Raffia is probably best known for it's use in grass skirts. It also makes nice "swags" that people put above doors and windows when they feel the need to dress things up but don't know what else to do. Though, a less common but useful thing to do with it is "finger twisting" or twining( say it like "twine-ing") cordage.
You might want to do this to go that extra step in a project when buying cordage just won't do or in a pinch to make cordage when none is available. It's also rather attractive, especially when you mix colors of raffia. It makes a fairly strong cord that can be used to tie things, string beads, make nets and mesh bags or weave into different kinds of bags, baskets hats shoes or whatever you like. Most of these uses take a LOT of cordage. You will have sore fingers but you will be awesome.
You can also use this method of finger spinning for other fibrous materials. All sorts of plant materials like milkweed, hemp, cotton and cattails can be used as well as non-plant fibers like wool and horse hair.
This is also a good "pocket project". You don't need any tools and you can fit enough fiber in a pocket to keep you busy whenever you have a free moment waiting in line, riding a bus or watching Youtube videos. It gets pretty mindless fast.
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Step 1: Get Some Raffia
Raffia comes from palm trees. I have no idea how to get it from palm trees but you can buy it at craft stores and it's easily obtainable over the internet. You can also pluck a few strands from someone's grass skirt but you're asking for it it you don't know them very well.
It usually comes tightly bound in plastic bags or bundles. You can make quite a bit of cordage from a few dollars worth of raffia. I made about three yards of cordage for this Instructable and didn't use a visually noticeable amount of raffia out of the bundles.
For this project I used purple and "natural' colored raffia so you can see how it goes together a little easier.
Step 2: Preparing to Twist
You'll want to pull a couple strands of each color you want to use. This is a "two ply" method so you need two strands of fiber to twist into a single strand of cordage.
The amount of fiber in the strands determines the thickness of the cordage. You can make it as thick or as thin as you like as long as you keep the strands even. It'll still work if they aren't but it weakens the cordage and looks sloppy. (You will also want to maintain a fairly even thickness overall as you make the cord so as to avoid weak spots.)
Once you have your strands simply tie them in a knot. I like to use an overhand knot but it isn't all that critical.
Step 3: Twisting
This is a tough one to describe verbally or even with still photos really. So, have a look at the photos and watch the video it's a lot more simple than can be described.
In words, Pinch the knot, or the cord once you get going, between between your left thumb and forefinger.
Pinch one of the two strands of raffia between your right thumb and forefinger and twist the fiber away from you.
As you twist, your forefinger will naturally go between the strands of fiber. Continue to hold the strand between thumb and forefinger and placing the other strand between forefinger and middle finger twist the entire bundle bringing the next strand up for twisting.
Simply repeat this action over and over again to make the cordage.
Step 4: Finishing
To finish the cordage simply tie it off with another overhand knot. You can tie it with any knot you like if that doesn't suit you. It's just something to prevent the cordage from unraveling. You could also tape the ends or glue them, whatever works!
If you need to take a break in the middle you can use a small binder clip to hold your place.
You can make the cordage as long as you like or need just keep laying in more raffia as you near the ends of the strands. I'll update soon and add a visual of how to do that but it's as simple as it sounds.
Now you can have nice hand twined cord to go with your projects.
Here's another excellent Instructable that shows how to gather and process dog bane fiber to make the cord.