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Macramé: All Tied Up in Knots

In the last post, y’all got to see some efforts at jewelry making. Today, I share the results of my first attempts to make a lot of knots in a lot of pieces of yarn. Macramé.

Victoria Gertenbach, Textile Artist Extraordinaire

But first, a shout-out to my sister, Victoria Gertenbach. Happy Birthday, Vic! Victoria is not only a Virtual Troop Leader, she’s also a nationally recognized textile artist whose work has been published extensively. Visit her blog, and click on any of the many publications listed down the right side of the blog to see what I mean.

It’s particularly humbling to write about macramé as we celebrate her birth this week. I recall my sister spending a whole lot of time doing macramé in her late teens/early twenties (sorry if I’ve got the timeline wrong on that, sis). She created amazing, inventive pieces, calmly and quietly, over and over. She learned basic patterns, deconstructed them, and reconstructed them into things truly unique.

Today, it’s safe to say I more fully appreciate the work that went into them, having now tried my hand at this for some basic projects. I assumed it couldn’t be that hard (it’s just tying a bunch of knots, right?), which turns out to be a reminder that we should never assume anything.


A task for the Yarn Arts badge asks scouts to do a simple macramé project… one for the Jeweler badge requires scouts to create a piece of macramé jewelry that interweaves beads or shells… and the Art to Wear badge asks scouts to create a friendship anklet or an accessory for a friend.

So I started with the anklet. I added some of the handmade beads that hadn’t found their way into previous projects, and, as usual, turned to the Web for some basic lessons. I used the square knot and reverse square knot to come up with this little baby:

And it fits!

Truthfully, I’d always wanted an anklet like this for myself; cool girls wear them to hot and dusty music festivals, and I realized I wasn’t quite ready to part with it.

But knowing I needed to macramé some kind of “accessory” for a “friend,” I decided to try a slightly more difficult project — a dog collar for my best canine friend, Freida. A little love, from me to her.

Below are a few shots of my process.

I started with eight lengths of six yards of two colors of yarn (red and purple). The lessons I’d seen online all told me to “mentally count” the strings from left to right and assign each of them a number.

Seriously? No way could I remember that on my own. It was tough enough to keep four shorter lengths of cord in my head when I did the anklet. So I wrapped the lengths around numbered wooden sticks and suspended them from a simple spring curtain rod.

Turns out this numbering system saved my booty from total disaster. No way could I have done any of this without some kind of tracking system for the strings. I’m not that girl.

I mostly used the square knot for the collar, but I varied it up with some patterns based on ideas I saw out there.

I measured Freida’s neck and added two inches on either side (about 18 ” total). One of the recommended ways to seal the yarn ends was hot wax. Easy, smart, did it.

I used a parachute buckle for the collar, and those extra inches were slipped through the buckle and stitched down by hand (cause, ya know, it’s not like I’ve got a sewing machine… yet…). For pizzazz, I added two of those hand-made beads.

And here’s Freida, sporting her new fancy-pants special occasion neckwear:

So what’d I learn?

  • I learned that macramé is fundamentally logical, but it’s remarkably easy to screw it up big time.
  • I learned that it’s hard to make the knots appear smooth and even.
  • I re-learned that my sister has always been an awesome bad-ass.
  • And I learned that it feels really, really good to make something for a friend.

If you want some good, basic lessons online, here’s a good place to start:


5 thoughts on “Macramé: All Tied Up in Knots

  1. I think you did a great job job for your first attempts, and Frieda looks adorable in her cool collar! Thanks for all the love, it’s much appreciated! (And just for the record, I was in my early teens to late teens during this phase. Early 20’s had me weaving… which I think you will find a lot less confusing, and very relaxing.) xo

  2. I tried doing macramé in the late 70’s but I could never get the knots even. I still have a big macrame’ plant hanger from that era. It has survived because it’s a synthetic yarn rather than the jute that a lot of them were made of. I’ve had the same ivy plant in it since 1986 or 87.

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