Friday, July 23, 2010

Macrame Decorative Work

Illustration: Nineteenth century macrame border fringe design.

Macrame is a form of knot work that although not strictly considered to be lace itself, is related to that discipline and was sometimes in the past known as macrame lace.

The name macrame originally comes from the Arabic migrameh which is said to denote ornamental fringe. It was used effectively in the Islamic world and is said to have originated from weavers in the thirteenth century, who got into the habit of tidying up the stray warp and weft threads of woven fabrics by tying knots that soon became more ornamental than practical in fashion. Eventually the technique progressed to such an extent that it became separated from the weaving entirely so as to become an independent craft in its own right. This form of hand knotted fringe and trimming work proved to be particularly effective and popular.

Illustration: Nineteenth century macrame border fringe with picots design.

It is thought that macrame entered Europe via Islamic Spain and it is this country that the rest of Europe tended to identify with the early stages and origins of the craft. In Europe itself, macrame was often used as a decorative finish for ecclesiastical vestments and interior fabrics. However, it was also used domestically for both interiors and costume.

The process of macrame is produced by using the fingers to tightly tie short ends of thread, either horizontally or vertically. By interweaving these knots a range of decorative pattern work can be achieved. Usually because of its nature, geometrical type pattern work is best suited as any other type or style is very difficult to achieve because of the nature of the knotting process. However, macrame is incredibly durable and versatile. Because of the variation in thickness of thread used, from near rope to silk thread, the effect can extremely wide ranging. In this respect macrame has been used for fringe and border work throughout the whole spectrum of textiles, with heavier work being produced for interior accessories, while much finer work tended to be used in fashion.

Illustration: Nineteenth century macrame border fringe with pointed scallops & large tassels design.

The Victorians were particularly taken by the craft of macrame and many specific books and guides were published throughout the era in order to both teach the fundamentals and also the more complex skills associated with the craft. As the Victorians were keen on all forms of embellishment, including trimming and fringing, the craft was obviously well suited to the era and many homes would have seemed bereft without some form of macrame craft work.

In the 1970s with a full blown craft revival in all its forms, macrame made a temporary but wide-ranging come back. A number of bright and breezy books and guides were published, many of them trying to reflect the seeming diversity and variety of macrame. However, the amateur craft tradition of this particular era did not last into the 1980s and today macrame, though still practised by some, is not considered a particularly popular textile craft. However, with yet another amateur textile craft revival taking place, macrame could well see yet another revival.

Illustration: Nineteenth century macrame border fringe design.



Illustration: Nineteenth century macrame border fringe design.


Further reading links:

13 comments:

RayG. said...

Brings back memories of the 1970's, Macrame everything!. I used to sell a lot of it...was hard to keep up with the demand...love to see it make a comeback in some form or other :). RayG

John hopper said...

you just don't know with textile crafts. Knitting has made a huge comeback and the same is being done for crochet and small scale weaving. How long they last, is another matter entirely.

Annika deGroot said...

Also, you might check out micro-macrame - which is macrame knotted on a diminutive scale - a sort of throw back to the macrame lace of the Victorians, but with more bling knotted in. It has made some headway in the handmade jewelry world in the past few years. Oh, and macrame is recognized as a lace form these days - and is quite popular in Italy. See the micro-macrame blog at:
http://micromacrame.blogspot.com

pansypoo said...

dang. my grandma would have loved to try some of those techniques.

John hopper said...

Thanks very much for the micro-macrame site. I think macrame is indeed underestimated as a craft and art form and both micro and macro macrame show great potential.

Anonymous said...

from what book did the Victorian images come from?

John hopper said...

The images come from The Dictionary of Needlework, originally published in 1882. It is the fourth link in the 'Reference links' section above.

Macrame said...

I wonder why the interest in macrame fell off after the Victorian era? I have started a macrame blog for anyone interested, it is filled with macrame patterns, instructions, knots illustrations and tips for anyone getting started.

http://www.macramelovers.com/blog/

enjoy!

John hopper said...

A lot of Victorian crafts seemed to have passed by, although they do tend to come back briefly now and again. There does seem to be a genuine interest in these crafts again including macrame, so we can only hope.

How to Macrame said...

fingers crossed!

Demure Designs said...

As Annika posted, micro-macrame has taken a new twist on the original macrame and really added some great twists to the original. You might be interested in seeing some new original patterns using micro-macrame at Demure Designs

marvinsemler said...

Macrame is so much fun! I wish it would make a comeback...I miss doing it with all of my friends! I have a macrame blog at macrame-world.com, you can check it out if you like. Have fun with Macrame!

John hopper said...

Thanks for the link on macrame. I wonder sometimes about crafts like macrame, there is no real reason why they should not be as popular and mainstream as some of the other textile crafts. There is a real interest in contemporary macrame, so perhaps its day will come.