CRAFT: Why Knot

Updated: Mar 4

Our in-house crafter (read expert knot maker) makes macramé easy with these step-by-step instructions for a planter. —INGRAIN, Summer 2019



STORY / Aj Rahm


“Fiber art” is having a moment. From weavings to banners to pennants, anything fringed, knotted, or tied is tight.


Walk into Anthropologie or a similar hipster clothing/home-goods store, and you’ll see mass produced artisan décor dripping all over the displays. And really, it’s not just fiber that’s trending. Millennials have caught the creative bug, inspiring an entire movement of crafters, artisans, and DIY makers who transform hobbies into handmade businesses.


This is all lucky for me because I am a) a millennial, b) relatively crafty, and c) always eagerly trying to knock off a seemingly handmade product available for sale at a major big-box store. Seriously, ask a friend of mine how many times I’ve stopped them from making a purchase with my sneaky catchphrase, “I could make that!” (only to have their hopes slowly crushed by my overly ambitious, self-imposed deadlines).


Trying out new kinds of crafting hobbies is my way of keeping from becoming stale. I’ve done painting, sewing, beading, embroidery, ceramics—you name it. One of my favorite experiments lately has been macramé. Harkening back to my days of doling out friendship bracelets and hemp necklaces to acquaintances, I’ve been using the same knots I’ve known since childhood to create all kinds of décor for myself and friends. (I have since learned that the phrase “that’s tight” does not refer to a snug fit when presenting a handmade hemp necklace to a friend’s brother; “Oh, I can change the size if you want!”)


WHY MACRAMÉ?


The macramé process of knotting cords or rope is both relaxing and inspiring; it’s also a great creative outlet. (Cotton cord is especially forgiving, as it allows for small mistakes to go unnoticed, while bigger mistakes become “artistic choices.”) The beauty of macramé: It’s based on a basic foundation of knots created with infinite combinations, so you can make virtually any type of artwork you’re inspired to produce. I’ve made wall hangings, key chains, a light installation, and even a backdrop for a friend’s wedding.


Some of my favorite projects have also been the easiest to make. Once you get the pattern down, you can make a basic hanging planter in less than an hour that’s cute and stylish—and all you need is a handful of cotton cord and a basic knowledge of a couple of knots. Imagine the possibilities in a single afternoon; you can make several of these for housewarming gifts, stocking stuffers, or just for yourself (macramé hanging planters are a fancy way to dress up an average houseplant). And after mastering the basic design template, it’s easy to come up with new variations and let your creative juices flow. Just pop on the latest season of Game of Thrones, crack open a cold beer, and get crafting.


TIPS


  • Maintaining a little tension in the cords is helpful when making knots; find something to hang your work from as you go. I like to use an inexpensive clothing rack, but a camera tripod, the back of a chair, or a similar tall, solid structure will also work.

  • Measuring your rope can be tricky, and there isn’t one “right” way to do it. The amount of rope you need depends on the complexity of your pattern (how many knots you’ll be making) and how long you want the finished piece to be.

  • If you’re not sure how much rope to use, err on the side of caution and cut more than you think you’ll need. You can always trim off the excess later; it’s difficult to add extra rope to a work in progress.

  • Using different-colored cords on your first macramé attempt can be helpful as you get the hang of the knotting process. A cord with a firmer texture is helpful too (not something floppy like yarn); I prefer ropes made from natural materials with little to no stretch.

SUPPLIES

8 strands of 10-foot-long cord*

2 strands of 2-foot-long cord

1 metal ring (2 to 3 inches)


TOOLS

Scissors


*I prefer 3-ply cotton cords (2 to 3 mm thick); you can use other fibers.


Note: This hanging planter fits a pot roughly 6 inches in diameter.


1. SET UP THE CORDS

Gather your supplies; you’ll need all the cords within reach as you work. (1) Pull all eight of the 10-foot cords halfway through the metal ring so you have the same amount of material (5 feet) on each side of the ring. (2) Make a loop at the end of one 2-foot cord (it will look like one half of a shoelace loop or bow). With one hand, hold this half bow just beneath the metal ring so the long, dangling end of the cord hangs downward. (3)


2. SECURE THE TOP


Now wrap the dangling end of the 2-foot cord around all of the other cords so they are held together. (4) Keep wrapping this shorter cord around the longer ones, moving downward as you work. (Go slowly and keep a firm grip.) When this looping pattern is 2 to 3 inches long, take the end of the shorter rope (hanging downward) and tuck it through the loop. (5) Then grab the loose end of the cord that’s sticking out near the metal ring and pull up firmly (this should require a little force). (6) Cut off any excess cord. (7)

Now wrap the dangling end of the 2-foot cord around all of the other cords so they are held together. (4) Keep wrapping this shorter cord around the longer ones, moving downward as you work. (Go slowly and keep a firm grip.) When this looping pattern is 2 to 3 inches long, take the end of the shorter rope (hanging downward) and tuck it through the loop. (5) Then grab the loose end of the cord that’s sticking out near the metal ring and pull up firmly (this should require a little force). (6) Cut off any excess cord. (7)


–If the cord near the metal ring is too easy to pull, you need to go back and start the looping pattern again. (Make the loops with more force so they are tighter.)


3. MAKE THE KNOTS


Divide the long strands hanging through either side of the metal ring into 4 groupings with 4 cords in each. (8) In the first group of cords, grab the cord on the right; this is Cord A. Drape Cord A over the center cord in the shape of a backward number 4. (9) Hold Cord A while you grab the cord on the left; this is Cord B. Drape Cord B over the loose “tail,” or end, of Cord A by going under the center cord. Bring Cord B up through the top opening of the “4” shape that you made with Cord A. (10) What you'll be left with is something that looks like a little twist, and pull it tight. (11) You’ll notice that the cord that was formerly on the left is now on the right. This is your first knot!


–You are basically making a simple over-under motion to create this knot. The middle cord is your constant, so use it to help guide you.


4. REPEAT THE KNOTS

Repeat this pattern on the same grouping of 4 cords that you knotted in Step 3. (12) Do this 3 to 4 times until the knotted section you are creating is 1 to 2 inches long, whichever you prefer. Now repeat this pattern with the remaining 3 groups of 4 cords until you have knotted them all. (13)


–The knot pattern should extend roughly the same length down each grouping of cords (1 to 2 inches) so your plant hangs evenly.


5. MOVE DOWN CORDS, REPEAT

Return to your first series of knots and repeat the same knotting process, only this time do not pull the knots snugly all the way to the top of the cords to tighten them. Leave about 6 inches of space below your top knot pattern. (14) Do this for each of the 4 groupings of cords. (15) Repeat the process so you have 2 or 3 knot patterns running down each grouping, depending on how long you would like your planter to hang. (16)


–You can eyeball the length between the groupings of knots; just look at the one you completed previously.


6. JOIN THE SECTIONS

Take the cord that is farthest on the right and the one that is farthest on the left (among all groupings of cords), and put those two cords together toward the center. Think of these united cords as your new Center Cord. (17) Then, using the former center cords from each section as your new right and left cords, repeat the same series of knots to connect each group of cords and make the base of the planter. (18) Continue knotting until you’ve merged all sides together.


–This process often sounds more complicated than it is; take a step back as you work. You’ll see the planter is starting to come together.


7. CROSS THE SECTIONS AGAIN

Repeat the process of joining together each section with knots, as you did in Step 6. (You’re making a web of knots to form another layer of the planter.) (19)


–The distance between these joined sections determines what size pot the hanger will be able to accommodate. Change them up to fit pots of different sizes.


8. WRAP IT UP

To close the bottom of the hanger where the pot will rest, gather together all of the loose ends of the longer cords roughly 3 inches below your final grouping of knots. (20) Make a half bow with the unused 2-foot rope (Step 1), and repeat the wrapping process (Step 2) until the looping pattern is 2 to 3 inches long. (21) Take the loose end and stick it through the open loop, as you did before, and pull until snug. Trim all loose ends. (22) Fit any potted plant snugly inside the new hanging planter you’ve made, hang it up, and admire your work!


Still feeling crafty? Check out some more DIY projects here and here.