Macramé is the art of knotting and probably goes back beyond recorded history.
Early records of macramé come from the Egyptian pyramids where drawings of macramé fringes on clothing and samples of knotted fishing nets were found. The square knot was often used as a decoration or pattern on Pottery and jewellery. These decorations were still not thought of as artistic but rather as magic or religious symbols
Chinese people used knots for more than just fastening and wrapping. Knots were also used to record events, and some knots had purely ornamental functions. In 1980, some dedicated connoisseurs collected and arranged the decorative yet practical knots that have been passed down through the centuries in China. After studying the structures of these knots, the devotees set about creating new variations and increasing the decorative value of the knots. These exquisitely symmetrical knots which come in so many forms are as profound as the great cultural heritage of the Chinese people. The knots have thus been collectively named Chinese Macramé.
Chinese Macramé, like Chinese calligraphy, painting, porcelain, and even Chinese cooking, is easily recognizable to admirers of the Chinese culture. This is because the basic structures of Chinese Macramé cause it to differ greatly from Western Macramé in shape and function.
Since ancient times, Chinese Macramé has decorated both the fixtures of palace halls and the daily implements of countryside households. Chinese Macramé has appeared also in paintings and other pieces of folk art. For instance, Chinese Macramé was used to decorate the chairs used by the emperor and empress, the edges of parasols, the streamers attached to the waistbands of lady's dresses, as well as all kinds of seals, mirrors, pouches, sachets, eyeglass cases, fans, and Buddhist rosaries.
There is little doubt that macramé was developed into a craft of artistic and useful value by sailors. Spending long weeks, even months, on the high seas these ancient mariners turned to the ropes and cords available on their sailing vessels to help them pass the long hours. The articles they made were used to decorate their living quarters and to give as gifts at their various ports of call.
This new skill probably took its name macramé from the fringed and knotted Arabic veil, the miqramah.
Before knotting was recognised as an art form its main use was utilitarian – a means of joining strips of rawhide or vines and eventually ropes.
During the nineteenth century macramé reached the height of fashion. Great ladies adorned their clothes with macramé collars, fringes and panels. It also became popular for soft furnishings. In the 1980s this art form was again very popular with the emphasis on home decoration and fashion accessories. Macramé is again in use for fashion items. You can make necklaces, bracelets and accessories, like belts, combining Macramé knots with various beads, pendants or shells.
It is not a difficult craft. When you have mastered the square knot and the half hitch a whole new world will open up for the craftsperson. When they first begin to explore the realm of macramé they will need to follow the patterns and directions worked out by others but one the knots are mastered creativity can take over. It is a most satisfying craft whether you exactly follow a pattern, adapt it or create your own.