Macramé is believed to have originated with 13th-century Arab weavers. These artisans knotted the excess thread and yarn along the edges of the hand-loomed fabric into decorative fringes on bath towels, shawls, and veils. The Spanish phrase macramé is derived from the Arabic migramah, believed to mean “striped towel”, “ornamental fringe” or “embroidered veil.”
After the Moorish conquest, the artwork was taken to Spain, then to Italy, in particular in the place of Liguria, and then spread through Europe. It was introduced into England at the court of Mary II in the late 17th century. Queen Mary taught the art of macramé to her ladies-in-waiting. Sailors made macramé objects in off hours whilst at sea, and sold or bartered them when they landed, thus spreading the artwork to places like China and the New World.
19th-century British and American sailors made hammocks, bell fringes, and belts from macramé. They called the technique “square knotting” after the knot they used most frequently. Sailors also called macramé “McNamara’s Lace”. Macramé was most famous in the Victorian era. Sylvia’s Book of Macramé Lace (1882), a favourite, showed readers how “to work rich trimmings for black and coloured costumes, both for home wear, garden parties, seaside ramblings, and balls—fairylike adornments for household and underlines ‘’Most Victorian homes were adorned by this craft. Macramé was used to make household objects such as tablecloths, bedspreads and curtains.
Though the craze for macramé faded, it regained popularity at some point of the 1970s as a means to make wall hangings, articles of clothing, bedspreads, small jean shorts, tablecloths, draperies, plant hangers and different furnishings. By the early 1980s macramé had again begun to fall out of fashion as a decoration trend.
However macramé has become popular again. This time in the form of jewellery, such as necklaces, anklets and bracelets. Using mostly rectangular knots this jewellery frequently features handmade glass beads and natural elements such as gemstones, bone or shell. Materials used in macramé include cords made of cotton twine, linen, hemp, jute, leather or yarn. Jewellery is regularly made with a combination of knots and the usage of various beads (glass, stone or wood), pendants or shells. Sometimes focal points are used for necklaces such as rings or gemstones, both wire-wrapped to permit for securing or captured in a net-like array of intertwining overhand knots.
An elaborately patterned lacelike webbing made of hand-knotted cord, yarn, or the like, and used for wall decorations, hanging baskets, garments, accessories, etc.