Learning Basic Macramé Knots

Learning Basic Macramé Knots main article image
Posted on June 26, 2021 by Julie Richards

Anyone who has a piece of string in their hands will eventually tie that string into a series of knots. They tend to do it subconsciously. It seems almost second nature to people. Imagine learning basic macramé knots with that string to create something useful and beautiful.

I learned to do basic macramé knots when I was an incredibly young child. I was able to produce beautiful plant hangers that were taller than me! I was so proud to gift my macramé hangers to family members and friends of the family. I used jute, rope, string, or anything that I could tie into a macramé knot. I started with just a few simple knots that are quite easy to make. I love how the basic macramé knots create such beautiful patterns. Combining one knot with another makes the project look intricate and painstaking. The fact is that many of the beautiful macramé wall hanging and plant hangers you see are made with basic macramé knots and take just a small amount of time to produce.

Getting Started

You need a few supplies when you are first learning basic macramé knots. You need the jute, nylon cord, or yarn to make the knots. You need a pair of scissors to cut the cord to the desired length. You also need a yardstick or measuring tape to get the right length of cord for your project. When I first started out, I found that I can measure the right amount for each cord by putting one end of the cord to the tip of my nose, turn my head to the right, hold the cord in my left hand, and stretch out my left arm. That is exactly one yard of cord. I still measure my cords in this manner.

A basic macramé knotted plant hanger requires eight cords that are six yards in length. You also need one or two one-yard sections of cord to create the wrap at the top and/or bottom of your plant hanger so your beautiful macramé project does not unravel.

Divide By Four

Any time you do macramé knots, your cords are divisible by four. You need four, eight, sixteen, or however many cords as long as the number of cords is divisible by four. The reason is that for each knot to be successful, you need two outer cords and two inner cords. The inner cords are called the filler cords. The outer cords are called working cords and refers to the cords you use to actually tie the knot around the filler cords. To learn the basic macramé knots in this tutorial, we will use only four cords. After learning the basic macramé knots, you can add more cords as you advance in the art of macramé.

Seeing is Believing

Tying your shoes is something you learned by watching and practicing. The same thing can be said about learning basic macramé knots. I can tell you to take the lead cord over the filler and under the right and then pull the right under the filler and through the left but unless you understand the way the knots are made, it will be confusing. For this reason, I am adding a picture and a video of each of the different macramé knots in this article. I would rather you have a visual reference that helps you learn than to have you miss out on pursuing a wonderful craft.

Cow Hitch Knot

The most basic macramé knot you will use is the cow hitch knot. This knot is sometimes referred to as a Lark’s Head knot. Some crafters may simply call it a hitch knot. The cow hitch knot attaches the cord you use to the rod at the top of a wall hanging. It is also a basic macramé knot used to tie the core and working cords to a ring or rod to make a plant hanger.

Double Half-Hitch Knot

The double half-hitch knot lets you create diagonal or straight lines in your macramé projects. You can make zig-zag patterns in your macramé project by doing double half-hitch knots in one direction all the way across your project and then doing the half-hitch knots in the opposite direction back to the other side. This macramé knot uses one lead cord as the fill cord, while all the other cords are working cords.

Square Knot

The square knot is not just a basic macramé knot you need to learn. It is the foundation of so many other knots and patterns in the art of macramé. The macramé square knot is often used to make bracelets because it lays flat when done properly. A row of square knots makes a strong cording system to hang heavy plants. The square knot also makes a good transition knot to another macramé knot or to switch working cords to filler cords and vice versa.

Spiral Knot

One of my favorite macramé knots is the spiral knot. This is just a half square knot repeated over and over again using the same lead cord every time. If you change lead cords, you will make a square knot instead of a spiral knot. What happens is the half knots start to twist the cords into a spiral. You can change the direction of the spiral by changing the direction that you tie the knot. You see the spiral knot in many macramé plant hanger patterns.

Wrap or Gather Knot

The wrap or gather knot is the basic macramé knot that gathers all the cords, both working and filler, together and binds them so the planter or wall hanging does not unravel. You use a separate section of cord to make the wrap or gather knot. Generally, the wrap knot is made from a two- to three-foot section of cord, depending on the number of cords you used in your macramé project.

Tips for Learning Basic Macramé Knots

You can start your macramé project using a dowel rod, a branch, or a metal or wooden ring. Wall hangings generally use a branch or dowel rod as the base where all the macramé knots get tied. The wooden or metal rings are most often used when making plant hangers. Whichever you choose, it is best to suspend the rod or ring about five feet above the floor. (You may need to go higher if you make a longer project.)

The other thing you must consider is the number of cords you are using for your project. A basic macramé knotted plant hanger uses eight to twelve cords. These cords can tangle very easily. I like to wrap my cords around my hand and then secure them into a bow shape with a rubber band. This keeps the cords from tangling as I twist and turn the working cords and the filler cords while I make the macramé knots.

You can slide beads onto the cords before you start making the macramé knots to add more interest to your project. However, pay attention to which cords are beaded. I have often put the beads on the cords only to discover that I didn’t put them on the right cords. When this happens, I must stop, remove the rubber bands, take off the beads from the wrong cord, move it to the right cord, wrap the cords with the rubber bands again and then remember which knot I was working on. It is not a big deal but frustrating, nonetheless.

I suggest that when first starting out, cut two cords of the same color and one cord each of another color. Use the matching cords as the filler cords and chose one of the other colored cords as your left lead cord. You can see how the basic macramé knots are forming by looking at the different colored cords. This also keeps the various cords from getting mixed up while you learn basic macramé knots.

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