Wool in Craft: Macramé

Growing up in the early 80s, I had an aunt who was obsessed with macramé. No plant sat on a shelf; they all dangled from elaborately knotted hangers from the ceiling. Her purse was macramé lined with bright orange fabric. The walls were festooned with macramé hangings. She had a macramé skirt and all sorts of macramé bracelets, headbands, and necklaces.

One summer, her family rented a cabin by a lake somewhere in the woods of New England and she had her brother–my father–bring me and my brothers up for a week of pseudo-summer camp fun, mostly swimming and playing games with missing pieces and staying up too late listening to music and laughing with our cousins.

While we were there, she taught me the basics of macrame, and I made a single, solitary plant holder before calling it good and heading back to the lake.

Macramé faded away into craft obscurity along with the last of the bell bottoms and leisure suits. Thankfully, leisure suits have never made a comeback, thought bell bottoms eventually returned in a more subdued form as boot-cut jeans.

No plant went unhung through the 70s and early 80s, thanks to macramé.

Likewise, macramé has returned as an understated version of its old self. My aunt’s materials were vivid acrylic cords in bright blues and glaring oranges. In the modern world of Instagram influencers, supplies tend to be more natural in appearance, often natural shades of cotton cords. Sometimes the designs hang from scavenged sticks or incorporate feathers and leaves. And some macramé artists have turned their sights to wool.

Wool is incorporated into macramé in two forms: roving or yarn. Roving, a fluffy and cleaned but unspun wool fiber, can add voluminous elements to a macramé design. The crimp of the wool fibers allows it to support itself to a degree, and artists can use this aspect of the material to create shapes that would succumb to gravity if they were made from cotton or acrylic.

Wool yarn or cording, a denser braided type of yarn, can be used to form knots in the same way that cotton or acrylic cord can, only the nature of wool means that the knots have a softer appearance. And should the artist so desire, the ends of the yarn or cording can be unravelled to create an effect similar to one achieved with roving.

Those of us of a certain age may mainly remember macramé as a craft for the home, but it can be used to create clothing, too, and opting for wool can create softer, more pliable clothing than cotton or acrylic. It imbues the item with all of its other positive clothing qualities, such as temperature regulation, softness, and a lowered need to launder.

A simple macramé leaf worked in wool yarn.

Making the switch to wool for macramé is easier than ever, with several manufacturers offering wool roving and cord marketed specifically for the craft. Or, if you’d like to give it a go with what you might already have on hand, experiment with various weights and types of wool yarn to see which works best for your desired macramé project. A simple google search turns up a hefty supply of YouTube and blog tutorials for beginner and stash-busting projects that call for yarn rather than specialized cording.

Whether it’s chunky yarn for a bold, textured look or finer yarn for intricate knotwork, wool can bring a unique touch to your macramé artistry.