Latest Posts

Waitangi Day

Today is Waitangi Day – New Zealand’s version of Nation Day or the 4th of July.

Waitangi in the Far North

As an outsider, I find Waitangi Day a most peculiar holiday, because it isn’t a celebration.  It is, at best, a sort of uneasy acknowledgement of the beginnings of New Zealand as a nation.

This is my understanding of Waitangi Day:

Waitangi Day specifically commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands on 6 Feb 1840.

The beach at Waitangi, looking out over the Bay of Islands

The Treaty of Waitangi is to New Zealand what the Magna Carta is to the UK, or the Declaration of Independence is the US: it’s our founding document.

In some ways, it’s a good founding document.  It’s short, and simple.  It did three basic things: it establishes a British governorship over NZ (the NZ government essentially inherited this governorship), recognised that the Maori owned NZ, and had a right to their land and properties, and, finally, gave Maori the rights of British citizens.

Well, sort of.  At the same time, it’s a terrible founding document.

You see, the problem with the Treaty of Waitangi is that it wasn’t written by experienced treaty writers.  It wasn’t written to be a nation’s founding document.  And, worst of all, it was translated into the language of the most important half of the signers (the local Maori) by people who weren’t translators, and didn’t speak the language they were translating well.

So the English and Maori versions of the Treaty say isn’t the same thing.  What the Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty probably thought they were getting and giving, isn’t what the British signees thought they were getting and giving.

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

To make it worse, it wasn’t like every single Maori chief in NZ signed the Treaty: a small group of chiefs in the Far North of New Zealand signed it.  And quite a few Far North chiefs refused to sign it.

See that bit up the top called 'Bay of Islands'? See how far it is from the rest of NZ?

And after the initial signing of the Treaty, copies of it (many of which said different things than the original Treaty) were taken around New Zealand for other chiefs to sign.  But many, many chiefs didn’t sign it, and the initial problem with the translations not agreeing was compounded.

And despite the Treaty recognising that the Maori owned the land, much of it was still bought at unfair prices, or flat-out stolen, over the next few decades.

So today Waitangi Day is not a celebration.  Depending on where you stand, it is source of anger, or grief, or guilt, or frustration, or (at the best) indifference.  Very few people appreciate Waitingi Day as anything more than a day off work.

An annual commemoration is held at the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi where the Treaty was signed.  As often as not the Prime Minister is harrassed, shouted at, and has to be rushed away from the event by security.  Sometimes members of the Royal Family, as representatives of the Commonwealth, attend and experience the same sentiments.  In one particularly memorable event, the Queen attended Waitangi Day and was treated to the ultimate traditional Maori insult by a protestor: the whakapohane.


The Queen got mooned.

There are also commemorations in Wellington at the Beehive (the government offices) and the Parliament buildings next door.  They are just as fraught.

GE protestors camping outside the Beehive

The new parliament buildings in Wellington

So today, everyone will be off work, but no one will really be celebrating.  Instead we’ll be wondering: did we get it right?  Can we do better?  Where to now?

Dawn over Wellington

Sunset at Lyall Bay

Recently I had reason to drive around the back coast of Wellington from Island Bay to Lyall Bay just at sunset.  The glow on the hills was so striking I had to stop and capture the moment.

I stayed a while to watch airplanes take off from the airport, and to see seagulls squabble over the choicest seats on the rock.


Sea and sky and a journey beginning

An airplane ascends against the glow

Days end

The lights of Lyall Bay

Finished project: The Summertime Southerly 1931 dress

I’ve finished another dress this week: a wool crepe dress from a 1931 pattern.

I killed two birds with one stone with this dress: this week’s theme on the Sew Weekly was ‘Down Under’ (sew something from the opposite season to the one you are experiencing), and next week’s theme is ‘UFO’.  This dress does both.

Well, sort of.  It’s definitely a UFO: I started it at the beginning of spring, with the idea that if I sewed a wool dress Murphy’s law would the weather would definitely be too warm to wear it!  The weather may have cooperated, but the dress got set aside when other stuff became more pressing.

The ‘Down Under’ challenge was a bit murkier.  The whole idea of ‘seasonal’ weather in Wellington is just ridiculous though.  We are the land of four seasons in one day (yes, I know you have that stuck in your head now.  You’re welcome).  On various days this week I’ve been in jeans, wool tops and wool socks, and shorts and a singlet.  What on earth is seasonal appropriate weather in Wellington!?!

I went for a dress to wear all year round, and never: too warm for summer, not warm enough for winter, no good in a stiff breeze, but charming nonetheless.  I’m calling it the Summertime Southerly.  One of those things that shouldn’t exist, but does.*

Southerlies in Wellington are stiff winds that blow straight off Antarctica, up the Cook Straight, and into Wellington, where they chill you to the bone no matter the time of year.  Sometimes in the summer they come as light breezes, rather than stiff gales, and those days are perfect for dresses like this. So are still days in winter.

I’m reasonably happy with the dress.  I still want to find the perfect buckle to go with the belt, and am going to re-finish the cuffs with black satin bias tape.  And wear it with a better slip.  And I wish I had given the side seams Hong-Kong finishes AFTER I fit the dress, because I ended up taking in a LOT of fabric with the fitting, and it’s all still there.

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 2ish metres of thrifted vintage 100% wool crepe (the fabric had pieces cut out of it already, and I forgot to measure it before I cut, so I can’t tell you exactly how much there was.  Trim of vintage black silk satin from an obi.

Pattern: Excella E3169 ca. 1931 without the cape, with long sleeves.  This is the same pattern I made the Frumpy Dress from.

Pattern alterations: The collar is a not-very successful self-draft.  And I didn’t have enough fabric to do the sleeves properly, so I pieced them along the line where the hem would be for a short sleeve.  If I get tired of the long sleeves I can just unpick the bottom half!  I also dropped the back hem just a bit to add flair to the skirt.  (See Steph, I don’t dislike mullet skirts!)

Year: ca. 1931

Notions: lots and lots of thrifted cream bias tape to finish the inside.

Hours: Ergh.  Lets not go there shall we?

Techniques used: French seams, Honk Kong seams, pintucks, rolled hems, and a tiny bit of pattern drafting..

Will you make this again? The pattern?  Yes!  But not in wool crepe.  It’s much better as a proper summer dress in floaty chiffon.  And I’d rather save the wool crepe to make stuff like the Dress Clip Dress.

Total cost: Don’t remember exactly, but under $3 for the fabric.

And the inside?: bias-bound Hong Kong seams at sides and waist, french seamed sleeves, hand stitched collar.  All rather decent.

*I was going to call this the Edna dress, because it reminds me of a 1920s photo of Edna St Vincent Millay.   Then a friend pointed out that the juxtaposition of ‘Down Under’ and Edna really wasn’t a smart move.  It took me a minute, but I had to agree that I didn’t want people thinking Dame Edna!