Macrame is a form of textile-making that does not involve the typical way of weaving or knitting, but rather by a series of knots. It is believed to have started as early as the 13th century in the Western Hemisphere with the Arab weavers. They would knot the excess yarn and threads on the ends of hand loomed fabrics for towels, veils and shawls into decorative fringes. What I found interesting is that Sailors were the ones to really make this popular and were credited with spreading this art form to different countries through the ports they would stop in. They would decorate the handles of knives, bottles and other items available on the ship and use them to barter for something they wanted or needed when they reached land. Around the nineteenth century sailors even made belts and hammocks with a process called “square knotting”.
Materials that are commonly used for macrame are cotton twine, hemp, leather or yarn. Although there are variations, the primary knots are the square knot, full hitch and double half hitches. Jewelry is often made by combining knots with beads, shells, rings or gemstones. If you take a look at most of the friendship bracelets worn by school children you will notice that they have been made by using macrame.
When I was reading up on the basic knots that are commonly used in creating macrame I came across the Cavandoli Macrame. This style is made of two colors’ that consists of two basic knots that are inverted creating a stiffer kind of fabric that works great for table mats, purses, book covers and etc. Cavandoli Macrame is named after Valentina Cavandoli who received a gold medal of recognition in 1961 before she passed away at the age of 97 in 1969. In Italy around the end of the First World War this special lady became the headmistress of a house for the poor and/or orphaned children in Turin. This was a facility where up to 100 children could be housed between the ages of 3 and 15. To help keep the children busy she taught them an art that she had learned from her great grandmother, macrame. The children would make items to sell in charity markets and careful records were kept of each child’s income and would be distributed to them when they would leave the home. Sadly the home where she was Casa del Sole only survived until 1936 when because of the political situation in Italy it became too difficult for the benefactors of the home to continue.
The enthusiasm for macrame seemed to fade for a while, but was made popular again in the 1970’s by the American neo-hippies and grunge crowd in making jewelry. This art was often featured in handmade necklaces, anklets and bracelets adorned with handmade glass beads and natural elements such as bone and shell.
Macrame is a fun craft to try and you can get started with a small budget. There are a lot of free or reasonable patterns available and some great how to books to help get you started. This would be a perfect craft to get your children, grandchildren or anyone involved in.
“Lanette Herrmann is co-founder of Something and More Hand Crafted Gifts, http://www.somethingandmore.com, and has enjoyed woodcrafting and other types of crafts for many years. She started out learning how to braid rugs with her grandmother. She got her love of hand stitching and weaving rugs from her mother. She also enjoys quilting, using the scroll saw and many other woodworking tools. When she isn’t working at her full time job, Lynn’s favorite pastime is spending time with her family.”
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