Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yucca Sandals #2

This post is a followup to the comment submitted on my earlier post (Thank you) about dry vs fresh fibers. The question at hand was about drying the yucca leaves before weaving them, but led to some interesting experiments in general.

Defining my goal

I am primarily interested in what can be done in the extremely short term (half-day timeframe) to protect the feet given no tools other than two working hands and only naturally occurring materials. Producing the best sandal possible from yucca might start with producing yucca rope, then making some Wuxi-style rope sandals. That would require a lot more yucca, a couple of days drying, and some simple tools. Perhaps I will make a "luxury" sandal when all this is done.

Yucca Sandals #2

General pattern
for sole
I picked the leaves and set them out on a dry indoor surface for 48 hours. Then I proceeded as before. The immediate results were pretty much what I had expected: The leaves had shrunk a little, though not much. They were much more pliable, too. I had been worried that in their softer state, the "skin" on the leaf might not hold together as well and they would just shred or tear rather than fold. That was not the case. They folded quite nicely, even bending without breaking at first, which let me fine-tune the location of the folds before committing. An additional advantage in using aged leaves was that the pointy-bits that stuck out were softer, and less likely to jab you in the foot.

The leaves had shrunk a bit before the weaving, so proceeding with the same construction as in case #1 led to a narrower sole. Easy enough to fix, if I wanted to: add another V strand when I start.

Overall, the resulting sandal was better than the first.

The surprise came the following morning:

Sandal #2 after 24 hrs
Sandal #1 after 24 hrs

While the gaps that formed were not nearly as big as before, they were still significant.

I was pretty sure this came from additional moisture leaving the leaves when I halved them before weaving, and possibly also from the breakage at the fold points. My conclusion is that just leaving the leaves to dry for a day doesn't get enough of the moisture out to avoid gaps and looseness in the sole.

Things I learned

Pattern for
"contrary" edges
  • The leaves still shrunk (again mostly on the width dimention) even after the leaves had been dried
  • Having the folds at the edges of the sole go the "easy" way rather than the contrary way lets the lacing move around a lot.  If I made them contrary it might make the laces more stable.
  • I can now make a single sandal sole out of freshly picked yucca leaves in about 10 minutes. I assure you that this is not a skill I had ever expected to acquire. The Computer Science Curriculum at university did not offer a class in Paleolithic Clothing Manufacture, but even if it had, I doubt I would have taken it. Live and learn.

Next Steps

Some more experiments suggest themselves:
  1. A third pair of sandals made with leaves that were sectioned immediately after picking, then left to dry for 48 hours.
  2. Drying the yucca leaves over a fire and trying to do it all in one day again
  3. Making a double-wide or double-long sole and folding it over to get a thicker and more protective sole.

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