Published on March 2nd, 2008 | by Autumn Wiggins8
Artifacts: Tune In, Turn On, Tie Knots. This is Macrame.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking…plant hangers and googly eyed owls…haha. Make fun all you want, but you’ll be overlooking one of the most sustainable, inexpensive, and meditative craft techniques out there.
I’ve tried crochet and knitting, but nothing quite does it for me like macramé. The obsession began at age 9 with embroidery floss friendship bracelets. During my teenage years in the 90’s, hippie hemp jewelry was all the rage, and I found myself once again knotting away at lengths of string safety pinned to my pants. The practice became a victim of trend, and fell out of favor as the modern craft movement emerged.
A few years ago, I was surprised to discover The New Macramé: Contemporary Knotted Jewelry and Accessories by Katie DuMont at the bookstore among a sea of punk themed knitting manuals. If you enjoy throwing preconceived notions out the window, this book provides adequate history and instructions to inspire an alternate perspective.
There are 30 amazing projects which range from wire earrings, to a dog collar and leash, bags, belts, pouches, and intricate necklaces. I have made and adapted many of them, but my favorite is the “Magical Mystery Market Bag” pictured here.
Imagine cutting, then arranging thirty two 12ft lengths of hemp cord in front of you. As you begin to follow the pattern of knots, it becomes familiar and rhythmic. Much like a knitting groove, only more exotic. Your arms gracefully fling from side to side as they pull the knots through, while your fingers flutter about the strings. It’s like ballet dancing and playing the cello all at once from the waist up. I prefer to sit Indian style, and on the ground if possible. In the right setting this craft can be an introspective alternative to fidgety meditation. (Hey, yoga is not an option for people who drink as much coffee as me.)
It’s not hard to see why macramé is one of the most environmentally friendly crafts out there too. Your tools are your hands, and most projects can be made using hemp or jute cord, both renewable resources. Some stiffer yarns like cotton or linen will work too.
I really like DMC’s natural linen embroidery thread for small jewelry projects. All hemp is not created equal. I prefer a brand called Ecolution. Not only are they a green company, but their twines are richly colored, and have a soft texture that is pleasant to work with. My local yarn store carries them, but you can purchase just about all the varieties at DownBound.com as well. Finding beads with larger holes can be tricky, but not impossible, and most times you only need a few.
Don’t underestimate the beauty of knots and string colors as a focal point for any given project. Some items, like bags, will require you to create specific sized work boards, which can be easily made from leftover cardboard boxes. Throw in a few safety pins, T-pins, maybe a binder clip, and you’re set. You’ll find most projects to be satisfyingly quick to complete, as well as highly portable. Finished objects are practically indestructible.
I wish I could back up all these claims with lots of fab online tutorials, but they are scarce…save for this one awesome iPod cozy project on CRAFT’s site. Whether you are a newbie, or just need a refresher course, acquiring a book is your best bet. Here are some good alternatives or additions to the one I mentioned above:
- Hemp Masters: Ancient Hippie Secrets for Knotting Hip Hemp Jewelry by Max Lunger
- The Macrame Book by Helene Bress
- Beaded Macrame Jewelry: Stylish Designs, Exciting New Materials by Sherri Haab
Go forth, make plant hangers. Put plants in them. Now that’s crafting a green world.