Macrame is a technique or method of crafting a textile that uses several knots to form the basic shape and function of the piece. Each knot is made by hands, and there are no other tools required other than a mounting ring to keep the item in place while working.
When most people think of macrame, their mind travels back to the bohemian-inspired wall hangings of the 1960s and '70s. Macramé’s roots are pretty interesting, with a history dating back thousands of years. Some believe that the term comes from the 13th-century Arabic word migramah, which means “fringe.” Others believe its origins lie in the Turkish word makrama, which refers to “napkin” or “towel,” and was a way to secure weaving pieces by using excess threads along the top or bottom of woven fabrics.
Either way, decorative macramé first appears in carvings by the Babylonians and Assyrians that depict fringed braiding used to adorn costumes. In the 13th century, Arab weavers used decorative knots to finish the excess thread on shawls, veils, and towels. It then spread to Europe via North Africa, when the Moors brought macramé to Spain. While most think of macramé as a craze of the 1970s, the craft reached peak popularity in Victorian England. First introduced to England in the late 17th century, Queen Mary herself taught classes to her ladies-in-waiting. Most Victorian homes had some macramé decoration, as it was used not only to decorate clothing but also as curtains, tablecloths, and bedspreads.
Women weren’t the only people practising macrame. Sailors would knot for practical purposes, but on long voyages, the act of knotting served as a way to stay engaged and ward off boredom. These sailors ultimately helped this art form spread throughout Europe. They became merchants when they entered new ports and would trade the macrame items they made on the ship. Popular items included hammocks, hats, and belts.
The primary knots of macramé are the square (or reef knot) and forms of 'hitching' various combinations of half hitches. It was long crafted by sailors, especially in elaborate or ornamental knotting forms, to cover anything from knife handles to bottles to parts of ships.
Common macrame supplies include jute, twine, yarn, hemp, leather, mounting rings and wooden beads. There are many natural and synthetic fibres one can use to create macramé. Standard projects will typically require cords that are 3 mm to 6 mm thick. Jewellery and small decorative items are created through micro-macramé which is extremely popular and interesting.
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