Macramé: An Ancient Art Form with Modern Appeal

There’s a funny duality in knots. They start in simplicity: Tying them seems to come naturally to human hands, and we all know how easy it is to tangle anything from a favorite necklace to the vacuum cleaner cord into knots just by not paying attention! But when you add a little extra attention and more than a little time, a new world of knots opens up, revealing their hidden complexity, utility, and of course, beauty. Here, knots become an art form. That art form is known as macramé, and it’s the foundation of everything we make at The Knotted Stone.

What Is Macramé?

Seaman Dean Borbely creates a macrame awning
Macrame is still practiced among sailors, who helped the craft’s global proliferation throughout history. Here, Seaman Dean Borbely fashions a macrame awning in the Canvas Shop of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

A few simple knots form the basis for all styles of macramé; the secret to making something wonderful is in how you put those knots together. Evidence from ancient Babylonian and Assyrian artifacts suggests that macramé has been around for a very, very long time. A form of textile-making alternative to weaving or knitting, macramé spread from the cradle of civilization first to North Africa, then up into Europe via the Moorish conquest of Spain. Sailors were particularly taken with the craft; with abundant supplies of rope about, they used macramé to kill time at sea, knotting everything from hammocks to belts. At their ports of call, these crafty sailors would sell or trade their handiwork, and thus the art of macramé traveled around the globe.

Macramé’s popularity flowered in the Victorian era, where it took on a dimension of opulence and elegance in “rich trimmings for black and coloured costumes, both for home wear, garden parties, seaside ramblings, and balls” and “fairylike adornments for household and underlinens …” (from Sylvia’s Book of Macramé Lace, published in 1882). But it wasn’t until the 1970s that handcrafters latched onto macramé’s potential for jewelry, and the craft is still associated with an earthy, bohemian style that resonates with today’s penchant for all things retro.

How We Became Knot-Nuts

The Knotted Stone braceletsWe are self-taught knotters. When we got hooked on macramé, we spent a lot of time watching other designers who work in macramé, and we combed craft shows for ideas to take back to The Knotted Stone studio. It’s taken us a little over one year to hone our craft and develop our original designs. When you look at one of our pieces, you’re seeing the result of much trial and error. We’re not afraid to admit it, because our experimentation in the learning process has brought out the very best, most unique designs and color combinations for each collection in our jewelry line.

Macramé: Not Just a Summer Camp Craft

As a method for making jewelry, macramé has gained a ton of popularity in the last 10 years or so. A shift in collective consciousness has inspired many consumers to seek out products that are handmade, sustainable, and naturally sourced. Discerning jewelry buyers and artisans alike are discovering all three of these criteria in macramé. Symbols of strength and steadfastness, knots are featured everywhere in fashion jewelry. Now we spot knotted bracelets worn in support of many a good cause, and it’s a point of pride to see our humble craft help people stand up for what they believe in. Not just school kids, but grown-ups too are exchanging friendship bracelets, demonstrating that the bond of loving friendship looks good on you at every age. The Knotted Stone’s designs expand on this growing trend, elevating macramé to a level of couture while staying true to the roots of the craft.

 Get lost in the new world of knots—shop our online boutique.


Sources and Further ReadingMacramé” in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.