Some Facts and History About Macrame

  Macrame, the art of knot tying, has been practiced since the time of prehistoric peoples. As people became more civilized, knotting became a decorative art. There is much evidence that artistic knotting existed as early as 3000 B.C. Ancient warriors went into battle with knotted trim on their uniforms. Ancient Egyptian tombs show figures wearing knotted trimmed robes. Assyrian sculptures show entire robes made of knots. The most common use of knotting in ancient times was to decorate the end cords of fabric instead of using a hem.

  Although knotting began as a utilitarian function, it developed into one of the earliest forms of decorative art. From its rise in the Arab countries of the Middle East, macrame spread across northern Africa and eventually to Europe. The Moors introduced it to Spain, the returning Crusaders brought the craft to Italy and France. In Renaissance Italy, it came to be known as "punto a gropo" or knotted lace. Mary, wife of William of Orange, introduced knotting to England where it quickly became a favorite drawing room pastime.

  The Spaniards introduced macrame to Mexico where it became known as Mexican Lace. The Indians of eastern Canada were introduced to decorative knotting by French sailors and explorers. In the time of Queen Victoria, macrame lace was a necessary craft for all young ladies of high social standing. During this period, macrame was worked with very fine thread and was, in fact, a lace. Soon after the death of Queen Victoria, there was a revolt against the ornately decorative style of the period and macrame was dismissed along with most other Victorian styles.

  The word macrame came into use in the mid 19th century, probably from the Turkish word "makrama" meaning fringed napkin, or from the Arabic word "migramah" meaning embroidered veil. Today the word macrame is applied to any form of decorative knitting.

  Sailors and seamen, for hundreds of years have been working with sailor knotting, known also as McNamara's Lace. While sailor's knotting is not the same as macrame, they are very close. The articles were made to either decorate the ship or to be sold in the next port of call. By the mis-1900's the best knotters in the world were the British and American sailors. In this century the art of sailor's knotting has almost died out completely.

  From the end of the 1800's until the mid-1960's macrame was practiced by only a few nuns in easern Europe and was, indeed, a nearly lost art form. Through the interest and work of Virginia Harvey, the craft was introduced again and has become more popular than ever. However, for current styles, macrame knots use larger cords, more color and more decorative items such as driftwood, feathers and beads. The development of synthetic fibers also introduced a wider variety of cords from which to select. Macrame looks complicated, but it is deceptively simple. After a short time of practice on two basic knots, it is possible to make the finest of laces or the boldest of wall hangings. Try it. The knots are genuinely easy, the materials inexpensive and the results can be truly spectacular.

  The great charm of macrame lies in the ease with which the craft can be learned. The types of projects possible are limited only by the imagination. The list of macrame possibilities is without limit, belts, tote bags, pocketbooks, pillows, rugs, hanging planters, hats, table runners, guitar straps, bell pulls, on and on it goes.