Macrame is the art and craft of decorative knotting. Some twine and a few basic knots are all a hobbyist needs to explore the possibilities of constructing jewelry, clothing, wall hangings, or plant holders. In the 1970s, the American craze for this craft was preceded by hundreds of years of Chinese macrame. Now, Western macrame attracts fiber artists, sewers, and creative crafters.
Chinese macrame differs from modern macrame in a few key respects. First, there is only one piece of string folded in half, such that two strings enter the knot and two exit at the bottom. Also, the pieces are always symmetrical and double-sided, so they leave a pouch in the center. People store semi-precious stones, carvings, or even fruit within the knotted folds. Some decorative knot names are Monkey's Fist, Double Coin, and Good Luck.
Western macrame involves many threads of different colors or textures. From the endless kinds of twine, you can choose hemp, silk, yarn, embroidery floss, cord, precious metal thread, wool, or even ordinary kite string. The weave, color, stiffness, and width will all affect the look of the finished macrame. Also, you can add accessories within the knotted pattern to thematize your work. Many crafters collect beads, charms, seashells, and tassels made of ceramic, glass, metal, or plastic to accentuate their pieces.
The basic supplies to begin macrame are a knotting board, T-pins, a pattern, and twine. The knotting board, a flat piece of cardboard, cork, or foam, will hold and stretch the first "holding" string horizontally, so the other vertical threads hang down at a right angle. As the knots emerge, T-pins can hold the design at certain intervals to keep it even, flat, and symmetrical, since the knots have some flexibility. With just a few simple knots you probably already know how to tie, you can make a belt or wall hanging.
Most everyday knots can be traced back to sailors entertaining themselves with extra rope during long months at sea. A half-knot is the first thing you do in tying a shoelace. A square knot is what most people think of when they hear "knot," two half-knots in opposite directions. A double half-hitch, a variation on a square knot, is where one string bears the knot and the other string wraps around it. An overhand knot is accomplished with just one string, where you make a looped knot onto itself. Once you have mastered these types of knots, you can investigate more complicated ones or just make up your own!