How to make espardenyes

The association El Retorn works to revive the traditional crafts of Ibiza and Formentera. Here, the artisan Carmen Núñez teaches us how to make a pair of espardenyes.
NATIV
12/12/2022

Not to discourage anyone, but it’s worth quoting the Catalan proverb ‘No tot és bufar i fer ampolles’. Loosely translated, this means, ‘nothing is as easy as it seems’.
Let’s get to work!

How to make espardenyes
TOOLS REQUIRED:

• a mallet to pound the esparto grass.
• a mallet to pound the soles.
• a hole punch.
• a needle to sew the soles.
• a grater.
• a table to grate on.
• a pair of puntalets.
• a heel.
• a knitting needle.
• a grinder.
• bones.
• scissors.
• an esparto bench.

MATERIALS:

Esparto grass, pitra (an agave fibre), five- section braid, cord, lemon, water, starch, fish glue, and white shoe paste (blanquet).

How to make espardenyes
PRELIMINARY PROCEDURES:

Make the braid and the cord.

METHODS:
  • The method isn’t very complicated, but it is labour-intensive.
  • Start by making the sole. After having worked the esparto grass, now cured and pounded with a special mallet, a five-section braid is made using esparto yarn. The size of the sole depends on the size of the foot.
  • Using a traditional espardenyes bench, the esparto is pounded and stretched to obtain the right shape.
  • The toe cap is made by braiding the pitra fibres, weaving them together, then cleaning and starching them.
  • To finish, the heel is knitted and woven together. As with the top, it is then cleaned and starched.
  • After removing all the surplus material, the top and heel are soaked in water, being careful not to wet the soles. They are then pounded with a mallet, cleaned with emon and water, and left to dry in the shade.
How to make espardenyes
ESPARTO AND PITRA:
  • Esparto is used to make the sole and pitra to make the heel and the toecap. Both grow naturally in the Pityuses.
  • Esparto grass is gathered on the islands of S’Espartar or Sa Conillera, where it grows spontaneously and in great abundance.
  • Once picked, it is pounded and soaked in water for 40 days (letting it mature), then dried and prepared dry it.
  • This was traditionally considered men’s work, probably because the material was so tough.
  • Pitra is a fibre from the agave plant, which originally grew
    in the highlands of Mexico and also grows on Ibiza and Formentera. Only the leaves in the middle are used. It is important to use protection when handling the plant because it’s very toxic.
How to make espardenyes

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