What Is Macramé? Learn About the Craft’s Basic Techniques and the Best Patterns to Try

Macramé became incredibly popular in the 1960s, but the craft first originated many centuries ago.

Rayna Skiver - Author

Apr. 4 2024, Published 11:14 a.m. ET

Overhead view of someone working with cords for a macrame project.
Source: iStock

If you like crocheting, there’s a good chance you’ll love macrame, too. These crafts share many similarities, including techniques and being beginner-friendly.

But what is macramé? Despite its resemblance to other textile arts, it still has unique processes and features. Stick around to learn how to macrame, what supplies you need, and the best patterns and kits for newbies.

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What is macrame?

Various macrame projects and supplies scattered on a light-colored wood table.
Source: ISTOCK

Macramé is a type of textile art that combines cords and different types of knots to create a final product, according to Gathered. While the exact date of its origin varies, the word "macramé" comes from Turkish "makrama" meaning "napkin" or "towel," per Britannica.

The art of macramé was known as a speciality of Genoa, Italy, especially during the 19th century, but the craft became a household name in 1960s United States.

People use macramé to make all sorts of things, from practical, everyday items to fun and decorative pieces. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find free patterns and tutorials online for just about anything you want to create.

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Person holding up a half-finished macrame dreamcatcher.
Source: ISTOCK

Patterns for items like planters, wall hangings, coasters, dreamcatchers, feathers, curtains, and bags are all very popular among macrame artists. Some of these projects might seem difficult, but the craft is actually very beginner-friendly.

People who macramé can feel a sense of mental clarity, self-confidence, and productivity, as well as a decrease in negative feelings like stress, according to Mary Maker Studio. Everyone’s different, of course, but why not give it a try?

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What supplies do you need to macramé?

Three different sets of macrame cords of various color and size.
Source: ISTOCK

One of the best things about this art form is that it doesn’t require a ton of expensive supplies. To get started, you just need two items: Macramé cord and a pair of scissors.

When it comes to choosing a type of macrame cord, beginners typically start with cotton cord that’s between 4 and 5 millimeters. These sizes are bigger, which makes them easier to manipulate and unknot — this is ideal when you’re first learning the techniques.

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Once you choose a specific pattern, you can alter the type of cord you’re using to match the project. Usually, this means as the project increases, so does the cord size, and vice versa.

After you learn the basics, you can grab a few more supplies. Tools such as a tape measure, metal brush, macramé board, and ‘S’ hooks are incredibly useful as you make progress within the hobby. These items are great for projects that are more detailed or complex.

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How to macramé:

Person moving various macrame cords into place while working on a project.
Source: iStock

So you have your supplies, but how do you start macrame? Well, depending on the type of project you want to make, you must determine whether you need a horizontal or a vertical setup, per Sarah Maker. If you're making a wall hanging, for example, you'll need to work vertically by tying your piece on the back of a door or chair.

Next, you'll need to learn some of the basic macramé knots that your projects may require. According to Skillshare, these types of knots include a square knot, half hitch knots, and a spiral knot.

Additional knots you might need to know include the Lark's Head knot, half knot and Josephine knot, per the Pauline Haass Public Library.

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Get started with these macramé patterns and kits:

Two small, round macrame mirrors handing on a white wall diagonally from one another.
Source: iStock

You're finally ready to get started on your macramé journey! It's easy to find free macramé instructions or patterns on the web, or you can purchase kits from a variety of sellers including, but not limited to:

But if you don't want to purchase, here are a few step-by-step guides to beginner macramé patterns:

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