The ancient art of macrame is all over our feeds right now. Follow this step-by-step guide by macrame maker, Emily Otchie, to get to grips with knotting and weaving at home.
Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.
Macrame is an ancient art with a very current following. The irresistible bohemian textile full of artfully tangled knots and fringing has been weaving its way across our feeds – 314 million people have watched macrame videos on TikTok – while designers from Chanel to Giorgio Armani have incorporated it into their collections.
Despite this resurgence, macrame isn’t a new trend. In fact, the art of weaving ropes into layered, fringed designs goes back to the third century when Chinese weavers began to create decorative knots. While 13th century Arabic weavers used ornamental knots to tie up loose ends of rope and other textiles.
For macrame designer-maker, Emily Otchie, it’s no surprise the art form has stood the test of time. “Macrame is wonderful escapism. It’s a slow, meditative process that gives you time out where you don’t have to think about work or daily life,” she says. “You can also make practical things like plant hangers and bags – so it’s useful as well as beautiful.”
Emily studied textile design at university and taught herself macrame after graduating in 2014. Her Instagram account, @emilyvoo_, is full of delicate, joyful designs from colourful rainbow wall hangings to intricate plant hangers full of winding twists and weaves.
“There’s a real sense of accomplishment in using your hands to make something out of nothing,” says Emily. “Macrame is great for beginners because you don’t really need a lot to get started. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can be as creative and inventive as you like.”
Here, Emily shares a step-by-step guide for creating a macrame wall hanging at home, as well as her top tips for beginners.
What you’ll need
- 30cm wooden dowel (long cylindrical wooden pole) or branch
- 30m of 5mm cotton cord
Know your knots
Larks head knot
- Fold the cord in half.
- Find the centre.
- Fold the loop over the dowel.
- Reach from the back and pull the cords through the loop.
- Start with the left cord over the two middle cords, then under the right cord to make a figure four.
- Take the right cord and go behind the middle cords. Then go back through the left side of the figure four.
- Pull to the top and tighten by pulling the cords outwards.
- Repeat the steps again, but this time start with the right cord going over the middle cords, then the left cord going under the middle cords.
Diagonal clove hitch knot
- Lay the first cord on a left diagonal across the other cords. We will now call this diagonal cord the ‘filler cord’. The cord that is now the first hanging cord will be the ‘working cord’.
- Loop the working cord over the filler cord.
- Pass the cord from back to front through the working cord.
- Adjust the loop to the top of the cord.
5. Loop the cord around the filler cord again, so twice in total.
6. Tighten and adjust to the top of the cord.
7. The next cord that has not been looped is now the working cord, repeat the process until you get to the middle.
How to make a macrame wall hanging
1. Cut the rope into 12 lots of 250cm strands.
2. Use the larks head knot to attach the strands to the wooden dowel.
3. Square knot all 12 cords to make six square knots.
4. Use the last two cords and the first two cords of the first two square knots to create a square knot between the two square knots. This will create five square knots.
5. Repeat the process of taking the last two and first two cords of the line above the square knots. The amount of square knots will decrease by one each time, creating a triangle.
6. Use a diagonal clove hitch knot along the left-hand side towards the middle. Do the same on the right-hand side towards the middle. Then make one extra diagonal clove hitch knot on the side you finish on to seal the triangle.
7. Repeat this twice.
8. Start the square knots again below the first triangle. Begin from the centre and work outwards to make sure the square knots are straight and in line.
9. When you are happy with the design trim the remaining hanging cords into a ‘V’ shape cutting diagonally from the middle. Ensure it is even on either side.
10. When you’re happy with your design, hang up on your wall and enjoy!
Emily’s tips for macrame beginners
Find the perfect spot to hang your ropes from
Before you begin your macrame project, you’ll need somewhere to hang your ropes. This will allow you to pull on the ropes and increase the tension on your design. “When I first started macrame I used the curtain pole from my window and stood on my bed to do it,” says Emily. “You can be quite creative about it.”
Emily suggests using a clothes rail if you’re going to be making macrame regularly. “It makes a huge difference to have something sturdy to hang from,” she says.
Pick the right rope
Cotton rope is the best type for beginners and it comes in different thicknesses for different projects. For example, a plant hanger will usually use 3mm rope, while macrame artwork might use a really thick 10mm rope.
You can buy cotton rope from most independent craft shops. “I like to look out for recycled rope,” says Emily.
If you don’t have professional equipment, adapt
Macrame only requires a few basic tools, many of which you can improvise from things you already have at home. Emily suggests using a pet comb to run through the rope as you make your piece. “Combing out the fringing of your design spreads out the fibres and prevents tangles and knots,” says Emily. “A soft-bristled pet brush works really well.”
Most macrame pieces will need a wooden dowel (a long, cylindrical piece of wood) that you can tie your rope to. You can buy these from craft and DIY shops, or even use a stick. “There are lots of free materials out there,” says Emily. “I’ve been on runs before and seen a really cool long stick, which I’ve stopped to take home and sand down.”
Learn the basic knots and go from there
As soon as you’ve learned the essential macrame knots you’ll be able to make a whole range of designs. “Once you know the basic knots you can adapt them in different ways,” says Emily. “You only need to learn a couple of different ones and then depending on the way you repeat them you can make different interesting patterns out of them.”
Once you’ve mastered the basics you can get creative by adding different materials and textures to your designs. “I like to weave in sari silk and experiment with different materials like metallic rope and beads,” says Emily.
You can buy Emily’s macrame designs or make an enquiry about a custom-made piece on her website, Emily Voo. Find more expert-led guides and tutorials by signing up to The Curiosity Academy newsletter.
Images: Emily Otchie
Emily Otchie, macrame designer-maker
Emily Otchie is a macrame designer and maker with a degree in textile design. She sells macrame designs, including plant hangers, bags and wall hangings on her website, Emily Voo.