Macramé – Where did it start?

What seems to be of consensus, Macramé is believed to have originated in 13th-century by Arab weavers. Artisans knotted the excess thread and yarn along the edges of hand-loomed fabrics into decorative fringes on bath towels, shawls, and veils.  The modern word macramé (Spanish) is derived from the Arabic migramah (مقرمة), believed to mean “striped towel”, “ornamental fringe” or “embroidered veil.”

After the Moorish conquest, the art was taken to Spain. Then onto Italy, especially in the region of Liguria, then spread through Europe. Macramé was subsequently introduced into England at the court of Mary II in the late 17th century. It is believed that Queen Mary taught the art of decorative knot-tying to her ladies-in-waiting.  Decorative knot-tying can also be traced back to third-century China on ceremonial textiles as well as wall hangings.

Sailors made macramé objects in off hours while at sea. They then sold or bartered them when they landed, thus spreading the art to places like China and the New World. Nineteenth-century British and American sailors made hammocks, bell fringes, and belts. They called the process “square knotting” after the knot they used most frequently.

Macramé in the Victorian Era

Macramé seems to have hits its peak during the Victorian era. It became massively popular with women. Even becoming part of the taught education for becoming a woman. It’s influence in society led to the rise and popularity of magazines. These and home journals gave instructions on how to craft. Nearly every fashionable house had some form of macramé adorning its interior. This technique was used to make household items such as tablecloths, bedspreads and curtains.  

macramé wall hanging

Though the craze for macramé faded, it seems that during the 1970’s it gained popularity again. Wall hangings, tablecloths, clothing and other furnishings. The New York Times even reported on a macramé Christmas tree in 1976. This revival was short-lived: it was out of fashion by the 1980s.

Current Trends

With the onslaught and ever-growing rise of social media in today’s society, macramé has become popular again.  But it appears that the trends are different this time. Conducting a simple google search will show that jewellery, such as necklaces, anklets and bracelets are now on trend.  Utilising mainly square knots this jewellery often features handmade glass beads and natural elements such as gemstones, bone or shell.


Materials used include cords made of cotton twine, linen, hemp, jute, leather or yarn.  Jewellery is often made with a combination of knots and using various beads (glass, stone or wood), pendants or shells. Sometimes focal points are used for necklaces such as rings or gemstones, either wire-wrapped to allow for securing or captured in a net-like array of intertwining overhand knots.

So that’s a brief history of how macramé was created and its influence through time. like this post then head over to our main blog page for more. Or even sign up for our monthly newsletter.

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  1. Pingback: Crochet – A Very Brief History - Correzienne Crafts

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