Wet summers and winters are better than drought. It's actually how it used to be before the vog changed our weather patterns. However, it's disheartening when I have to throw away 90% or more of the lauhala I gathered due to mildew. I usually compost all the "less than perfect" lau. This time I sorted and kept the decent looking ones that I would usually compost. They're still good for weaving but not nice enough to make sellable papale. In the picture below one can see 1) dirt marks that will wipe off and 2) mildew dots that won't. From the top view, the lau looks fine. If one looks closely at the underside one can see the little mildew dots.
I add a dash of Pine-sol to the bucket of water that I use to wipe the lau. It helps the "paper cuts" and thorn tears in my hands from getting infected while cleaning lauhala. I hope it also helps to kill the mildew and mold spores without damaging the lauhala. I once tried wiping lauhala with diluted Clorox but the lauhala seemed extremely brittle afterwards. If I'm lucky, I only lose 10 to 20% with each step of cleaning and processing. For example, if I pick 100 leaves: 10-20% is lost when I'm trimming the po'o and huelo; 10-20% is lost when I de-thorn; 10-20% is lost when I'm wiping with a damp rag; 10-20% is lost while rolling into kukaa or stripping. With each step I'll discard lau that has mildew stains, are too brittle, have scars, or other imperfections. So of that 100 leaves I started with, I'll be extremely lucky to have 60 leaves for actual weaving. It sounds wasteful but I realized that it's not worth trying to weave with sketchy lau. The computer adage "garbage in, garbage out" also applies to ulana. Using brittle or junk lauhala sets one up for endless frustration. And it's not total waste. Everything gets composted.
Lately with all the rain, I've had to discard more. There was one gathering last summer where I composted ALL the lauhala because of mildew and rot. With Hala scale decimating Hala on Maui, Moloka'i, some areas on Oahu, and a confirmed case on Hawai'i island, I don't want to take my lauhala for granted. I decided to try to keep and use more of the lauhala even if I cannot use it for the papale that I sell. This past gathering/processing I ended up with most of the lauhala being "grade B."
I decided to make a two-sided mat using 1 inch wide koana. This mat is two feet by two feet. I don't do moena often and it shows in the uneven edges of the mat. Kumu Linda Saffery taught me how to weave mat and uluna neck pillow several years ago at a Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona weaving conference.
Because I will store it in a sunroom/patio, with daily UV rays, the exposure will be minimal so I believe it will be OK to use for taking product pictures of the papale that I sell. The one inch wide koana makes for a good contrast with the 3/16 inch koana in the papale.
In the future I will continue to save the "grade B" lauhala. I think they will be great for beach or "work in the yard" papale. Not for sale, just for fun.