Introduction: Make Your Own Bleach Cosplay Sandals (waraji)

Picture of Make Your Own Bleach Cosplay Sandals (waraji)

For anyone who cosplays Bleach characters, one of the hardest things to find is the sandals that the shinigami (soul reapers in the dub) wear. The sandals are based off a traditional straw sandal from fuedal Japan known as waraji.

Traditional waraji sandals are made from woven straw. They are constructed on a loom and are a little smaller than the foot they're made for, ending just behind the toes. The toes hang out over the end of the sandal. Along the sides of the sandal are four small loops (two on each side) and four strips of woven rope come through the forward end and back end of the sandal. These are threaded through the loops and wrap around the foot and ankle to tie them in place.

When you do a search on ebay or different "cosplay stores" for Bleach cosplay items, you'll usually find these sandals sold along with a set of tabi socks. These sandals are more traditional but have several problems that don't make them ideal for cosplaying.

First of all, they don't look very accurate to the manga or show, and if you're like me, accuracy counts on a costume as "simple" as this.  I don't mean simple to construct, but the fewer details a costume has, the more crucial it is to get those details right.

These sandals also don't hold together well. I had ordered a set, and put them on a few days before the con while making the costume to get used to the way they felt. After wearing the sandals for a little over two hours on concrete, linoleum, and carpet, they completely fell apart. Other cosplay friends that have ordered these sandals have had the same problem and you see this happen at cons all the time - I've never seen anyone wear the same set for more than one day without them being severely degraded, fraying, or falling apart.

Shinigami sandals as shown in the manga and anime differ from traditional sandals in two ways. Shinigami sandals extend all the way to the end of the toes much like a normal sandal. The sandal itself also extends past the heel to wrap up around it and end at the Achilles tendon. It's a very subtle effect but one of the most distinctive characteristics of the outfit. I've never seen sandals online that you can buy like this, so I decided to make my own.

These sandals take a few hours to make. The first pair costs about $15, while subsequent pairs can be made for a third of the cost. You can size them to your specific foot, which is also comfortable. Best of all, you can wear these sandals to a con for three days of walking for 10 hours each on concrete and asphalt before they break down.

All in all, definitely worth the time invested and always turn heads. I've never worn these without people rushing to comment on them and asking how they can make their own!

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

Picture of Gathering the Materials

Gathering supplies for the sandal isn't hard and can be bought at any home improvement store such as Lowes or Home Depot.

Scrap of wood larger than your foot to make the loom
10D finishing nails
Dr Sholls gel inserts (these are optional)
1/4" Sisal or Jute rope*
Jute twine**

The only tools you'll need are a hammer and a pair of sharp scissors.

*Sisal and manilla rope are easy to find but are very rough and scratchy, so if you cosplay as a character that doesn't wear socks, you'll end up with raw skin and may even end up with it through the socks. Jute rope on the other hand is very soft but you may have a problem finding it down at the Home Depot. You can however find 1/4" jute rope online, as it's very popular for jewelry and bird toys.

**Make sure you use Jute twine! Sisal or binding twine do not hold up nearly as well and are very scratchy. Jute has some cushioning to it which is important if wearing them for a few days.

Step 2: Draw Out Your Foot

Picture of Draw Out Your Foot

Put your foot on the board and draw around it with the marker. Make sure you leave enough room behind the heel! I recommend you wear an old sock for this.

Make sure not to draw in the arch of your foot - you want a straight line from the edge of your big toe down to the edge of your heel.

Step 3: Make the Loom!

Picture of Make the Loom!

In order to make the sandal, you need to make a loom for it. This is done by hammering the nails in at specific points to give a framework to weave around. The nails will form the base for the sisal rope which defines the shape of the sandal.

The shinigami sandals have six loops as opposed to the traditional four. Mark out where on the board the end of the sandal will be, making sure it can wrap up around your heel! You can guess this, or take a run of string from the end of your toes and curl it up around your heel to where you want the sandal to end and use that measurement instead.

Once you have the markings in place, pound in the nails where indicated. 10d finishing nails will give you about two and a half inches above the board to work with. A few nails at the bottom are used to hold the rope taut.

On previous versions of the sandal the loom was symmetrical, but since this version extends to the end of the toes like a traditional sandal it has a shape like one, jutting forward a bit more where the big toe is.

At the far back of the board, hammer in a few nails to give you something to wrap the free ends of the rope around. The next step will show how this all makes sense.

Step 4: Wrap the Sisal Around the Loom

Picture of Wrap the Sisal Around the Loom

You want to cut a ten foot length of sisal rope and start wrapping it around the nails. This part can be a bit confusing from the photos, so I'll try and be clear here with pictures as well.

1) Start at the midpoint of the rope at the bottom of the shoe. Wrap around the nails for the heel loops.

2) Bring both sides up and wrap them around the nails there to form the side loops.

3) When you get to the top of the sandal, feed the rope down through the two topmost nails that are half an inch apart and pull tight. Continue bringing the rope down through the bottom nails, going over the rope pulled tight from step 1

4) Bring the rope around the nails that form the heel loops, then finally down and wrap them several times in a figure 8 through the nails at the bottom of the board. This will hold everything nice and taut.

Step 5: Start Weaving the Sandal!

Picture of Start Weaving the Sandal!

Time to start weaving! I recommend starting at the toe. Take a length of Jute twine (anything longer than about 12 feet becomes difficult to manage) and tie it off at the top of the sandal. I first start by wrapping it around the junction at the top where the two ropes meet before going back down the length of the sandal to make it nice and tight.

While I can't tell you how to weave the sandal specifically, make sure the wrap is very, very tight around where the shoe starts. I tend to wrap each rope individually, then weave through the strands to hold everything together.

Eventually you'll start doing an over-under-over-under weave across the four ropes that make up the body of the sandal. Even though the two middle ropes are side by side at the start, as you continue to weave, they'll pull apart and tighten the shoe.

When you get near the end of a length of twine, tie off another one to it in a square knot, then cut off the excess and keep right on weaving.

As you finish each line of weaving, use your fingers to push it down as compactly as possible to the rest of the twine! The entire integrity of the sandal depends on this and you must pack this together as tightly as humanly possible or the shoe will fall apart when you attempt to tie it. The first pair I ever made fell apart because I did not pack enough twine into the sandal.

When you get to the side loops, wrap the twine around them several times before continuing to weave, making sure that this whole area is securely packed. If not, this is where the sandal will fall apart as this is the area where it's under the most stress.

Continue weaving until you get down to the heel area...

Step 6: Weave the Heel

Picture of Weave the Heel

When you get about halfway down to the heel, flip the loom around and start weaving the heel area, using the same technique you did on the toe area of the sandal. I start once again by tying and wrapping the twine around the junction where it all comes together before starting the weave.

Weave this until you get to the first area that you've already woven. Depending on how fat your fingers are, you should still have about half an inch between both weavings. Just keep weaving until you really can't fit the twine through there with your fingers anymore, and tie off the twine.

Step 7: Finish the Sandal!

Picture of Finish the Sandal!

The only place where you can have a little bit of give with the sandal is in the heel. Massage the twine from the heel to the bottom of the side loops to close the gap, going a little bit at a time. Make sure that everything is still relatively tight as possible while closing the gap.

Lift the sandal right off the loom, and cut the extra sisal rope from the sandal and optionally add a drops of glue. The best thing is, if you packed enough twine and wove it tightly enough, you won't need any glue. The friction from the twine will hold it together just fine.

Make the other sandal the same way!

Step 8: Add the Sandal Thongs

Picture of Add the Sandal Thongs

Finally, you can now add the sandal thongs to each sandal, turning each one into a left and a right.

Down the middle of each sandal on the inside, you'll have the two thicker ropes. To add a sandal thong, the trick is to separate the twine in that area enough to expose one of the thicker ropes, and then thread the rope for the thong through the sandal making sure it wraps around this rope. It sounds more complicated than it really is. In order to open the weaving far enough to do this, stick your scissors through the sandal and open them, using the leverage top pry open the weaving.

You'll now have a left and a right sandal.

The thong rope itself can either be the sisal rope or the jute for this. I used a double length of the Jute twine I wove the sandal out of to make the thongs.

Each thong string should be about six feet long so you can cut off the excess once you wear the sandal. Thread the thong strings through the loops in the side and heel of the sandals.

Step 9: Wear the Sandal and Trim the Ropes!

Picture of Wear the Sandal and Trim the Ropes!

Place the sandal on your foot and pull on the thong ropes. They will go taut over your foot, pull up through the loops, and pull the back of the sandal up around the heel. Wrap the ropes around your ankles two or three times until they are secure and tie them off, then cut off the excess.

For added cushioning, I recommend sliding the Dr Sholl's insert into your actual sock.

Congrats, and enjoy your new sandals! These will last for several days of heavy use if you wove them right. I've included a few pics of mine that were finished!

I hope this helps for all you Bleach cosplayers out there! We need more quality costumers :P


kas227 (author)2017-03-11

Awesome tut. I'm going to try making them with recycled baling twine. I'm always looking for novel crafting ideas to use all the accumulated twine from my horse's hay and straw bales. Thanks.

Lynoire (author)2017-01-17

This tutorial is awesome^^ I might have missed it, but could you tell me exactly how much jute twine and sisal rope you have used? I need to order it online and want to make sure I get enough. :3

Thank you!

scifisteve (author)2016-10-24

Ive just made a pair this weekend for mcm london comic con next weekend, they are actually fairly comfortable, ill be sure to post how they hold up next week

lycoris3 (author)2010-09-02

ever thought of adding a layer of hot glue to make them last longer? got it from this ible: I really like yours, and plan to make some of my own. wonder if yarn will do? Maybe I can combine yours and that guys....

OmarM63 (author)lycoris32016-05-10

Try silicone caulk. I use this on area rugs to keep them from sliding around on my wood floors. It is inexpensive and comes in clear and possibly also a tan close to the color of the twine if your local stores have it.

My tip for using it would be to make sure you really get it into the fibers so it doesn't peel off. For something like this you could apply it and spread it a bit with a heavy card stock or an old credit card.

acoleman3 (author)lycoris32011-07-05

ive been toying with the idea of thinning down tool handle dip with either paint thinner or acetone (not sure on tht one) so it soaks into the fibers and creates a rubberized sole. i have no idea what would happen in reality since ive never thinned out tool dip. but my hypothesis is tht it will, as i said, soak into the fibers and, with further applications, create a more durable rubber sole then what the fibers would be by themselves. it might make them last another week or two. then again....the solvent may break down the structure of the dip and weaken its abrasion resistance. ....just an idea for ya.

EurobeatJester (author)acoleman32011-07-06

/Sounds like it could work, if not, just make another pair :P I never needed mine to last longer than a few days. I'm not sure if you're able to thin down tool handle dip. Perhaps Shoe Goop would be a better solution? Coat the bottom of the sandal in it to make it more durable perhaps.

I've found an interesting product called "liquid electrical tape" which is used to coat and seal open wires, but it makes a great paint-on rubber sole for the bottom of the waraji. Plus, it holds the weaving in the bottom together and makes it stronger.

lycoris3 (author)SamuraiSpirit2013-06-15

This sounds good as well, and again hopefully I can get to mine when my budget allows. :P Perhaps I will do this one first, still undecided. Will post when I am successful!

acoleman3 (author)EurobeatJester2011-07-06

ive been rather skeptical on whether or not you can thin down tool dip.....but i was going to run experiments on it and see. although with you mentioning shoe goop.....that may be a more viable solution. thanks for saving me the trouble and wasted time.

lycoris3 (author)acoleman32013-06-15

thanks for the tip. I may try it when my budget will allow. :P Thanks again!

IvannaM1 made it! (author)2016-03-31

I started these and my brother ended up finishing them. Very easy instructions to follow. I used 7lb jute twin from Lowes for weaving, and sisal rope. Only made one so far but they can be done fairly quickly if you do it all in spaced out sittings so you don't get bored. These took about 3 days for one shoe, maybe about an hour and a half total time. I made my loom a little too fitted to my foot so mine looks a little funny, but it works. I'll be cosplaying rukia and have heard some bad reviews on buying these sandals. Weaving my own seemed daunting, but they aren't hard to make at all, really cheap too.

For grip on the bottoms, since the show floor at my regular con is polished and ill be slipping, i'm going to put some drawer lining on the bottoms. They're rubber mats that you can buy for kitchen drawers so things don't slide around. They have little holes so you can just weave it right onto the bottom of the shoe. Probably going to use sewing string in tan so there's no lumps. The drawer lining is also very thin and cushiony so added support bonus! and they stick! so you definitely won't slide.

For a tighter weave we put nails in places we'd already weaved to keep it held in place so if anything was tugged the wrong way or not continuously pushed back, all previous weaving wasn't affected.

SimiXiamaraDHO (author)2015-11-20

One thing you can do that jewelry makers do is to spray the jute with a misting bottle with plain water & use weights on the end of it to stretch the jute & let it dry with the weights on it this makes it stronger and should last longer and make a tighter weave. Also they have this thin rubber heel and front part of the foot that you can adhere to the bottom of the sandal that might help it last longer

BryanH10 (author)2015-08-13

I hate to ask but can you make another sandal but make a video of you makin to sandals please

Freewolf2345 (author)2015-06-06

I was wondering, you know how these last up to 3 days. Could you maybe add rubber like the stuff you have on the bottom of shoes and just apply a thin layer to the bottom woul that make them last a bit longer? Maybe not but t was just an idea thanks for the tutorial

GraphixS6 (author)2014-08-29

Very nice work. Out of curiosity, do you think this would work with something thinner such as paracord? Would I need to add more "vertical" strands?

EthanKincaid (author)2013-08-23

Seconded. I actually had to take my sandal off the loom, modify the loom with extra nails and start over. I took Jester at their word and made "everything tight". Then again, the feet I'm making them for are quite long so perhaps there was simply too much space between the nails.

Something else that helps with the weaving especially when the space starts getting tight is to wrap a wee bit of scotch tape around the end of the twine you're working with to have a kind of flexible "needle" you can feed between the ropes more easily.

I can't help but notice that my waraji seem to be a bit thinner than the ones pictured. What width of jute twine was used for the weaving?

I used a version from Michaels which is about twice as thick as the normal one you find at Home Depot.
Having made sandals with both, I find the thinner twine is superior. There's more of it so the sandal holds together firmer. The extra "cushioning" from the thicker twine was gone after a few hours, and the extra space that results once it starts to break down can cause the sandal to start to loosen up.

Thanks for the info! I just bought some thicker twine. Maybe I will continue using the thin stuff ...

paleotool (author)2012-11-11

These are absolutely awesome! Thanks. Is the loom you use a traditional method or did you just come up with it???

EurobeatJester (author)paleotool2014-01-13

Modified a traditional loom pattern to add room for the heel :)

Amuune (author)2013-05-15

These are absolutely amazing and what I was looking for. A friend of mine sent me a link after she saw the makeshift version I was doing. I am going to a cosplay convention in June as one of the Bleach characters, so this is absolutely perfect. Thankyou so much for posting this. Your details and pictures help out more than you can imagine. I am a visual person, so seeing actual pictures helps out far more than if this were just a simple typed description. Thanks again, my costume will now be far more authentic! I love it!

jacicham (author)2013-03-15

These are SO awesome!!!!! Thank you for sharing! I am about to attempt making a pair of shoes using old jeans and was looking for a way to make a sole, which I will be trying this out! But I will also be trying to make a pair of these sandals after! And I was lucky enough to find green jute at Home Depot! Yay! I am so excited!

vmitchell3 (author)2012-10-01

Would this work to make flipflops like this? just disregard the heel and the extra loops?

Lemonbrew (author)2012-03-25

Looks like a very thorough guide, and it's got good pictures too! I don't cosplay but I plan on making a pair of these for next summer for everyday use.

I also have a request to the author. Could you also put this article to wikiHow? Instructables requires a Pro account to download a PDF for easier viewing and printing. wikiHow at least has free print version of pages (and its quite simple to make a PDF out of the print page). wikiHow also uses the same license in all its articles as you have in this one.

Thanks for this great article. I'll report on my progress when I get a chance to make a pair of these.

robinjade3 (author)2012-02-14

I am definitely want to make these! Since they were worn for several days on rough surfaces, how comfortable were they? As in how did your feet feel at the end of the day?

AppalachiaAngel (author)2011-12-26

I am a macramer and a jewelry maker and I have found that a good place to normally find jute twine and rope is at a crafting chain such as at Hobby Lobby and you can sometimes find it at the hardware sections at Walmart or Dollar Store. Thank you for this 'ible, I have always liked the idea of these sandals and have always wanted a pair for just casual wear and now I can ^^

Jimichan (author)2011-08-07

I once bought some waraji from a Nihonjin at a flea market in downtown Sao Paolo Brazil. I LOVED them! Very comfortable. Always wanted another pair, but never found any, even though I go to Japan every summer.
I will definitely be making my own now.

EtherPants (author)2011-02-28

Thank you so much for this. I've had the traditional waraji pattern for awhile now but wasn't sure how to approach the modifications the author gave to shinigami sandals.

The only jute twine I could find is kinda thready/frayed on the surface. Is this typical or should I keep looking?

The jute twine is always a little fuzzy since its made from natural fibers instead of synthetic like nylon. This is normal, and makes it a little softer.

I saw the patterns but didn't use them. This is about the fifth or sixth version of the sandal I made. The old ones were just larger versions of the standard waraji sandal, so the toe portion of it only came up to the ball of the foot with the sandal thongs coming out through the front. This caused some blisters when walking on hot concrete and asphalt since the toes hang out over the end of the sandal. This version makes them much larger as you can see in the photos.

Let me know how they turn out!

The only other thing I can recommend to make it easier on your feet is to buy some good quality gel inserts and put them in your sock when you wear the sandal.

Did my first attempt and I must have picked a twine that's a lot thinner than what you used since it feels kinda flimsy and looks like a much thinner than yours.

Making my second attempt with some thick hemp I had lying around to see how it turns out as an alternative.

I used the thicker stuff from the craft store for this sandal, but it wasn't quite as good as the thinner stuff since you can pack more in. I really bought the thicker stuff for the sandal thongs and it's what I had on hand. Both work equally well, as long as you pack as much in as is humanly possible.

Don't worry, the first one I made fell apart as soon as I tried to tie it. Keep at it!

Got pics?

The first pair I made months ago turned out okay but we ran into issues with the guy having a high arch and rain soaked shoes.

The next two turned out much better, especially after finding jute twine that wqas thick enough. We have a small Bleach group heading to Otakon so I'll finally have pictures soon. Any chance you might be there? It would be nice to meet up with some more Bleach cosplayers who know what they're doing.

acoleman3 (author)2011-07-05 let you all know? you can get a 3K foot spool of 5 ply (1/4in) jute twine from here.
probably enough to last your lifetime and even a friend or two. god knows *im* getting it from here. especially if im gonna be making a new pair every week.

acoleman3 (author)acoleman32011-07-10

DONT GET IT FROM HERE! i found out they want $48 in shipping....FK THT! at amzon you can get 260 feet for $5.05 and $4..67 shipping. look up jute rope and its item #2 in the list. WAY better price and its still a lot of rope for wht you need. i think its only like 12 ft per sandal.

Jubeidude (author)2010-11-15

I have always wanted a pair of Waraji. I've always been obsessed with samurai and japanese culture, so much that in school I gained degrees in History, Asian Studies and Japanese; and soon will begin work on my Master's degree in Military History (Samurai).

BUT, the point is
I have a size 16 foot, and well, Japan doesn't have waraji that big, so I am THRILLED to be able to have made size 16 waraji for myself.

Thank you.

EurobeatJester (author)Jubeidude2011-04-14

If you want more traditional waraji, just end the sandal where your heel ends and only add the four side loops.

Glad you like it!

acoleman3 (author)EurobeatJester2011-07-05

actually....historical examples of waraji do have 6 loops. this was to prevent loose debris from entering between the sandal and your tabi. it was especially important for samurai and other retainers either in their daily routine, crossing creeks and streams and, *especially* when on the march or more critically....the battlefield. they just usually didnt cover the achillies tendon as teh bleach waraji do.

EurobeatJester (author)acoleman32011-07-06

I never found any examples of waraji that had 6 loops. All the ones I had seen had four loops on the sides and thongs on the front and the back of the sandal giving you four ropes to pull up around your ankle. While I'm not doubting you at all, I wasn't able to find any examples that you describe in my research on how to make waraji in general

acoleman3 (author)EurobeatJester2011-07-06

ok.....ill find it cus i googled waraji for almost two hrs today looking for different methods of weaving them and this is what i found and for these exact reasons. it may take me 30 min to an hr, but i will find it.

acoleman3 (author)acoleman32011-07-06

heres one....

"It is better to have 6 tabs on your sandals than 5 then you will not catch pebbles between your sandals and feet when crossing rivers, or marching on rough roads."

here you see pics of vintage waraji with 6 tabs

here is 6 tabs

5 tabs

6 tabs

i think that should just about do it. hope this helps

crazywuzhere (author)2011-04-21

Which is better to use-- jute twine or hemp twine?
Should the weave be tight or loose?

acoleman3 (author)crazywuzhere2011-07-05

if you use a tight weave, it will protect your feet better and you wont feel rocks or pebble type objects if you step on them as much.

I've used Jute - none of the stores have hemp around here...

KwartzKitten (author)2011-04-28

This is so cool! And so cheap, too, especially since a portion of the estimated price went to the loom, right?
One question, though; is there any way to make them so they'll last longer than a few days? That seems kind of short for a pair of shoes, especially, ones made like this.

Actual waraji were only made to last a week or two at most since you could make another pair cheaply and easily from readily available materials - they weren't needed to last a long time. Japanese farmers and low level infantry prior to the modernization and military buildup to WW2 would carry at least one spare pair tied to their belt.

Also, keep in mind that these sandals are being used on many hard, rough surfaces like asphalt and concrete, and often for several full days in a row. My sandals lasted the whole con but not because they fell apart - because the con only lasted four days! I have no idea how long a normal pair would last. Mine still worked fine, they only had a minimum amount of fraying.

khenry-2 (author)2011-04-19

can someone tell me how to start the weaving? i always end up pulling too hard and the shoe doesnt end up how it should (the rope is pulled towards the middle). what am i doing wrong???

EurobeatJester (author)khenry-22011-06-06

Wind the main rope going around the nails tighter - it should be very taut! How tight you make the weaving in the sandals is actually less important than how compact you make it.

stratus987 (author)2011-04-11

Yeah awesome instructions! Just a note, you might want to add a few extra nails down the side if you want to maintain a foot-shape to the sandal. It's really easy when weaving to pull the weaving twine too hard and warp the sandal out of shape - if the sisal was tight, this usually isn't too much, but for aesthetics...

I'm also not a cosplayer - but these are good for buddhist monks on begging rounds too - and yes.. way better than the ones on ebay

Personally I've never had that problem but I never ran the twine bloody-murder-tight. It's much more important that you pack as much as possible into the shoe itself!

I had tried to use more nails but they simply got in the way of weaving the sandal, especially the area around the heel that wraps up around.

Thanks for the comment, I greatly appreciate it! Glad to know people think these are better...and so much cheaper, too!

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