What Is Macrame?

close up of macrame

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Macrame is a crafting technique that uses knots to create various textiles. Since this art form has regained popularity in recent years, crafters and artists are coming up with innovative ways to take macrame beyond the basic plant hangers and wall hangings

This age-old practice has gone in and out of popularity for thousands of years. However, this method will always be around to some degree because of its practicality. Remarkably, you can make items like table runners and key chains using just your hands and a couple of inexpensive supplies. 

If you want to learn more about how macrame came to be and how you can get started with a macrame project, keep reading. 

What Makes Something Macrame

two hands doing macrame
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Macrame is a technique or method of crafting a textile that uses several knots to form the basic shape and function of the piece. Each knot can be created with your hands, and there are no other tools required other than a mounting ring to keep the item in place while you work. 

For something to be considered macrame, the project should incorporate at least one macrame knot. In most cases, macrame projects are pieced together with several knots. In some cases, you can have macrame elements joined with other techniques like weaving or knitting. 

Macrame History

macrame wall hanging
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Macrame is having a moment, but this isn’t the first time. When most people think of macrame, their mind travels back to the bohemian-inspired wall hangings of the 1960s and '70s. To get to the origins of this method, some suggest the knotting began in the 13th century. Other historians believe that the ancient Persians and Babylonians used knotting in artifacts that date to BC centuries.  

In modern history, macrame was an art form that was brought west from Arabic countries. Weavers from this part of the world used several knotting techniques to finish the edges of woven tapestries, rugs, and shawls with fringe. 

As these textiles were distributed throughout Europe, more people began to experiment with knotting as a pastime. By the 17th century, the technique had reached as far as England where the ladies in waiting were taught it under the guidance of Queen Mary II. 

Women weren’t the only people practicing macrame. Sailors would knot for practical purposes, but on long voyages, the act of knotting served as a way to stay engaged and ward off boredom. These sailors ultimately helped this art form spread throughout Europe. They became merchants when they entered new ports and would trade the macrame items they made on the ship. Popular items included hammocks, hats, and belts.  

Eventually, Victorians were knotting textiles during the 18th and 19th centuries until the technique was largely replaced with sewing machines after the Industrial Revolution. The hand-knotting became popular again in the late '60s and '70s but was quickly out of fashion in the 1980s. 

How to Get Started

macrame ideas
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If you want to add some macrame to your decor, you can opt to follow a DIY project or buy something comparable from a home goods store. For DIYers, start with a simple project to avoid overwhelming yourself and quitting before you finish. Mastering the basic knots is an integral step that will help you more easily figure out more complex knotting techniques.

Common Macrame Supplies

  • Jute
  • Twine
  • Yarn
  • Hemp
  • Leather
  • Mounting rings
  • Wooden beads

For your first project, try to use items you already have before you purchase an entire stock of macrame supplies. You’ll want to be sure you enjoy this hobby before you invest a lot of money. Pick out one type of thread and one mounting ring. Look around your house for a board that can be your work surface. There are specific macrame pins you can buy to attach your thread to the board. However, you can use safety pins for your first project to save some money. 

Types of Macrame Knots

There are dozens of macrame knots you can learn, and these knots can be simple or elaborate. The most common knots are known as the half knot and the square knot. We recommend starting with one of these knots and becoming very comfortable with it before you move onto another one. 

Other knots include the lark’s head, half knot spiral, clove hitch, the overhand knot, and the gathering knot. If you want to learn how to complete any of these knots, check out this macrame knotting tutorial for more guidance. 

Project Ideas

There are so many different macrame projects you can complete. Each project has dozens of variations to make it your own. Once you get accustomed to knotting, you’ll be able to create your own patterns and come up with some genuinely unique textiles. Think of ways you can alter some of the following macrame ideas:

  • Wall hangings
  • Planters
  • Key chains
  • Hanging chairs
  • Belts
  • Jewelry
  • Fringe on other textiles

Millennials may have brought macrame back, but people of all ages can truly enjoy and fall in love with this craft.