Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to make yucca cordage

I have a yucca plant in my yard.  I first learned about yucca in high school when I was reading a play in which a character was named Yucca.  I learned that it's a plant that generally grows in the western U.S., and that its leaves can be used as fiber for cordage.   Ever since then, I've wanted to make yucca cordage.  When I moved to Washington state and found I could have a yucca plant in my garden, I planted one.

Enter my friend Julie.  We met at a local community fair last summer, and became good friends very quickly.  She's a basket weaver and lover all things botanical, so we naturally had lots of interesting things to talk about.

A few days ago, she said she was going to show me how to use my yucca plant!  She cut a leaf off at the base with a pocket knife.  They are very hard to tear off.  The root of the plant is very slimy, and she told me that her grandma used to use the shredded root as soap when she washed clothes by hand on a washboard.  It can also be used to wash hair.  This variety may not be as sudsy as the kind her grandma used, but even the leaves made bubbles in the water!

Place the leaf face down on a smooth rock with the concave part of the leaf touching the rock.  
Here's my leaf

Get a rock that fits well in your hand.  (you don't have to have blue fingernails unless your six year old likes to paint your nails, like mine does)  Use the tip of it to lightly tap on your leaf, slowly breaking loose the fibers of the leaf from one another.  
Pound the entire length of the leaf

This is about what it should look like when held up to light.  I could have probably pounded even more.
These are the fibers you are loosening.  

Close up of the separating fibers.  

Roll the leaf in your hand, as if you are rolling a snake from a ball of dough

Look at all the chlorophyll you're releasing!  The water really does turn that green!  See how the fibers are separating?

Saraiah had to join in!

Saraiah is splitting the fibers apart, now that we have loosened them.  

Fold a piece of fiber in half, pinching.  

Twist the piece farthest from you away from you.  

Then bring the far piece toward you, going over the other piece,  and begin twisting the piece that is now in the back away from you.  
Keep going, twisting the back one away from you, bringing it over the front piece, then twisting the back piece again.  
When you are ready to add on another piece, fold it in half, then twist it with the two loose ends of the cordage you've already been working with, continuing until you have the length you want.  Tie a knot in the end.   
Levi made some raffia cordage because he had so much fun making the yucca cordage.

I made mine into a bracelet.  I'm wearing it right now!


  1. I think you left some at my house because I found it and am wearing it now also. Julie helped me put it on when she dropped of the Tiller.

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