Macrame is a fabric craft that uses a variety of knots to create functional and decorative items. It can be worked in many different kinds of thread, string and rope and is often used to make jewelry. Macrame is easy to learn, which makes it a satisfying craft for beginners, but advanced projects can be challenging for even the most experienced knotters.
The earliest examples of macrame date to the 13th century, when Arabian rug makers tied off their finished rugs with knotted fringe. The word macrame comes from this practice. It means fringe in Arabic. By the early 14th and 15th centuries, macrame had migrated to Italy and France. It was a popular way for sailors to pass the time while at sea for long periods, and supplemented their skills with mending nets, which use many of the same knots. Macrame work was popular in 19th century Britain, but fell into obscurity for decades. A revival of all crafts brought macrame back into popularity during the 1960s and early 1970s. It enjoyed another resurgence and rediscovery in the late 1990s, and continues to be a popular craft thanks to new materials and ideas.
Like many crafts, macrame began with a functional purpose. The earliest macrame was used to tie off the ends of threads in hand-woven rugs so that they wouldn't fray. Macrame was also used to make and mend fishing nets, and the knots used in securing nets, sails and anchors were adapted by sailors to make jewelry and decorative items. Over the years, macrame has been used to make a variety of functional and decorative items including wall hangings, jewelry, curtains and lampshades. The same knots are also used in a popular children's craft using vinyl "gimp" to make lanyards and bracelets.
Macrame uses several different types of knots to create patterns in the knotted fabric. Most macrame pieces are built up of just four basic knots.
The Lark's head knot is often used to "mount" macrame threads for a project. It is one of the simplest and most used knots in macrame. To make it, you simply fold a strand of thread or yarn in half to form a loop, then bring the ends up and around another thread or post and pull them through the loop, pulling them to tighten the knot.
A square knot is formed with four strands of thread. The two outer threads cross under and over the inner threads, and create a "ladder" effect.
The half hitch knot is a standard sailor's knot that ties two strands of thread together. In macrame, half hitches are used to create horizontal, diagonal and curved lines across a pattern. The lines are formed by tying half-hitch knots onto a single carrier strand that is carried back and forth across the worked piece.
The Basket Stitch also uses four strands of yarn or thread to create a flat row of knots. It's formed by making half-hitches over two central strands, alternating the two outside working threads.
In addition to cord, thread or yarn, there are a few simple you should have if you want to learn how to macrame. They include a project board to which you can pin your work, T-pins to secure your work to the board and cellophane tape, which you'll use for a variety of purposes.
The type of cord or thread that you use will make a major difference in the way your project looks. There is specialty macrame cord made specifically for knotting, but many projects call for yarn, string or twine. Even embroidery floss can be used to make macrame projects such as friendship bracelets and hair ties.
Macrame cords can fray at the end while you work, especially twisted cord. There are a number of ways to prepare the cord when you first start working to prevent this problem. The easiest way to keep the ends from fraying is to tie a knot about half an inch from the end of the cord. Other options include dipping the ends of the cords in melted wax, household glue or nail polish.