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Macramé makes comeback in Minnesota: ‘It’s meditative and very creative’

August 10, 2018

The larks head. The square. The horizontal double half-hitch.

A group of crafters eager to learn each knot listened carefully during a recent workshop near Minneapolis Loring Park, a row of spooled cotton rope in soft shades of peach and mauve running the length of the table in front of them.

Its been decades since these knots were so studied but once again, macram is in.

I just love how it looks, said Carolyn Monke, a south Minneapolis graphic designer hoping to learn the hobby. Its just really big in home decor, and I love the texture. I need a break from the screen sometimes.

The knotty textile fad that was everywhere in the 1970s is having a major moment. Enthusiasts are buying rope in bulk, studying patterns and investing in garment racks to hold their wall hangings as they work. The less crafty are renting macram backdrops for their wedding or simply seeking out the boho decor to buy.

Urban Outfitters is selling no fewer than 20 macram items, from a $249 set of five plant hangers to a $99 metallic wall hanging to several large fringy curtains its calling portals. Anthropologie carries a $598 macram chandelier. On Instagram, #macrame pops up in more than a million posts. The macram of the moment largely uses cotton rope in white or trendy colors instead of rough jute and has more of a polished bohemian feel.

Many credit Portlands Emily Katz with spearheading the crafts revival. Katz recently published Modern Macram and sells Turkish rope spools and other supplies online. (Macram is back-ram, and this book is the Bible! designer Jonathan Adler crows on her books inside cover.)

Katz, who calls herself a lifestyle icon, teaches macram workshops around the world.

She recently led one in Minneapolis that lured more than a dozen attendees, most of whom said they followed her on Instagram and were excited about the crafts modern incarnation.

Laura Pilney, a stay-at-home grandma from Hudson, Wis., brought in pieces of driftwood from her familys lake cabin to use as a base for her knot work. When her friends first told her about the workshop, she couldnt help but think of all the really groovy macram belts and necklaces she once made for her mom as a kid.

Back then, she used shiny bright purple and red rope.

I was excited to see what it evolved into and hoping that it was a little more modern, she said of this go-round of macram. It would be fun to do some Christmas presents, although Im not sure that my kids would really want macram Christmas presents. Well see how the first one goes.

University of Minnesota medical student Mac Garrett said he first looked into macram as a way to procrastinate from studying, and has been furiously doing it ever since.

Its meditative and very creative, he said. It looks really cool and it looks like it takes a lot of work, but its very easy.

His mom, Jane Eikam, came with him to the class, even though she said wryly, I was around for the first surge.

After Katz demonstrated knots and shaping techniques, everyone got started on making wall hangings of their own. Monke quickly picked it up, remembering the skills she learned when making friendship bracelets as a kid. Its like muscle memory, she said.

That 70s craft

The craft has its origins in ancient Chinese knot work and in goods made by 13th-century weavers on the Arabian peninsula. It was spread by sailors who made and traded macram gear and it later became fashionable in Queen Marys court, Katz writes in her book.

It reappeared in the United States along with batik, decoupage and tie-dyeing in the 1960s, and became so popular it was taught in schools. It flourished at summer camps and was the subject of countless pattern books and pamphlets that helped fill homes with macram owls, plant hangers and other knotted jute decor.

In 1973, when many across the country were captivated by the craft, knot expert John Hensel praised its therapeutic benefits to the New York Times, adding, It seems that rope work isnt being taken up just by older people and children, but by young adults as well.

Macram fell out of favor in the neon and floral 1980s, but made another brief comeback in the 1990s. Hemp bracelets and necklaces were suddenly cool, and then they suddenly werent.

Its latest incarnation is connected to the current love for all things 1970s, crafts and Instagram-friendly interior decorating trends. It also appears to be linked to the well-documented millennial obsession with houseplants. (Katz, for example, has more than 100 houseplants and calls plants and macram a nice marriage.)

Two years ago, Minneapolis special education paraprofessional Sarah Dion wanted a macram hanger to help contain her own growing plant collection, but couldnt find one for sale. She decided to search online for how to make one herself, pulled up some how-to instructions in German, and figured it out. Pretty soon, she was hooked.

Now, Dion runs a macram business called Knot + Ivy as a side gig with her friend and former college roommate Emma Thompson, whose day job is in merchandising. They create large-scale tapestry backdrops for events and weddings that are for sale or rent on Etsy, collaborate with area photographers and supply stores such as Duluths Global Village with ready-made plant hangers. Their work is hanging in several local spots, including Flutter Bridal Boutique and ab bridal in Minneapolis and Edinas Glow Lounge.

Dion and Thompson like to sit and knot on the couch while they watch Netflix, they said, and enjoy teaching others how to do it during workshops around town. The only hazards are the tiny rope burns that show up in between their fingers, Dion said.

At the pop-up sale events the partners host, they inevitably end up chatting with people who rode macrams last wave.

Theres always like a grandma who will say, You can make this, but I can make a suspended table from the ceiling,andthinsp; Thompson said.

Erica Pearson 612-673-4726

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