Making Cordage Out of Yucca Leaves 3

We enjoy making crafts out of natural materials.  Recently, Amber had the pleasure of learning how to make cordage from a traveling survivalist.  While it took a little bit to get used to, the process was surprisingly easy and quite enjoyable.

Approximately 3 yards of hand-twisted cordage the width of 12 gauge wire

Yucca gloriosa from Wikipedia

Yucca is pretty amazing as a plant.  The natives of Hatteras Island utilized just about every part of this plant, usually the yucca gloriosa species, for a variety of uses.  Each of the leaves have a hard, thorn-like point at the tips; giving the plant the alternate name “Spanish Dagger”.  These fibrous, thorned leaves were able to be used as needles with some sewing work. The starchy, tuber roots were edible, but also able to be used as a soap. Even the berries were made into a lovely purple dye.

But the leaves were especially important. Yucca leaves have a wonderful strength to them. Though similar in appearance to a palm leaf, these leaves are thick and durable. This also means that the fibers that make up the leaf are strong and resilient when it came to making crafts. From baskets to nets and clothing to bow strings. Yucca was perfect!

Yucca fibers from

Cordage, or rope, is one of the easiest things to work with as you start working with leaf material. Not only can you weave it into jewelry, but it can be used as a bow string or to tie down items if you’re enjoying the great outdoors and far away from a Home Depot. To give it a try, follow the instructions listed below and watch the video. We’d love to see how it goes so send us a photo if you give it a try!


How To Make Your Own Cordage

What you’ll need to do this yourself are:

Yucca leaves

A scraping tool

Sacrificial cloth or t-shirt

Flat surface

To get usable fibers out of the leaves, the rest of the plant material will have to be scraped off. Because of its strength, the yucca leaves don’t need to be treated before hand like some other plants. Because cockle shells are prevalent here on Hatteras Island, its easy for us to just grab a shell off the beach, but a dull knife or stone will do just as well. You don’t want your scraper to have an edge that will easily cut your fibers, just enough to scrape cleanly.

To make it easier, you can beat your leaves up a bit with a large stone or a hammer. Sometimes it can just be a fun stress relief to wail on the poor, unsuspecting leaves with a nice hammer before you really get to work. That helps to mash up the softer parts of the plant. A sacrificial cloth is used under your leaves to add a bit of cushion underneath. Your goal is to get long, beautiful fibers. It can be hard to do that on top of a cutting board or hard counter where you’re more likely to cut through the tiny strands.

Try to clean off the fibers of the leaves as much as you can. Not only will it make your cordage look better, but it will be quite a bit less messy as you’re working with it. Separate them into sections, each section should be half the width that you want your rope to end up as.

The basics of twisting cordage is that there are two sets of twists going opposite directions. The individual sections are twisted one direction, and two sections are twisted together in an opposite direction. This helps the cordage hold its self together and keep it from unraveling. Adding is simple, and done as each section ends. Please watch the video below for a more detailed explanation, and don’t forget to send us your examples!

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3 thoughts on “Making Cordage Out of Yucca Leaves

  • PLantSeedsSingSongs

    Working on this today here on the Big Island of Hawaii, very sunny nice day to be outside working with Mother Nature and the forest. Thanks for the demo and can you say why my hands itch from the yucca material? Curious. Aloha.

    • Amber Roth Post author

      Aloha! I’m not sure but it may be your specific species of yucca. What we have in the Outer Banks is Yucca gloriosa, so that’s the only one I’ve worked on. Though you may just be allergic to the sap of the leaves. How did your cording go?

  • Rebecca Chandler

    Thanks for this great video. I live in Nebraska where we have Yucca glauca growing abundantly. I had no problem learning to make cordage with your video. Thanks!