye. It was magnificent!  Woven out of a woody-looking natural material, it was designed in the most perfect, intricate pattern I had ever seen.  I asked one of the auction volunteers if she could tell me anything about this purse.

Enthusiastically,  she raved about this creation and its crafter. She told me that it was handwoven out of the leaves of the hala tree, by a master weaver, Margaret, residing on Kaua’i.

I had to know more. The woman gave me a calling card with Margaret’s name and phone number. The card noted that she held weaving lessons. I tucked that card in my pocket, reserved for a definite future phone call.

The event being a fund raiser, I wasn’t surprised to hear bids of $100.00 or more… much more, for each of the purses, but when Margaret’s creation came up on the auction block, there was a quiet murmur around the room. Obviously, people were familiar with her work. That purse fetched $2000!

When the soiree was finished, I couldn’t wait to get to my car, and once there, I called the number on the card.  I spoke to Margaret and found out that she held weekly, six-hour long, weaving classes/clinics at a neighborhood center.

I attended that very next class. Margaret brought a huge storage bin of samples of things that she had woven; from bracelets to Christmas ornaments to large brimmed hats and silk lined purses.

I was hooked!  I wanted to be a weaver. Margaret had to curb some of my exuberance by using her Zen voice:  “Patience, Grasshopper, you must learn to walk before you can run.”

She was so right. Learning the very basics of getting to know the hala leaves; how to prepare them, how to handle them, how to make them into things of beauty — all this alone took several six-hour sessions.

Eventually, I progressed from place mats and bookmarks to simple baskets and then bracelets. My life revolved around weaving. I almost looked forward to being made to wait for a doctor’s appointment, so that I could get a few more sections of weaving completed, as I always carried some project with me. Bracelets became my obsession. Margaret complimented my originality in pattern creations.

I obtained the hala leaves from the trees at the intersection near the Lihu`e airport entrance. On one of my harvesting outings, I was deep in the jungle of hala trees, carefully choosing each leaf for the exact degree of dryness and color, when suddenly, there was a male voice: “Hey, you helping me trim da trees?”  I panicked, grabbed my previously chosen leaves and took off running for my truck. The man came after me and tried to calm me down, assuring me that he was a maintenance worker for the airport and that it was OK for me to pick up the dried leaves.

So for now, I will weave and weave and weave, constantly thinking up new patterns and techniques for my bracelet-making hobby… until my carpals threaten to close up the tunnels.

Janet Miler

Janet Miller

Janet Miller has a desire to eventually touch every life on Kaua’i in a positive way. Read a new column online at on the seventh day of every month.


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