Thursday, March 30, 2006

A New Twist On Macrame

Charlotte Observer | 03/23/2006 | A new twist on macram�

A new twist on macram�
Innovative materials enliven an old fashion
SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
Associated Press

When you hear the word "macrame," do images of 1960s-style wall hangings dance in your head?

Today there's a wide world of macrame that has nothing to do with hippies and hemp.

The friendship bracelets that neighborhood girls give to each other? They're macrame. So are some pretty cool trims for lampshades and curtains, and top fashion designers are embracing macram� for straps, belts and other adornments. Macram� fits into both the artisan and nautical trends spotted on the spring runways.

Hannah Milman, crafts editorial director at Martha Stewart Living, explains: "Macrame falls under the category of textile making, using knots rather than weaving or knitting to create a textile out of string, yarn or twine."

Most woven fabrics are done on a loom, but macram� typically is done with cords looped around dowels or pins tacked onto a foam board.

The knots range from the most simple -- square knots like sailors do -- to intricate Chinese-style knots.

It's become common to add beads, shells or other embellishments between knots to make the macram� more decorative. Also, while that natural hemp or cotton string is still used, so are delicate velvet ribbons, leather, natural raffia silk and dyed twine.

No matter what the material, multiply the length of whatever you're making by four (and add a little extra for finishing off the ends) for each strand. If you want to add width, increase the number of strands.

If you're making a belt to wear with jeans, Milman advises taking the dimensions of your waist, adding 12 inches and then multiplying that number by 4. That's for each cord.

Be generous, because you can always cut but you can't add on once the project is in progress.

This might seem complicated, but it's not -- once you start knotting, Milman promises.

"Macram� isn't hard. It's why you see little kids selling macram� friendship bracelets. It's something you can do with a ball of twine and a few beads," she says.

"All the fashion designers today probably remember doing macram� as kids at summer camp."

If you take the time to look at the weave of a macram� item, you'll see a beautiful pattern that also adds texture to an outfit, says Melody Kulp, founder and creative director of Sweetees.

She says stores can't keep in stock the brown, peach and green macram� belts she paired with solid soft-knit dresses and pants this season.

"If you really wanted to, you could make it yourself," says Kulp, "but our macram� belt has fusing inside. It's not as easy as it looks. But if you're a crafty person, I'm sure you could do it."

Indeed, belts and bracelets are easy and satisfying projects to start with, says Milman, and it won't take long to move on to a choker necklace with some semiprecious stones, gold beads or rhinestones.

Instructions and patterns seem readily available. A quick Internet search turns up dozens of macram� Web sites, mostly run by devoted crafters, and there are several good books. They were published in the 1960s and '70s, but the directions remain the same.

The idea is to use new materials and an old technique.

Yay! I can not begin to tell you how happy I am to read this. I have really noticed an increase of traffic even to this blog over the past few months - we may be taking our time, but we definitely are growing in numbers :-)