Macramé

There’s something about macramé that makes me very nostalgic. Not for the 1970s, but the 1990s.

A dear friend and I spent a holiday night, last January, crafting macramé keychains for the fun of it. As we knotted the thick ropes, I realized that macramé resembles one of the very first crafts I ever learned: friendship bracelets (remember those?).

Camilla Gryski’s Friendship Bracelets, which sold at my elementary school book fair, was the first craft-book I ever used to teach myself a new skill.

It was the late 90s, and I was in my last years of elementary school. In our small schoolyard world, friendship bracelets were right up there with GAP perfume, jeans with torn cuffs, and over-sized Disney-NBA jerseys. I remember that a few of my friends bought Friendship Bracelets one year, and we started the hobby together. I remember going to the local mall-craftstore to buy a handful’s worth of embroidery floss. I remember how we challenged ourselves to try more complicated patterns — first, the simple “spiral” cord, then diagonal stripes, the arrowhead, then X’s and O’s. The brave and determined makers tackled the formidable ‘double-thickness’ bracelets. I remember the process of choosing from all those vivid colours of floss, the feel of the smooth, separable strands, and the sheen of the little completed knots, lined up like tiny pearls. The point of all of this was to trade what we made. The swap brought its own joys — the moment of reveal, the rite of tying a bracelet to your friend’s wrist at recess, the warm feeling of loved-labour given away. Creativity, new skills, and sharing — aren’t those the things most beloved by craftspersons?

But I digress. To return to the macramé… Last April, I was in the process of winding up the last bits of thesis writing. Being homebound and under lockdown meant getting much more acquainted with my inner critic (!) than I’d expected. It was a nervous time. I needed a way to wind down. Not too long before, I had borrowed a copy of Fanny Zedenius’ Macramé – the craft of creative knotting for your home and had recently ordered a large spool of cotton cord.

I was grappling with a few writing tangles at the time, and I guess this knot-based craft felt comforting and appropriate. Macramé suggested, in its form, that a ‘knot’ was not inherently a bad thing. In the right situation, a knot was a design element (this made me feel better about all of the “knots” left in my paper… it’s just written macramé, after all).

So I started a new project. An hour before bed, I’d hang my dowel on the back of the bathroom door where the light is good, queue up a talk or podcast, and let my fingers do the rest.

It was a straightforward project, but it helped me get through a tricky writing period. The cords are substantial — full of heft and weight and texture. In contrast to knitting and crochet, macramé makes you wrestle a bit. And when I finished the project, I hung it proudly on the wall of my crafting/writing nook.

My favourite part of the project was combing out the rope-ends to make swishy tassels, then cutting them level — very “doll hairstylist” (though it seems I cut a tress too short. Whoops).

Now, I’m trying to figure out what this cotton spool can do next…

Happy Monday. Wishing you good things on the make!

5 thoughts on “Macramé

  1. Wow! Yes macrame makes me feel nostalgic. My neighbor across the street when I lived in Central Oregon inherited from the previous home owner a giant macrame hanging that she eventually donated to the local thrift shop but it obviously took someone a lot of time to make. Yours is lovely and seems more modern then the one that came with my neighbors house. I will have to put macrame on my to do list of projects now! Sounds like it was meditative to work on it – cool it was your before bed project and you listened to a podcast, etc! Kind of like my granny squaring!

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    1. Ok, so it’s not just my nostalgia, then. 😄 How interesting – I have never heard a story of inherited macrame; I hope the piece found a good home. Yes, the patterns in the book were simple and very approachable for a beginner (and if you have many plants at home, there are several plant hanger patterns, too). I remember your granny square podcast sessions! Crafting to podcasts is one of my favourite things as well…makes me feel productive, even if just at listening. Perhaps, when the time is right, there’ll might be a macrame how-to in the library and it can join the stack! 📚 Hope you’re having a good week, Tierney. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, friendship bracelets! I’m getting a blast of nostalgia now too… I went crazy making these when I was about 12 or 13, to the extent that most of my left forearm was encased in knotted embroidery floss 😂 Your macrame hanging is much more elegant though – that’s some beautiful knotwork! And it seems like it was just what you needed to work your way through those writing tangles earlier in the year. Is there a new project growing on your bathroom door now, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that was the friendship bracelet golden age. Nice to hear that your love of the floss started early! The unofficial rule at our school was that we were supposed to never remove a bracelet once tied on, until the threads broke on their own. Then, something special was supposed to happen (I forget what). 😄 Thanks, Helen — I think macrame may have some nautical-ropey origins? There is another (finished) piece in the bathroom; it was a bit of a flop. I’ll have to write about it and take a picture — mostly for comic relief! Enjoy your week!

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