“What is macrame?” is a common question you’ll hear from those just starting to venture into DIY crafting. However, experienced crafters who want to learn a new skill should also understand what macrame is all about. With this gained knowledge, you’ll be able to appreciate the end product and maximize its usefulness.
What Is Macrame: Definition and History
Macramé is a Spanish word borrowed from several terms that originated in different countries. They are as follows:
- Mikrama: An Arabic word referring to bedspreads
- Migramah: An Arabic word that means fringe
- Makrama: A Turkish word for bedspread
- Ramé: An Arabic word for knot
So, what is macrame? Based on the mentioned words where it originated, macrame is a process of creating functional and decorative items using particular types of cords, such as jute, cotton, leather, and hemp, and then tied into knots. Other materials and tools you would need are basic craft items, including sharp scissors and a tape measure.
Where Does Macrame Art Come From?
Historians and experts in the industry will have one answer to this: Middle Eastern countries. However, in terms of the specific country, you'll find multiple responses, namely:
- Babylon: An ancient city now found in present-day Iraq
- Persia: Now part of Iran
- Assyria: Now part of numerous Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt
Why is this so? First, they found artifacts with knots believed to be made by Persians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. Most of them are carvings of costumes or clothing with braided fringes.
The second reason is that the earliest recorded usage of macrame was in the 13th century. Arab artisans introduced hand-woven fabrics, including shawls, towels, and veils, with decorative plaits and fringes that made them look stylish and helped secure the pieces. The technique they used to achieve those is knotting together the excess yarn and thread hanging at the edge of the fabric.
How Was Macrame Introduced to Other Countries?
No matter where it really came from, though, the knotting technique and its products were introduced to Spain by the Moors from North Africa. Then it spread to Liguria, Italy, and eventually throughout Europe in the late 17th century when Queen Mary taught her ladies-in-waiting the craft.
We have to thank the 10th century American and British sailors because they were the ones who introduced macrame to the New World and China. They created macrame items while sailing as a pastime. Then, they bartered and sold them each time they docked.
They frequently used square knots for their sailboats or ships to make belts, hammocks, and bell fringes. Another term they used to refer to the process is McNamara’s Lace.
However, the golden age of macrame was during the Victorian era, thanks to popular reading material published in 1882, "Sylvia’s Book of Macramé Lace." With it, people found instructions on effective ways of working rich trimmings for colored and black costumes, home wear, and household adornments or decor. At this point, macrame bedspreads, tablecloths, and curtains filled Victorian homes.
Eventually, the craze and trend faded. However, it regained its place in the world of arts and crafts in the 1970s, but only to fall out of fashion again in the early 1980s.
What Is Macrame Today?
Fortunately, macrame started regaining its popularity a few years ago. Now, crafters and artisans produce almost anything, from small to large pieces.
As the craft evolved, the number of macrame knots being used also increased. You now have other options besides a square knot, including double half-hitches, double half-hitch knots, clove hitch knots, and reverse lark's head knots. You can learn how to do all these knots and more with our beginner's guide for making basic macrame knots.
With the advancement in technology, there are now two general types of macrame processes: traditional and modern. That said, the principle of what is macrame remains the same: knotting.
What Is Macrame: Traditional vs. Modern Macrame
From the get-go, you can tell that traditional means manual or creating macrame pieces by hand, while modern entails using a machine. Let's have a more in-depth discussion of these macrame processes.
Definitely, traditional macrame is more tedious and time-consuming than the modern type. You would need to learn and perfect the different types of knots. To follow the instructions properly, you must also know several macrame terms and abbreviations, such as working cords, middle cords, and filler cords.
How long it would take to finish your project would, of course, depend on how big or small the item is.
Nowadays, you'll find CNC multi-head sewing machines that you can use for making macrame items in a short amount of time. Of course, they're far more precise and accurate than the traditional technique.
However, you must learn all of a specific machine's functions and features. Also, expect that these machines come with a high price tag. That said, macrame machines are ideal for businesses that need to produce hundreds or thousands of macrame items in a day.
As a beginner or someone who does a few macrame projects, you really won't need the machine. After all, it can take away the fun of DIYing!
What Is Macrame Uses and Purpose?
With a history dating back centuries ago, we're sure you've already seen and appreciated macrame creations without you even knowing it. In fact, you probably have one at home already!
We've already touched on some of the purposes of macrame while answering "What is macrame?", but allow us to sum them up and discuss them in more detail.
Basically, the top two purposes of macrame are:
- Interior Design
What is Macrame for Interior Design
Like in the past, especially in Victorian England, you can enhance your home or office's interior design with macrame decor. You can make pillowcases, wall hangings, plant hangers, paintings, hammocks, curtains or draperies, and more.
Just remember that macrame will give your space a boho, ethnic, and rustic vibe, so if it isn't something you want, make sure you don't overdo it. For instance, macrame a lampshade cover to add some romantic and relaxing ambiance to your bedroom.
You can also choose to macrame small items that you can sew on your existing home items. Better yet, simply make small home accessories such as a table runner and coaster.
What is Macrame for Fashion
Think about the trendy crochet necklaces, friendship bracelets, and earrings. Macrame isn't any different. You can also create these fashion accessories!
Likewise, you can use macrame to make items that you can use to enhance your existing jewel's style. In fact, luxury brands, like Dior, use macrame knots in some of the accessories they design and sell. Other fashionable macrame pieces that you can make, just to name a few, are headbands, hairbands, chokers, belts, bags, wallets, and purses.
In terms of fashion, a common question we hear is "Can you macramé clothes?" Definitely! You can create skirts, dresses, and tops. Some fashion designers even incorporate small macrame items into their clothing as embellishments, which you can also do.
Another way to maximize the purpose of macrame in fashion is to add macrame to your footwear. Cover the straps with macrame or glue in macrame accessories. Either way, they will make your footwear look unique and stylish.
Here's another excellent idea. If you or someone you know has a baby on the way, consider making macrame booties, hand warmers, and bonnets. Just make sure you choose hypoallergenic macrame cords.
Why Is There a Need to Develop Your Skills in Macramé?
Going beyond the more technical and scientific answers to "What is macrame?" will make you appreciate this craft more. Hence, let's look at some of the top benefits to gain from developing your macrame skills:
- A good source of income
- Great for mental health
- Brings out one's natural creativity
- Opportunity to meet other people and grow
- Creation of unique and highly appreciated gifts
It can be a good source of income
Like any handicraft product, you can profit from macrame, especially if you've already mastered the skill. You can start selling them to your friends and relatives and gain a small profit.
Rent stalls during festivals or trade fairs in your locality and sell your items. If it doesn't turn out to be as profitable as you wanted it to be, it's okay. That's because you've already introduced your products and brand. Who knows, you might have even caught the attention of a wholesaler.
Then, you can venture into an online business. Etsy, Facebook, and Instagram are your top three options. You can also start selling Eventually, as your business grows, it can become your primary source of income, not just a passive income.
However, remember that there are competitors out there. Thus, make sure to follow these tips:
- Create macrame items that are as unique as possible
- Choose trendy colors if they suit your design or brand
- Always capture great photos; use proper lighting and edit, but don't overdo it
- There's no such thing as over promotion. Always spare some time to promote your store and products on your social media accounts
You may also start selling your macrame patterns to interested crafters. Another way to profit from your macrame skills is by teaching other beginning crafters. You can conduct paid online and offline classes.
You can also create your own YouTube and/or TikTok channels, one of the best means to teach people basic skills. Simply record the process of making your macrame items, edit, add a voice over, and publish. With the right number of subscribers, likes, and views, you can start monetizing any or both of your channels.
It's great for your mental health!
Whether we like it or not, there'll be days when we're stressed or even sad or depressed without even knowing the reason. Some of us even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, wherein we feel depressed during a particular season, especially winter.
Macrame isn't just a craft that requires hand skills; it's also a mindful but non-stressful process. because you would need to focus on what you're doing. With the kind of focus you achieved, your brain will automatically enter a state similar to when you're meditating. And as most of us know, meditation is one of the ways to help you relax.
Also, while you see your progress and the design unfold right before your eyes, you get excited and will have a sense of fulfillment. Both of which are good for your mental health because they release happy hormones.
Once your project starts serving its purpose, seeing it improve your home's or office's space or your fashion style will help boost your confidence and motivate you more. This confidence and motivation will improve even more once people start appreciating your work when they see them. Some might even start asking you to make macrame pieces for them.
And guess what? That's a start of a good network of potential customers.
It brings out your natural creativity.
True enough, most of us believe we're not creative or don't have the artist in us. However, most of the time, you just need to unlock the creative side of your brain.
How? By developing arts and craft skills. In macrame, once you learn the basic macrame knots, start making simple and small pieces. We advise you not to use any patterns or even watch video tutorials on making specific macrame designs or patterns.
Doing so stimulates the problem-solving part of your brain because you're trying to figure out the next step. Plus, you'll find a way to correct a mistake or use it to your advantage by creating a different pattern or design. All these will unlock your creativity.
You'll notice that the more you practice the technique and try to create a pattern, the easier it becomes for you to think of patterns and the best way to achieve the design you want.
As a DIY crafter, you'll also love that you can add adornments, like beads, rhinestones, diamonds, and crystals, to any of your macrame projects. This will also help enhance your creativity. After all, you'll decide what embellishments to use and where to place them to make your projects as unique as possible and close to your personality or brand as a crafter.
Another great thing about what is macrame is that you're not limited to one crafting technique. You can combine it with knitting and crocheting once you're already confident about your macrame skills.
It's an excellent opportunity to meet other people and grow.
Meeting other people with similar interests will benefit you more than you know. You can learn from them, and they can learn from them too. They can critique your work constructively. They will also appreciate your work, which will help boost your confidence.
Although there's a good community of macrame crafters online, going out of the house will also benefit your mental health. Go ahead and attend macrame workshops, meetups, and other activities and events. Joining macrame-making competitions will also be fun.
You can create one of the best gifts you can give.
As a type of handicraft, the amount of time and effort you put into creating a macrame piece is priceless. With proper care and maintenance, like ensuring the macrame pieces don't get exposed to rain and snow, macrame items will surely last long. The receiver will surely have something that will remind them of you for years.
That's why giving someone one of your creations as a gift will make them feel more special and loved. They'll also appreciate you more.
Who wouldn't when you give them a functional, stylish, and unique gift you specifically hand-made for them?
What Is the Importance of Macramé in Today's Evolution of Handicrafts?
Every industry continues to evolve to meet the changing needs and requirements of customers, the government, accrediting bodies, organizations, and the Earth or Mother Nature. And the handicraft industry is no different.
Nowadays, more and more countries, private companies, and citizens are advocating for eco-friendly products—even more so sustainable ones.
The good thing is macrame has a significant contribution in terms of handicrafts keeping up with these changes. You can use materials around your home that you would otherwise throw on a typical day, such as scrap cords and yarns. Doing so will reduce your waste, benefiting the environment. Also, most of the cords used for macrame are made of natural raw materials, such as cotton and hemp cords.
Therefore, macrame is both eco-friendly and sustainable.
What Is Macrame - To Sum Up
Overall, macrame is a versatile process of knotting cords together to create unique, attractive, functional, eco-friendly, and sustainable decors, fabric embellishments, and fashion pieces. You can use or wear and sell these items and/or give them as a gift.
If you choose to learn how to macrame for the very purpose of having a new hobby, then you'll surely won't regret it. After all, you'll see an improvement in your creativity, mental health, focus, and self-confidence.
Meta: Wondering and asking, "What is macrame?" In this guide, you'll understand its history, purpose, and role in the world today.