Macramé is the simple process of tying threads together by hand to create lengths of ropes and braids, and to weave different patterns not just for useful items but also for decorative ones. All macramé patterns are developed from two main knots, the square knot and the simple knot or half hitch. Countless patterns are made from these knots. This is a brief history of macramé knots and patterns as well as some of the common patterns that can be made.
Evidence of macramé knotting has been found in times before Christ. These knots have largely been used to aid with fishing, hunting and trapping and sailing. According to Eirian Short in her book "Introducing Macramé," these knots have been used decoratively as well as functionally since some time around the ninth century BC. "It probably originated in the Middle East" says Short. "From the Arab countries macramé spread northwards into Europe, being taken to Italy by the returning crusaders and into Spain by the Moors." The word macramé did not come about until the nineteenth century in Turkey. "Makrama" is Turkish for fringed napkin or kerchief.
Throughout history macramé has been used to make ropes, bags, belts, bands, necklaces, garments such as robes and sashes, tablecloths, capstan wheel and bell covers, box covers, overskirts, mantelpieces, pincushions, wall hangings, kerchiefs and many other decorations. Macramé is versatile in that nearly any type of thread, twine, string or rope can be used. Certain kinds of tree bark, wood fibre, animal sinew and fishing line have even been used to knot macramé patterns.
The square knot as it is known by sailors is also known as the flat knot or the Solomon's knot. To make this knot, usually four threads are used, two of them for the core. Repeating this knot multiple times in a row creates a Solomon's Bar. These work well for necklaces, handles and even dog leashes. Variations of the square knot are the triple knot which is a flat knot plus a half knot, as well as flat knot balls.
The simple knot also widely known as the half hitch can be knotted from the right or the left. The knots can also be made from both sides, alternating with each knot to form a chain. The half hitch knot is the basis for cording. Cording is made up of double half hitches knotted over a central cord that can be leading the knots to form a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line. When these knots are made tightly together, enough of them can form a fabric. This is the type of macramé often used for clothing or larger pieces of work such as tapestries.
These two knots have numerous variations when combined with overhand knots and loops. The spacing of the knots and loop variations can also create individual patterns. Solomon's Bars can be made with picots or side knots, for example, and dozens of braids can be made based on half hitches. A few of these are the corkscrew bar (known to some as the spiral staircase), the single Genoese bar, single tatted bar and the treble Genoese bar.
Macramé is the common name for decorative knotting, but it has also been known as 'square knotting' and 'McNamara's lace,' among sailors as well as 'Mexican lace' from when the Spaniards introduced the craft to Mexico. The Arab word for macramé is Migramah, which means embroidered veil.
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