Introduction: Natural Cordage Necklace
Now, at least where I live, is a great time to avoid going to the store to buy materials, so how else can you make jewelry? The answer, is naturally! A couple years ago I learned how to process Yucca to make cordage, the process is not only super useful, but it is fun as well.
~ 5 Yucca Leaves from a Yucca Plant (more info in the next step)
- Large Pot
- Tree Branch (I used red cedar)
- Miter Saw (or a hand saw)
- Sand Paper (60, 100 and 220 grit)
- Masking Tape
Step 1: Harvesting Yucca
Yucca is a wild plant that grows in much of America, it looks similar to an agave plant, but the leaves are very thin and fibrous. Yucca is very easy to identify when it is getting ready to flower, a giant stalk grows from the center and it looks like a giant asparagus(Yucca is in the same family). The stalk will then flower into many white flowers. You have likely seen Yucca before, and it may even grow in your yard. To make this necklace you will need to harvest at least 5 leaves from the base of the plant, the ones near the bottom are the oldest and closer to death so it's best to take those. Once you have at least 5 leaves you can now boil them.
Step 2: Boiling the Yucca
Place your yucca leaves into a large pot, it's okay to bend them while you do this. Fill the pot with enough water to cover all the leaves. With a lid on the pot, bring it to a boil on the stove. Leave the lid on and continue to boil for 35-40 minutes, don't worry you can't really over cook them or under cook them. Leave the pot to come to room temperature, the leaves will continue to soften as the pot cools down. Now strain out the leaves and pat them dry will a towel. The leaves are now ready to be converted to string.
Step 3: Processing the Fibers
Using a sturdy paint scraper, scrape down the yucca leaf, removing the skin and the meat from the fibers of the plant. Continue to scrape until you have nothing left but loose yellow fibers, if you are having trouble getting the bottom of the stem apart, you can cut it off. Once your fibers look similar to the ones in the last few pictures, I recommend using a hair comb to separate the fibers further. If you complete this step successfully, you should have a bunch of light colored fibers the length of the original leaf. Leave these out to dry and repeat the scraping process with the other leaves. Depending on the size of you leaves, you may need just 2 or as many as 5 to complete a necklace. Don't use all of it for the necklace, you will need a little bit to attach the pendant later.
Step 4: Reverse Wrapping
Now that you have a bunch of string, you must wrap it together. This step is a little tricky if you have never done it before, however it's a really cool skill to know. If you get really confused or want to save time, you could also just braid the yucca into a three strand braid.
To reverse wrap the yucca you must first take the string from two of the leaves and create a square knot attaching them at the end. Make sure to keep the two groups separate while doing this. Use some strong tape to adhere the knot to a table. Place one of the groups of string away from you and one close to you. Twist the closer one so that you are twisting it towards yourself, do this until it begins to create kinks. Now take the twisted string and take it past the other one, wrapping over it. Pull the other string toward you and begin to wrap it towards you like you did with the last one. Once it gets close to kinking, wrap it over the other string and bring the other string under it. This is the motion of reverse wrapping, twist towards you, wrap away repeat. Continue until you are almost to the end of the string.
Step 5: Adding More Length
When you get close to the end of the string, about 3 inches left, you will want to add and extension. To add an extension, grab some reserved string, twist it into the string that need more length. Twist it and repeat the reverse wrap pattern, twist the closer one towards you, and then wrap it over and away. Complete a couple of twist and wraps and then extend the other string. Adding string can be challenging, just work slowly and focus on making strong twists.
When you have made enough cordage that it is long enough for a necklace, tie a simple knot at the end of the last wrap you did.
Step 6: Removing Hairs
This is the final step for making the string. This step is also optional if you are happy with how the string looks right now. If you would rather remove all the little hairs from the string now is the time to do so. In order to remove the hairs, you can use either or both of two methods. The first way is simply using a pair of scissors and clipping any hairs sticking out, I recommend using this for larger hairs and clusters of hairs. If you would like to remove individual hairs you can do that using fire. Just a quick warning, getting the string too close to the heat will cause it to burn in half, be careful and use caution if you proceed with this step. In order to burn of the hairs, first get the string wet if it feels very dry, the little hairs will still burn but the string itself is less likely to burn if it is wet. Now carefully move the string back and forth over an open flame such as a lighter, torch or gas stove top. The little hairs should start igniting and quickly burning off, as soon as the hairs catch, pull the string away from the flame.
Step 7: Making the Wood Pendant
To make the pendant, find a piece of wood about 2 inches in diameter, you're welcome to go bigger or smaller if you'd like, completely up to you. Once you have a piece of wood, use a miter saw(or a hand saw if you don't have one) to cut a few pieces about 1/4 inch in thickness. Pick you favorite of the pieces and decide whether you like the shape of it or if you want a more geometric shape. If you like the current shape you can just move to the next step, however if you want to chisel it into a different shape, you will need a hammer and a sturdy paint scraper. Hold the paint scraper so that it is over the area where you wish to chisel a line. Push the scraper onto the wood and gently hammer the top of it. Continue to hammer with greater and greater force until the wood breaks apart. Repeat that process everywhere you would like to chisel a line.
Step 8: Sanding and Oiling
Now that the pieces are cut and chiseled to the size and shape of your liking, you must sand down all the sides. If there is still any bark left, use the lowest grit sandpaper you have to remove it. Now use an in between grit, the best I had was 100 grit, and sand the edges to be smooth. If you cut yours with a hand saw, the cuts may be somewhat rough, you'll want to sand those down now too. Next use an awl to make an indent where you'd like the hole. Using a small drill bit carefully drill a hole into the wood pendant, have a piece of scrap wood underneath so you can drill all the way through. If the drilling created any splinters, sand those down with the medium level grit now. Finally Use the finest grit you can find to make the wood smooth to the touch, the best I had was 220 and it worked really well.
Right now the wood looks really pale and colorless, to fix that take a paper towel and get so mineral oil on it. Rub the wood down with the oil until it evenly coats the entire pendant. Look how much more color there is now that the oil is on.
Step 9: Painting the Designs
To paint a simple geometric designs, simply arrange pieces of masking tape to create the shape of your liking. Paint between the tape, and once the paint is dry, carefully peal it of. If you wish to do multiple lines or shapes, do one at a time, let them dry and then put new tape in your new shape. On one of mine I did two simple gold lines and on the other I made three triangles. I think simplicity is very important here, sticking to just a few shapes makes them really pop.
Step 10: Putting It All Together
Now the two parts come together! Grab your cordage and your wood pendant, also grab some reserved string, you only need about 3 inches, cut any excess off. Twist the three inch section of string to keep it all together, then thread it through the hole of the pendant. Fold the cordage in half to find the midpoint, tie the pendant to the midpoint using the section of string. Double knot it and then snip off any excess. Finally, tie the two ends of the necklace together and snip and excess, you now have a complete natural cordage necklace! I hope you enjoyed this guide on making beautiful jewelry from natural materials.
Runner Up in the