This isn't your mother's macrame.
The knot-tying craft's modern rebirth is definitely more refined and chic. Gone is the scratchy brown jute twine in favor of soft, cream-colored cotton fiber. Pieces are still distinctly bohemian and nature-inspired, but design creativity is unlimited. Potted plant hangers abound, yet wooden bead-eyed owls remain a relic of a bygone era.
Some argue we can blame macrame's return on millennials and their penchant to DIY almost everything in their homes, but the craft's resurgence has many connections, perhaps most notably the current revival of houseplant collecting. Decorating's embrace of neutral palettes and texture-filled spaces, paired with the resurgence of other fiber arts — embroidery, sewing, felting, weaving, knitting and crocheting — and even hobbies-turned-side gigs have also helped push macrame back into relevance.
By current indications, the fairly uncomplicated craft based on the tying of various knots is here to stay a while, made more accessible than ever through a wealth of online tutorials.
If that's not your learning style, two Spokane women are not only selling their hand-knotted fiber wares — from commissioned wall hangings to ready-to-hang planters — but also host regular macrame workshops.
Annecia Paulson's craftsman home in the Garland District is filled with house plants. The leafy green progeny perch in pots in bright sunny corners, line window sills in pretty glass containers and hang from the ceiling in textural macrame hangers she's created.
Paulson's desire to learn macrame came from necessity.
"I wanted more plants in my house, so I taught myself to make some plant hangers," she recalls.
She made her first piece, a small wall-hanging attached to a lichen-adorned tree branch, three years ago after watching a tutorial on YouTube. Now, Paulson has incorporated her practice-honed knack for knotting into her terrarium and plant business, Sage + Moss Designs.
Locals can find Paulson's plant hangers, terrariums and other macrame pieces at the Pop Up Shop in downtown Spokane, and online at sageandmossdesigns.com. She's currently prepping for the big Farm Chicks Vintage & Handmade Fair in June, and Terrain's Bazaar a few weeks later. A rack in her home's bright basement is loaded with handmade plant hangers ($30 each or $40 with a plant) and stunning oversized wall hangings that will be available at Sage & Moss's booth during both events.
For fellow DIY-ers who'd rather make their own macrame masterpiece, Paulson regularly hosts workshops ($35-$40) in Spokane, providing hands-on instruction and all supplies.
"People are really excited. It's really encouraging because they get to go home with a finished project and I love that," she reflects. "I have a few students who have continued macrame and are even selling it."
Laurie Ann Greenberg has been playing with fiber for as long as she can remember, starting with knitting when she was six or seven. Learning macrame decades later was a natural progression for the artist, who also makes and sells her large macrame wall hangings, plant hangers and commissioned pieces to customers near and far. Greenberg also teaches classes at her East Spokane home and occasionally at local businesses.
"[Macrame] is very much like knitting, it's very meditative and creative and there's an infinite amount of possibilities," Greenberg says. "And with Instagram, I have seen in the last year how exponentially it's exploded."
Most macrame designs are based around a basic square knot. Greenberg recommends beginners start with something small, like a plant hanger, which she teaches for many of her workshops ($55-$65). For updates on her upcoming macrame classes, follow @fourstrands4 on Instagram.
"Large pieces are not necessarily harder, just a lot more knots, time and more rope," she says. "You don't have to know a lot to make something really beautiful."
Locals can spot some of Greenberg's macrame pieces on display and for sale at local businesses, including Ladder Coffee, Boutique Bleu and 1889 Salvage Co., the latter of which sells macrame garland kits (ideal for beginners) that come with instructions and materials.
Drawing upon her deep background in knitting and fiber arts, Greenberg often incorporates other materials, like unspun wool, and weaving into her macrame pieces to create a unique blending of techniques. The artist's home is filled with original pieces of art, macrame of all types included.
Though many of us associate macrame with the boho bonanza of the 1970s, the art of knotting rope and other fibers to create pieces from vests to bags, hammocks to wall hangings, dates back centuries.
The artform is believed to have originated in the 13th century in the name of function, versus fashion. Decorative knots at the heart of macrame, used to secure the ends of woven textiles, were also picked up and improvised upon by sailors across cultures. Already skilled at tying crucial knots, seamen took to the artform out of boredom and even sold pieces when their ships docked. Macrame also became an in-vogue hobby for women in Victorian England.
Its popularity and prevalence has waxed and waned throughout centuries, so why now, again?
"Personally, I love texture in my home. To have that cotton hanging on your wall provides a really nice, comforting texture," Sage & Moss owner Paulson explains. "In the '60s and '70s they used jute, and it can look really harsh. The white is more pleasing to the eye and it can blend in easily with your surroundings."
Greenberg notes the accessibility for macrame artists to share original designs online, thus inspiring others.
"In the '70s you were just in your own community, and you couldn't find out what someone across the country was doing. Now that we're so globally connected, I think that creativity has expanded and exploded," she says.
Simultaneously, Greenberg sees macrame — a tangible craft easily learned from other makers — as a way to connect with others.
"People want to connect. We're all wanting to be a part of something. I think macrame or any craft can bring people together." ♦