Daylily Cordage & Listening to Your Plants

There are certain DIYs and techniques spread all across the internet that, despite being part of the “use what’s around you” ideology, have become inherently attached to specific plants. It isn’t intentional, it’s just what works and is widely used, and there’s nothing wrong with sticking to these kinds of staples. However, without digging a bit deeper into why a certain plant appears with a certain DIY so often, we tend to make a mental note and move on. Maybe I’m projecting my own bad habits onto everyone else in the nature-loving communities I’m a part of, because this was something I recently noticed myself doing.

When I first started looking into cordage and how its made, I noticed that yucca, brambles, willow, and cedar based cordage was super popular and many tutorials seemed to be focused on these plants individually. And those are all awesome plants to make your cordage from due to their fibrous natures. I didn’t have access to any of those things, at least not in my yard or neighborhood, so I temporarily set the idea of making my own cordage aside. But, as with all of my crafty impulses, it came back. And this time, I called to mind the way I tried to weave different grasses when it was all I had to work with. While my attempts were unsuccessful and very poorly researched, I did find that grasses, especially greener (read: wet) blades were easy enough to work into plaits and simple woven blobs.

Bearing this in mind, I took a look at what I did have in my immediate vicinity. Right outside my back door, I had several lush, some may say overgrown, daylilies sprawled over their little mulched homes and onto my patio. I also have an ornamental grass bush thing that offers massive strands in midsummer and early fall, when I remember to pick them before they get chopped down to tiny tufts. Those are still quite small, so I opted to focus on the daylilies for now, and keep the grass in mind for late summer and fall.

Armed with the idea that daylilies had long, thin leaves that looked fair enough like cordage material to me, I took to the interwebs! I was going to try to make them into cordage either way, but I was seeking some validation and reassurance that this was a good idea, haha.

Well, find validation I did! Turns out that there are many people sharing their experiences with daylily cordage online, including a couple youtubers, like Leighanne Saltsman, for example. Seeing them share their experiences with daylily cordage made me feel a lot better about going “astray” from what I viewed as the traditional cordage plant fibers. However, the more I look into cordage, the more I’ve come to realize traditional cordage doesn’t have a set plant list. Traditional cordage is made with whatever you have in your area. Sure, plants like Yucca and willow offer awesome opportunity for cordage that’s strong and resilient, and they’re great options to use if you have access to them. But part of interacting with nature to fuel your life is listening to the plants and elements around you. I intuitively knew daylilies and the weird grass bush out back are fibrous and good for cordage and fiber arts. I wish I would have listened to that intuition sooner and just gotten started on my first cordage project, but I’m happy to get there in my own time anyways.

This idea of listening to your environment when choosing raw materials applies outside of cordage, too. It comes with the caveat that you need to know what you’re picking, and that it’s safe to handle and process. But if you have some fibrous leaves and you want to give cordage ago, don’t worry about finding it on some masterlist of the perfect plants for cordage. Give it a go. Document your personal experiences. Test it out in a variety of ways and let everyone else know how it worked out for you! That’s my plan, anyways, and I’m happy to be doing similar things with my plants that so many people of the past have done with theirs.

Here’s my cordage, which I’ve been creating after drying out the leaves (slowly, since I left them in a wicker basket in my cool basement) for several days, but letting them stay green so they’re pliable enough to twist. There are many tutorials for how to make cordage, but I used the one with daylilies by Saltsman. Here’s how it’s going!

It’s obviously imperfect, and several leaves are a tad greener than I think I need them to be, but I’m pleased overall with my very first bit of cordage. Have you ever made your own cordage, or used plant fibers in another way? Let me know in the comments, and tell me what you used!

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