Macramé is making a resurgence. For some people, this may invoke cringing memories of kitsch décor of the 1970s: knotted hanging baskets and wall hangings made from gaudy-looking jute and twine. Other people may smile in memory of a bygone era. However you remember macramé, or whether you are new to the art of knotting cord, the craft is making a comeback.
Macram. is the art of knotting cord into decorative pieces where the square knot and half-hitch are the most common knots used. Macramé is believed to have originated with 13th century Arab weavers, from the word migramah meaning ‘fringe’. Another belief is that macramé, derived from the word makrama, originated in Turkey as a way of decoratively securing the end threads from woven fabric.
Any type of yarn, cord or rope can be used to make macramé – if you can knot it, you can macramé it.
Two popular choices for macramé are natural cotton or synthetic cord. Natural cotton rope is a great choice for indoor applications and comes in a variety of thicknesses, twists and colours. Cotton is a natural fibre and is sustainable, biodegradable and renewable, making it an excellent choice as an environmentally-friendly fibre. Left outdoors to the elements though, cotton will discolour and eventually break down.
Paracord, otherwise known as parachute cord, is made from nylon and has an external braided sheath and a core of seven nylon strands. Paracord is lightweight, strong, and ultraviolet and mould resistant; a good option for using outdoors. Paracord is not manufactured in Australia. If you are going to spend the time to make a beautiful macramé hanger, use good quality cord, so you can enjoy your hanging basket for many years.
To make a basic macramé hanger, you will need the following materials:
• Approx. 30 m of quality rope/cord *
• Pot plant
• Measuring tape
• ‘S’ Hook
• Sticky tape
• Matches or lighter (if using paracord, to seal the ends)
• Metal or wooden ring (optional)
• Four beads (optional)
* It is important to note the cord thickness will change the length and size of your macramé hanger.
You will need somewhere to hang your project while working – a doorknob or clothes hanger will work well. For this project I am using three-strand twisted cotton rope.
Cut eight pieces at 3.5 m lengths. Cut the remaining 2 m in half. These will be used to make a gathering knot at the beginning and end of your work.
Thread half the length of the eight pieces of cord through the ring (if using) or hang over the ‘S’ hook. It is important to try and get the ends of your cords as even as possible. You should now have 16 cords hanging down.
The Gathering Knot. (This is the most difficult knot to do.) Gather all the cords together and wrap them with some tape approximately 10 cm from the top. This will keep all the cords together. Take a one-metre length of cord and tie a knot at each end; this will help to identify it as the gathering cord.
Fold the gathering cord approximately 25 cm from one end, making a loop and hook over your ‘S’ hook. Hold all the cords together with one hand, excluding the longer length of the gathering cord, just below where you placed the sticky tape.
With the other hand, take the longer piece of gathering cord (has a knot on the end) and lay it across all the other cords and hold the ‘cross over’ firmly with your thumb. With the longer end of the gathering cord, start winding around all the ropes, working your way up to the loop. You need to do this firmly but not too tight! When you have about 5 cm left of your gathering cord, thread this through the gathering cord loop at the top of your ‘S’ hook and release the loop from the hook. At the bottom of the gathering knot, hold on to the bottom of the gathering cord and pull until the loop disappears into the gathering knot.
You can now trim both ends from the gathering cord. This knot may take a bit of practice to get it sitting correctly If you are having problems with the gathering knot, a simple overhand knot will work just as well.
Square knot and half-knot.
Separate the strands into four groups of four lengths. We will be working one set of four strands at a time. The two outer strands will be working cords, the two middle cords will be centre cords.
Starting the knot 10 cm down from the gathering knot, take the cord on the right-hand side, cross over the two middle cords and behind the working cord to the left. Now take the left working cord and bring it behind the two middle cords and pull through to the front of the bend made by the right-hand working cord. This is called a half-knot.
To complete the square knot, repeat the same action, starting from the left-hand side. Tighten the knot so it looks nice and even. Repeat the square knot nine more times.
The working cords will be shorter than your middle cords. This is a good time to include a bead – do a simple overhand knot or bring the middle cords to the outside and start knotting with those. Leave a gap of 15 cm and start again. You can switch to a half-knot to create a twist by not alternating sides.
Repeat with the remaining three groups of cord.
Making the basket.
Straighten the knotted four strands so they are all hanging straight. Take a working cord and a middle cord each from two adjacent knotted strands. You should have four cords. Starting at approximately 8 cm from the last knot, make one square knot.
Repeat, working your way around the cords, always taking an outer and middle cord from each knotted strand. Once you have done this, it is time to check that your pot fits inside. Open your work from the centre and pop your pot in.
Be sure to hold the cords together at the bottom to stop the pot from sliding out. Adjust the knots if necessary. If you are happy with the size, add another square knot to the ones you have just completed.
Repeat the above process to make a second row of square knots approximately 10 cm from the previous knots, alternating the cords. If you open your work, it should look like a diamond. Once you have completed all four strands, try fitting your pot again.
Gauge where you would like the bottom of the pot to sit and use some sticky tape to secure all the cords together. Finish with a gathering knot and trim your ends. Voila, you have finished!
If you get stuck, there are many video tutorials on YouTube or Pinterest. I highly recommend www.fusionknots.com/ for clear and concise instructions on how to tie knots.
For step by step photos go to www.pipmagazine.com.au/macrame