Method, magic, and merino: the elegant textiles of PK Maracin

In her Central Otago workshop, recipient of Creative Fibre NZ’s 2024 New Weaver award PK Maracin produces beautiful, one of a kind shawls, wraps, and capes, using only natural fibres. PK hand dyes fibres to make the precise shades she needs to create her unique garments. She has been working with textiles for more than 50 years, and weaves every day, sharing her love of the art at local markets as well as in her Felt shop, PK Sews & Weaves.

PK Maracin of PK Sews & Weaves

What do you make?

I make nice stuff. I weave shawls, wraps and cloth – making accessories and capes you don’t really need, but love to have for your home, to give and for yourself. As a teenager – and influenced by my dear aunt – I realised that accessories are the key to a stylish wardrobe. Clothes and fashion come and go, and are costly to keep up with. But high quality accessories can last you a lifetime. They immediately lift any outfit, even an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Wrap a gorgeous shawl around your shoulders and you’re off.

How did you get into your craft?

I have been surrounded by and drawn to textiles my whole life – learning to sew at a very young age, then learning to knit as a young adult, and learning to weave as an older one. I’ve been wanting to weave forever, but just didn’t know it. When I was 14, I went to Mexico on a Spanish class school trip. While all my classmates were busy buying miniature statues of Aztec gods, I bought a handwoven rug (which I still have).

Compared to many others, though, my previous life had very little to do with fibre arts. Though I did sew during all of those years, my focus and adult corporate life were spent in film. Film has always been my passion from a very young age. I would watch the classics with my Dad on TV and, according to family legend, I could quote Singin’ in the Rain – and all TV commercials – at the age of 4.

Weaving has become my life and appeals to all of me. It combines elements I enjoy doing and have excelled at in the past: analysis, maths, detail work, design, colour work, photography, and sewing. I wish I had discovered weaving earlier in my life, but that was not feasible nor the right time. I am happy that time is now.

Handwoven large linen shawl by PK Sews & Weaves
Heddles on the loom of PK Sews & Weaves

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?

Ja-ein, as we say in Germany. I do not use the words “self taught”, as no one is self taught – you started somewhere by watching someone else. You learn by listening and watching others, trying, experimenting, following instructions. A tip is given, a technique learned, and you incorporate this into your bag of textile knowledge.

From the start of my weaving journey, I have studied weaving through Jane Stafford’s Online Guild. Weaving is the golf of the textiles world: the more you learn, the less you know, and you will never truly master it. I will not live long enough to learn the things past artisans have forgotten.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?

My favourite fibres are super fine merino and ultra fine linen. Both produce elegant, drapey textiles for shawls and capes. The merino wool I use has been farmed, processed, milled, and spun in the South Island. This is the highest quality undyed base yarn I can buy in New Zealand. I hand dye all of the wool in ever-changing gradients of colour. The linen I use is from India, France, and Belgium.

Handwoven large linen shawl by PK Sews & Weaves
PK threading the loom
Design notes by PK in her weaving workbook

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces

There are so many techniques and unique terms involved in weaving. They are difficult to describe in one word, or sentence. I can say that the techniques involved require patience and tenacity.

What inspires you?

I am very much inspired by colour and its combinations – this can be an outfit someone is wearing, beaded jewellery, nature. I also study the historic and current works of indigenous Indian, American, and Mexican artisans, especially in the region of Rajasthan in India which has a rich, almost antique heritage in weaving fine cloth of many colours. Though I do not weave them, I love the feel and look of handwoven rugs and seem to have quite a collection throughout our house.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?

When I started weaving I thought I would make certain items as that is what I appreciated from other weavers. Then I realised that some structures do not appeal to me, some I don’t enjoy weaving at all, others I enjoy but the outcome is unsatisfying. So over time I developed the cloth I enjoy making and like to produce. I like large widths of cloth as they are versatile. I like capes and ponchos as you can wrap yourself in warmth and glamour. I like working with finer threads as the cloth is more elegant, has better drape. I like working with high quality natural fibres as the end result is immediately lifted.

Then I realised that fine and ultra fine fibres cost more money as they are more precious to produce and you need more of them. High quality possum, merino, silk and linen cost more and some are bought from overseas as that is where the standard is higher. Weaving with fine fibres takes longer, the set-up more time intensive. So I thought: Somebody has to offer items at the higher end, why not me?

PK hemstitching in her studio
Handwoven large linen shawl by PK Sews & Weaves
Lattice work on a textile piece by PK Sews & Weaves

What has been a highlight of your maker journey so far?

Being the recipient of the national New Weaver 2024 Award from Creative Fibre NZ (NZ Spinning, Weaving and Woolcrafts Society Inc.). I worked most of last year designing portfolio pieces, trying to create the highest quality I could at my level of weaving. It was (is) a fabulous moment – not just for the ego but for the support from others that I am going in the right direction.

Describe your creative process:

I’ll be the first to admit that I like structure. I’m not one to throw yarn on a loom and see what happens. Everything I make has an idea behind it, and everything I make is unique and one-off. I am more method than madness. I find colours that work together and dye them myself. I see patterns that will work with that colour choice and write the threading outline. Then I start weaving and watch the magic happen.

Describe your workspace:

My studio is neat. While I love looking at the chaos in some artistic studios, it would drive me mad. I need space – mentally and physically. Everything has its spot. I only work on one project at a time, though I am always designing the next while I weave the current. That is de jour in the age-old creative process.

The walls are full of people and memories from a past life, the floor is full of rugs. My large working loom is here (the other two smaller ones are in the adjoining-soon-to-be-larger-studio). I have a pressing station, a large sewing and working table. A teeny tiny desk in the corner with my Mac. Pieces for sale are by the window. Books and magazines are stacked for easy access. My sewing chair has been taken over by cat Betty as it is full of comfy woven scraps in wool and mohair.

Five words that describe your mind:

Focused, tenacious, active, independent, searching.

Handwoven large linen shawl in the colours of Ukraine by PK Sews & Weaves
PK at her loom in her Otago weaving studio

Your favourite feedback from a customer:

“Thank you for keeping the art of weaving alive for people like me to admire and purchase. I love it so much!!”

What are you currently listening to?

I try and have a meditative approach to almost everything I do. I pay attention to one thing, and one thing only.  Whether eating lunch, watching film, or sewing. So, I do not listen.

While weaving I concentrate on the task at hand. If preparing the loom, I am either counting threads, or placement steps. When weaving I am following the rhythm of the shuttle and counting design picks and layers. Any sort of outside “noise” is not appealing. It distracts from what I am doing, errors can creep in, and it takes me out of the element.

What are you reading now?

Film is my book club and I watch film or aspects of film daily. Too many are not worth talking about but I recently watched Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days. Simple, peaceful film in classic Wenders style – there is depth and thought under the surface. It makes you look at life and what you make of it, how your way of living must not be the way others see life.

A favourite quote:

“I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” Edna Mode

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?

Find what you enjoy creating and keep redefining and polishing that. It may be similar to what others are doing, and it may not. But if it comes from your heart, and has an element of you, then the finished product will echo that. Always put quality first, before any type of quantity. You will never win the “cheapest game”. Don’t make for the market, make for you and hopefully the market will come.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?

There is a magic and beauty in a handwoven cloth that can be found nowhere else. Handwoven items have a soul because there is human involvement at all stages. And this is true of many handmade artisan pieces. Often this isn’t a hobby, it’s a living and a life. The only way this kind of thing continues to exist is when people make an effort to support it. I always try to do that, and am thankful to those people who join me, and applaud them.

Handwoven and -dyed fine NZ merino shawl wrap by PK Sews & Weaves
Handwoven and -dyed fine NZ merino shawl wrap by PK Sews & Weaves

What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?

Besides the ego boost and the accompanying happy-dance, I also feel I have found a kindred spirit. Someone who values less over more, quality over quantity, tradition over AI. And that inspires me to create something new, as I feel validation that my market, my people, they are out there.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?

At a recent Visual Arts Exhibition I fell in love with a hand-knitted large crescent merino wool shawl in a design by Stephen West. I know the knitter, who does superb work. Her tension and stitch quality are excellent. While I could knit this myself, why would I when she already did! And I have that wonderful feeling of supporting a local artisan and wearing a unique item.

What’s your favourite item in your shop right now?

I am going through a linen renaissance and am enamoured with all of the large linen shawls. You just want to wear them all in an explosion of colour. They are almost gauze-like and are just that perfect memory of my time in India. I can’t stop weaving them, though they are time-intensive to create.

What’s in store for the rest of 2024?

Besides continuing my studies with Jane Stafford and her online Guild, I would like to design a linen cape for summer months, tackle some of Marian Stubenitsky’s weaving patterns, design and make a silk something for an 80th birthday, and finally weave myself enough linen cloth for a skirt.

And perhaps find the time to piece together all of the crocheted granny squares from my late dear aunt and myself (currently laid out on my studio floor), and make a poncho. Or two.

PK Maracin of PK Sews & Weaves with a selection of her handwoven textiles

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