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
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*
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
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!
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
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!
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
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!
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
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!
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