Woven Crafts: Cattail and Raffia Sandals

For lovers of woven crafts, raffia sandals are one summer wear project that will leave you with a "footnote" to human history!

| May/June 1985

  • woven crafts raffia sandals - weaving
    Fig. 1-A: Bend the core 8" from one end, and wrap the bend with a weaver. Fig. 1-B: With the 8" length alongside the longer piece, wrap tightly around the folded end several times with the weaver. Fig. 1-C: Bind the 8" piece to the other one using a figure-8 wrap.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - banded sandal
    Banded sandals are a viable variation on the split-toe design.
    AMBER COOK
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - doubling back
    Fig. 3: Bend the rod back on itself and begin lashing it in the opposite direction. If you prefer, you can bend the rod back on itself again when you reach the same spot on the other side of the sandal; this will make the sole more or less symmetrical.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - split-toe
    Split-toe raffia sandals are a woven crafts project that will provide hours or even days of fun.
    PHOTO: AMBER COOK
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - figure-8 knot
    Fig 6: To begin fashioning the band, select a weaver, and, leaving a tail about 10"-12" long, wrap the weaver around the tips of the two bundles at one end, binding them firmly together. With the figure-8 knotting technique, lash the two bundles together into a double rod.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - coiling
    Fig. 2: Use the figure-8 lashing technique to coil core materials around your central rod.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - finishing the sole
    Fig. 4: Try to finish the sale so that the end of the rod is unobtrusive. Tapering the rod into a curve looks good.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - thong loop
    Fig 5: Secure the weaver with several half hitches, and tie together several of the core's dangling ends as extra protection against the possibility of the loop's pulling apart.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - wrapping loose strands
    Fig 7: Choose one end of the band and begin wrapping the loose strands of raffia to the underside of the sole's outermost coil.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • woven crafts raffia sandals - weaving
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - banded sandal
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - doubling back
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - split-toe
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - figure-8 knot
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - coiling
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - finishing the sole
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - thong loop
  • woven crafts raffia sandals - wrapping loose strands

Raffia sandals may be as close to a timeless, universal form of footwear as we're ever likely to encounter. And though inexpensive ones can be easily purchased in most areas of the country, you may find it rewarding to try your hand at woven crafts by making a pair with raffia or bulrushes (or a combination of both fibers).

Raffia fiber, from a Madagascar palm tree (Raphia ruffia), is sold in bundles, ready for use, at most craft supply stores. Pliable, soft, and surprisingly strong, the long beige strips are used to wrap, lash, knot, or sew together the elements in many natural fiber projects from hats and slippers to household furnishings.

Bulrushes are cattails—those tall, graceful reedy plants with brown flower heads that look like fuzzy hot dogs. Only the leaves are used for fiber crafts. Look for cattails near the edges of ponds, in roadside drainage ditches, and in marshes. Once you've located a good stand, cut the long, flexible leaves close to the ground, leaving the flower stalks and any shoots under 2 feet tall.

Fresh, green bulrushes can be made into handcrafted items if they are used right away — they mold when left in bunches. However, drying the leaves will prevent this from happening and will also turn them an attractive pale tan. Before dried bulrushes are used for weaving, they must be soaked in warm water for 5-10 minutes to make them pliable again. Both the fresh leaves and the dried and soaked ones should be tightly wrapped or woven, since they shrink as they dry, which could result in too loose a weave.



To make the split-toe sandals described below, you'll need one package of raffia (12 ounces or so), a large, blunt-tipped yarn needle — preferably made of steel — scissors, and several strong spring-clip clothespins. If you want to make one of the variations using bulrushes as well as raffia, you'll also need a bundle of fresh or dried cattail leaves. (Fiber sandals can be made entirely of bulrushes, but unless otherwise indicated, the following directions specify raffia.)

Crafting the Sole

Different styles of footwear can be fashioned using a basic sole. You start with a bundle, or core, of fiber strips, and wrap them tightly together with another strip to form a rod. A series of rods connected end to end is coiled around a central double rod to form the shape of the sole. The rods are wrapped, coiled, and lashed together with a single strand called a weaver. Because the size and quality of the materials may differ significantly from one brand of raffia to another, it may take from ten to fifteen strands of fiber to make a rod 3/8" in diameter — sufficient for a comfortably thick sole. Sometimes two or three strips must be combined to make a weaver.

www.EasyWoodwork.org
5/26/2018 10:52:13 PM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to make my own – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha. Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)







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