Learn how to macrame to create beautiful, unique pieces from scratch. Macrame creation is more than just an enjoyable hobby for crafters. It can be used to create decor or artistic furniture items for your home and office as well as gifts, or products you can sell.
- What is Macrame?
- Macrame's History
- FAQs About Macrame
- DIY Macrame Supplies
- Working Areas for Macrame
- How to Macrame Step by Step Tutorial
- How to Macrame - Troubleshooting
- How to Macrame - In Conclusion
What is Macrame?
Macrame is a type of handcrafting technique that has been practiced for centuries but has exploded in popularity in recent years. It's considered practical, especially since the materials used are not just inexpensive but also easy to access.
The macrame technique requires you to tie a rope or cord and use at least one macrame knot to piece together a functional or decorative item. You may also incorporate other crafting techniques, including knitting and weaving.
Some of the most popular macrame projects are:
- Hanging or swinging chairs
- Key chains
- Plant hangers or holders
- Table runners
- Wall hangings
As of writing, it's still unclear when the art of macrame really started. Some historians say it began in the 13th century when Arabic weavers used the knotting technique to finish the edges of shawls, towels, rugs, and tapestries.
Others believe it dates back to the BC century because there are artifacts with macrame knots made by ancient Babylonians and Persians. These textiles then got distributed throughout Europe, where people started spending their free time experimenting with knots. In the 17th century, Queen Mary II taught women how to macrame.
Sailors also began using the technique to make practical or decorative pieces and "kill" time during long voyages. They traded their creations, specifically macrame hats, hammocks, and belts, each time they entered a new port. Thus, the art spread further throughout European countries.
During the Victorian Era or 18th and 19th centuries, Victorians knotted textiles until the Industrial Revolution, when sewing machines replaced the handcrafting technique. Macrame became famous once again in the 1960s and 1970s, however, went out of fashion in the 1980s. Today, it has become popular again, and crafters and DIYers are starting to re-learn how to macrame.
FAQs About Macrame
1. Is macrame easy?
When you look at macramé pieces, it seems like learning how to macrame is challenging because the items have intricate details. Definitely, there are simple and complicated patterns. However, macrame is considered one of the easiest crafts because you'll only usually need to master three basic knots to get started - The lark's head knot, square knot, and half hitch knot. These 3 knots are the foundation of many macrame patterns. Combine them in several variations, and you'll accomplish many beautiful macrame projects.
2. How to start macrame for beginners
The best way to start learning how to macrame is to pick the simplest and most basic macrame patterns to ensure you don't get overwhelmed. Doing so will also allow you to master the knots and figure out how to do more complicated knotting techniques.
Reading as many tutorials, like this how to macrame guide, and watching as many video tutorials as you can are also some of the best ways to start macrame. That said, you need to practice doing the knots while you're reading and/or watching. After all, as the adage says, "practice makes perfect."
3. What is the easiest thing to macrame?
In relation to the last question, the easiest project to work on as a beginner is small items, such as friendship bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and small macrame wall hangings.
4. What macrame terms should I know?
For every knotting technique you learn, you'll repeatedly encounter several terms you're most probably unfamiliar with. So, before you move forward to learning how to macrame, here are the most common terms to remember:
- Knotting Cords: These left and right cords are used to tie knots over a cord.
- Working Cord: This cord is tied around a cord and does the tying.
- Filler Cord: The knotting cord's center or the one that you don't tie or knot
- Wrapping Cord: As the name implies, it's the cord you use to wrap and gather several cords.
- Holding Cord: It refers to the structure you use to anchor your macrame project while working on it.
- Picots: These are the loops created when you extend the working cord beyond a knot, and push it close to the knot above it.
- Row: Aptly named, these are knots lined side by side and tied using different working cords.
- Sinnets: They refer to vertical rows of knots continuously tied using the same knot and working cord.
- Knotting Board: A fiber-made board with printed one-inch squares on each side and gridlines. You can use it to hold your macrame project while working on it.
- T-Pins: T-shaped metal pins used with the knotting board to place the project you're working on. Place them on the board at an angle for enhanced sturdiness.
- Alternating Cord: This is a technique for creating a new group of cords. You would need to take half of the cords from the adjacent knots you tied and then tie a fresh knot between and below where the cords are from.
- Exchanging Cord: This technique refers to changing the filler cord and knotting cord positions, so the knotting cord becomes the filler and vice versa.
- Fusing: This technique on how to macrame involves joining two (usually polypropylene) cords together using a lighter flame. Hold the flame near the cord to melt the fiber, wet your pointer finger and thumb, then use them to roll the melted fiber and create a seal.
5. How much cord do I need to macrame?
There is no standard in terms of the amount and length of cord you would need to macrame, as it will depend on the macrame project you're working on. Generally, though, it should be at least four times longer than your project's length.
You would need it to be around six to eight times longer than your project's length if your pattern calls for:
- Folded cords
- Several closed-spaced knots
- Multiple straight cords or open spaces
Also, the thicker the cord you use, the longer the strands you would need because every knot you make will take up more area than thinner cords. To be on the safe side, always follow the cord size or thickness and length your pattern for how to macrame suggests.
DIY Macrame Supplies
Now that you have the fundamental knowledge to start your first project, let's proceed to the most technical ones, beginning with the materials and tools you need to prepare.
Best Cords for Macrame
When it comes to the best cord for macrame, there are lots of things to consider, namely:
Types of Macrame Cord
You'll find several types of macrame cords based on the material used: natural and synthetic fibers.
Cotton, linen, wool, hemp, and jute have natural fibers, making them biodegradable and perfect for environment-conscious crafters. They're also easy to dye, although you can already find pre-dyed options.
One issue with cords made of natural fibers is that they can't withstand environmental elements. As such, they're best used for pieces you'll use indoors or in shaded areas, such as your patio.
On the contrary, acrylic, nylon, polypropylene, paracord, and plastic cords are perfect for outdoor pieces. However, make sure you choose synthetic macrame cords that are soft to touch. Also, don't expect your projects to have the usual cozy feel that most natural fibers bring to the table.
That said, most experienced macrame crafters consider cotton twine the best cord, especially for beginners. It's a three-ply or twisted cotton cord or rope that's thick and durable but flexible and soft. Also, it fringes to create a beautiful wavy pattern, won't stretch over time, and is easy to knot or tie.
Hemp and jute ropes are ideal if you want to give your project a natural, rustic vibe. Just keep in mind that they're more challenging to work with due to their texture.
Macrame Cord Size
Your choice of cord size will depend on the specific project you're working on. However, when learning how to macrame we highly recommend beginner and intermediate crafters use medium-sized cords for home decor items. These cords have sizes ranging from 4mm to 7mm.
On the other hand, small-sized cords, specifically with less than 2mm diameter, are perfect for micro-macrame projects, such as jewelry and small decors.
Here are some specific cord sizes suggested for common macrame items:
- Small Wall Hanging: 3mm to 5mm
- Big Wall Hanging: 4mm to 6mm
- Macrame Plant Hanger: 2mm to 5mm
- Small Purse: 2mm to 5mm
- Market or Grocery Bag: 3mm to 5mm
- Jewelry: 1.5mm to 3mm
- Bookmark or Key Chain: 1.5mm to 3mm
So, overall, what is the best macrame cord? Beginning and intermediate-level crafters will do well when using medium-sized, three-ply cords.
For projects that require sturdier cords and high weight capacities, such as hanging chairs, opting for six-ply braided ropes or cords is highly recommended. But then again, beginners should refrain from attempting to accomplish such complex and large projects to avoid wasting materials, time, and effort.
What Can You Use Instead of Macrame Cord?
There are several alternatives to the standard macrame cord or rope that you can use for your projects. They include:
Often referred to as a single-strand macrame cord or rope, a string isn't plied and instead has several fibers twisted together to create one strand. Hence, it's softer and less durable than the true macrame cord or rope.
The macrame string creates tighter and smaller knots with uneven thickness. Also, expect your project to expand or stretch more easily than when you use macrame cords.
The benefit to using the macrame string is that you can easily create fine and straight fringes. Plus, it will give your small to large macrame pieces a softer look. Just make sure you choose larger-sized strings. Ideally, opt for ones that are at least one-millimeter thicker than what the project requires.
Like the macrame string, this alternative is an unplied cord with a small diameter. However, it has a wax coating or covering for water resistance and strength. This coating also gives it a darker color, so most crafters choose it when making macrame jewelry.
Another advantage of the wax applied is preventing frays. Nonetheless, you can still secure its ends without too much hassle. The process also prevents the cord from fraying, although you should still carefully secure your piece's ends.
Can You Use Yarn for Macrame?
Definitely, you can use knitting and crocheting yarns for your macrame projects. That said, they're usually stretchy and thin, so expect the knots to be smaller and not as distinct as when you use macrame cords and the other alternatives. Also, the knots can get undone quickly. If you still want to opt for a yarn, choose one that's made of cotton.
Where to Buy Macrame Cord
There are limitless options for the best places to purchase your macrame cords. First, you can buy them from online retail stores like Etsy, Amazon, and specialty stores. You can also purchase from physical retail stores such as your local craft store and Walmart.
Essential Macrame Tools
Apart from the cord or rope, there are other important tools that you need to prepare for your macrame projects, such as:
- Sharp Scissors
- Tape Measure
- Comb or Pet Brush
- Special Hardware or Support
You'll need scissors to cut and fray the cords. Just make sure you have a sharp pair to accomplish the task as easily and quickly as possible. Read how to sharpen scissors.
This measuring tool is the best option to achieve the right length of cord that you need. Purchase a tape measure with a self-lock feature.
Comb or Pet Brush
Combs will give your project's fringes a good finish. Choose wide-tooth options with wire bristles.
Special Hardware or Supports
Supports such as wooden or metal rings or branches are needed to hold the cords while knotting them. Your choice will depend on your working area setup and personal preference
Working Areas for Macrame
To make learning how to macrame more convenient for you, you must set up the right working area for your project's specific size and type. You have two options:
- Hanging or Vertical Macrame
- Flat Surface or Horizontal Macrame
Hanging or Vertical Macrame
This working area setup is perfect for medium and large projects requiring long cord pieces. For this, you will need a structure where you'll hang the cords.
If you have a movable garment rack, that would be perfect. If none, you can choose to purchase one or use other alternatives such as a curtain rod. Make sure you move the curtain away so as not to distract you. You may also opt for a dowel rod or clean piece of stick that you can place between two objects to hang it. You can use them as is or add wooden rings or metal hoops, especially if you're doing a project with a circular shape.
This setup is perfect for smaller macrame projects and involves working flat on a table. You can use a macrame board or clipboard to secure the cords.
How to Macrame Step by Step Tutorial
Now that you're all set up, let's learn the knots you need to master as a beginner.
Step 1 - Joining the Cords to a Support
First, you will need to join your cords to a support using a knot. The support can be a wooden or metal ring, branch, or rod.
These knots serve as the base for most macrame projects, so they're the first knotting techniques you need to learn. There are 2 types of joining knots you can use:
- Larks Head Knot
- Reverse Larks Head Knot
Larks Head Knot
Also called front-facing lark's head knots, here are the steps you need to take to accomplish this knot:
- Fold your cut cord in half.
- Place it over or on the special hardware or support.
- Take the folded part over the hardware's top.
- Move it down behind the hardware, ensuring the loop is in front.
- Slowly pull the cord ends and move them through the loop you just created.
- Tighten and secure the knot.
Reverse Larks Head Knot
Aptly named, this knot is the opposite of the forward-facing larks head knot. What you need to do are as follows:
- Fold your cut cord in half.
- Place it under the special hardware or support.
- Take the ends of the cords and thread them over the support and under the loop.
- Slowly pull the cord ends and move them through the loop you just created.
- Tighten and secure the knot.
Step 2 - Do Macrame Knots
Apart from the joining knots, you've to learn some of the most basic macrame knots to achieve the design you want. Some of the essential ones are:
- Half Square Knot
- Square Knot
- Hitch Knots
- Gathering Knot
Half Square Knot
- Cut two macrame ropes and place them over or on the hardware or support.
- Create a larks head knot to have four strands of macrame cords.
- Take the left working cord (WC).
- Bring it over the two filler macrame cords (FC); then, under the right WC
- Take the right WC.
- Bring it under the two FCs.
- Bring the right WC over the left WC.
- Tighten your knot.
You will create a square knot by first doing a left half square knot and then reversing and doing a right half square knot. Alternating left and right produces a flat and attractive square knot. If all the half square knots face the same direction, you will create a spiral knot.
Prepare two FCs and two WCs and do the following:
- Hang the macrame cords over the hardware or support
- Take and bend the left WC's end.
- Cross it over the FCs and then under the right WC.
- Allow the right WC to pass behind the two FCs.
- Pull the right WC through the loop made
- Pull all the cords
- Finish the knot by bending the right WC
- Cross the cord over the two FCs and then under the left WC
- Allow the left WC to pass behind the FCs.
- Pull the left FC through the loop created
- Gently pull and tighten the cords.
Hitch Knot - Horizontal and Diagonal
The hitch knot is perfect for creating designs, and they come in several variations. However, two of the most basic that you need to learn about are:
- Horizontal Hitch Knot
- Diagonal Hitch Knot
Horizontal Hitch Knot
- Place your cords over or on the hardware or support.
- Take the FC's left side.
- Hold it horizontally across the other cords.
- Take your first WC, bring it forward, and then around the FC, following the left direction, to create a counter-clockwise loop.
- Take that same WC over and through the loop you just made.
- Grab your second WC and repeat the steps on the same FC.
Diagonal Hitch Knot
- Place your cords over or on the hardware or support
- Grab the left FC
- Hold it across your other cords at an angle, forming a diagonal
- Grab your WC and allow it to pass at the back of your FC, creating a loop
- Create another loop around the FC
- Grab your second WC and repeat the steps on the same FC
Step 3 - How to Finish Macrame
Gathering knots can be used to finish your projects and secure all the cords together.
Secure the knots at the beginning or end of your project with the help of a gathering knot by following these steps:
- When using the knot at the beginning of a project, create a larks knot; if not, skip this step.
- Optional - Grab a separate WC with a color different from what you used in your project.
- Gather the cords hanging or lying on the hardware or support you want to fasten.
- Place the WC on top of these cords
- Create a downward-facing loop, but make sure there's a short tail left and you leave the rest of the cord's top rightmost length.
- Pinch the WC top loop and tail with your thumb and index finger.
- Bring the cord's length you'll find behind the cords towards the left.
- Next, bring it around the FCs' front, ensuring you leave a visible loop.
- Repeat steps 6 to 8 until you achieve the number of wraps you need or want.
- Tighten by pulling the short end above the wraps you created; then, catch the length.
- Shorten the loop and pull it up and into the wrapped cords.
- Cut the remaining WC.
How to Macrame - Troubleshooting
Undoubtedly, you'll make mistakes along the way; in fact, even experienced crafters aren't safe from these errors. Nonetheless, there is a workaround for common issues like:
- Cord Too Short
- Knots Too Tight
- Knots Too Loose
- Uneven Looking Knots
Cord Too Short
If in the middle of your project you find that your cord's length isn't enough, you can extend it by cutting a good length of cord and:
- Sew one of its ends to the cord you need to extend using a needle and thread
- For synthetic cords - fuse its end to the cord you need to extend using a flame
Knots Too Tight
Cords tied too tightly create small knots, and if this isn't what you want for your project, the only way to troubleshoot it is to undo it and tie it again. Thus, you need to be mindful while creating each knot.
Knots Too Loose
Cords tied too loosely create big knots, and if this isn't what you want for your project, the only way to troubleshoot it is to undo it and tie it again.
How Can I Keep my Macrame Knots Looking Even?
The best way to create even-looking macrame knots is to ensure you use a piece of hardware or structure to prevent your cords from moving around. Similarly, you must ensure you use the same tension when creating the knots. That means your macrame shouldn't have parts with too tight knots and other parts with too loose knots.
How to Macrame - In Conclusion
Like any other type of arts and crafts, learning how to macrame requires patience and constant practice. Now that you have the fundamental knowledge, start completing the materials and tools you need and learn the knots. Then, download a simple pattern and create a small macrame item!