Introduction: Raffia Plateau Sandals
I love homemade sandals, I even wrote a book about how to make unique leather sandals. Once in a while, I like to try out different materials other than leather. So here I made a pair of sandals from raffia yarn, they are wonderfully comfortable, cheerful and all-natural, no plastic or toxic cement used.
Raffia is a great material to work with, it is soft yet strong. Basically, raffia is a paper yarn made from a sustainable organic resource, a species of palm, which grows in abundance in Madagascar.
The sandals are not too difficult to make but you will need some time to make them especially if you want to make plateau sandals. They could, of course, also be made with just one layer of sole.
Raffia plateau sandals can cost a couple of hundred dollars to buy, so why not make your own for a fraction of the cost.
Raffia yarn (the type to knit with) 200-300g in the colours of your choice, you could also use craft raffia that comes in units for the core of the soles (it is cheaper)
Long needle (about 13cm)
Renia Aquilim 315 cement
Veg tan leather 1-2mm thick for top soles
Veg tan sole leather 3mm thick, you could also use recycled tyre sole or thin Vibram soles
Leather shears or very sharp craft scissors to cut the leather soles
Step 1: Preparing the Braids
Start by cutting strands about 1-1.50m long. Divide them into 3 bundles. Each bundle I made consisted of 12 strands.
Braid the bundles.
The braids get best when someone holds one end or you secure them somewhere firm. You will need a couple of braids for one sole.
Step 2: Draw a Sole Pattern
The best way to make a sole pattern is to trace around your bare feet. Place a piece of paper on the floor and stand on it. Press your foot onto the floor and stretch your toes. Trace the outline of your foot with a pencil, holding the pencil vertical. Always trace both feet, your second foot might be slightly larger or smaller than the first. Now even it out and cut the soles out.
You could also draw around a pair of sandals if you like the sole shape.
Step 3: Shaping the Sole
Start by making a core. I used craft raffia that I had leftover from another project, as you can see on the photo it is not as smooth as raffia yarn so it would not look too good to make the whole sole with it but it is totally fine for the core. Once you have a core wrap a strand of raffia yarn around it to hold it in place.
Then wrap the raffia yarn braid around that core always checking with your sole shape for width and length.
Step 4: Sewing the Sole
Thread the long needle with some raffia yarn. Form and compress the braids into a sole shape by stitching through the sole from side to side until the sole is firm and strong. Try to insert the needle between braids so the stitches are not visible.
You will need 2 soles for each plateau sandal.
Step 5: Cement and Stitch Soles Together
Cement the soles together using Renia 315. Then stitch them together around the outer edge.
Step 6: Add a Heel Wedge
If you like you could add a heel wedge. It is thinner than the sole braids, I used 8 strands in each bundle for braiding.
Cement and sew together.
Step 7: Make the Sandal Straps
Decide how many straps you want and where you want to place them. When making sandals it is important to make sure your little toe is secure inside a strap.
Measure how long the straps need to be by putting a measuring tape around your feet. They will be cemented underneath the sole so need to be a bit longer than your feet are wide.
Again the straps are not as thick as the sole braids, I put 10 strands in each bundle.
Hammer the braids flat with a mallet or similar tool.
Step 8: Prepare Leather Top Sole
Cut the top soles out of veg tan leather. Dampen the edge of the sole and finish them with a wooden edge tool or if you don't have one use a piece of cloth that you move to and fro over the edge until shiny.
Step 9: Attach Straps to Sole
Cement the straps to the sole. You can slip your feet into the sandal for fitting and pull the straps tight over your feet and press them onto the sole.
Step 10: Prepare the Outsole
Cut the outsole out of your chosen outsole material. Cement to the underside of the sandals.
Step 11: Raffia Sandals Finished
I hope you like your new raffia sandals. I have many more footwear projects and tutorials on my blog, check it out here
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