History of Macramé: The Origin of the Hipster Trend

Macramé has become one of the biggest trends in the world in the last few years. There’s good reason for that, too- macramé is easy to make, and it’s a laid-back, natural art form. It makes your home décor feel relaxed, stylish, and fun and can add real texture to walls.

So, where did macramé come from, and who exactly is responsible for this awesome fiber art form? Check out our brief history of Macrame, and see some cool examples of how it’s changed through time!

yellow macrame hanging on a white wall
Photo from Elena Putina.

What is Macramé?

Macramé is a popular homemade fiber art that involves tying knots with cotton cord. The knots vary in complexity, and there are hundreds of different items you can make using macramé techniques. Some of the most popular home decor items are decorative wall hangings, plant hangers, and chairs/swings.

Small macrame hanging in a room with art and plants
This macrame wall hanging fits perfect in a cozy, eclectic room! Photo from Etsy.

These days, Macramé is big with the DIY/crafty crowd because it’s extremely easy to get started. There are many ways to learn it, and the costs of making it are pretty low compared to other crafts.

Typically, people who admire the boho chic decor style, as well as the seventies retro style, are likely to employ macramé in their homes. It’s not just for bohemians and disco chicks, though. Macramé decor can be a great compliment to minimalist, mid-century, and even farmhouse decorating styles!

woven macrame coaster on a wooden table
Macrame is incredibly versatile- just check out this chic coaster! Photo from Susan Wilkinson.

Who Invented Macrame?

That’s a tough question to answer, since record-keeping back then wasn’t concerned with fiber art!

However, it is possible to trace the history of macrame through time. The best guess as to the origin of macrame places us in Arabia in the 13th century. The word “macrame” is thought to have come from the Arabic word for fringe: “migramah”.

There are also traces of early macramé knot-tying in depictions of Assyrian and Babylonian history, meaning the origins of macramé could date back even further than we think. However, the popularity of macramé as textile art is most likely attributable to those 13th century artisans, and one other group of people that might surprise you…

Sailors: The Original Macramé Hobbyists

ancient macrame weaving
Ancient Macramé was decorative and functional. Image Courtesy of Worthpoint.

While they never got to sell their work on Etsy, sailors in medieval times needed ways to keep from going crazy with boredom at sea. Since they were already skilled knot-tiers by trade, and they likely had lots of junk rope laying around, macrame became their pastime!

Over the years, sailors invented newer and more complex knots, and after their work entered the marketplaces at different ports across the world, the trend took hold.

Classic Macrame knots and patterns from ancient times
Watch this video on YouTube.

When did Macrame Become Popular?

Now that you know who invented macramé, it’s time to get to the next part of our journey!

Victorian England

Fiber art took off in the 18th and 19th century, in England primarily, but also around the world. Victorian England was covered in macramé; Queen Mary II even taught it to her ladies-in-waiting!

Vintage macrame from the Victorian age
Woven fiber art such as this was all the rage in Victorian England! Image from Hunker.

It was especially popular with middle class homes, since it was an art form that could be taken up by any wife or mother. As a result, these homes were adorned with doilies, tablecloths, and window treatments – all made from macrame!

Fiber art was en vogue for a long time, but it gradually faded as decorating trends shifted more toward intricate, fine craftsmanship. Macrame all but disappeared for more than a century, until it came back with ferocity in…

1970’s America

This is the time period that most people think of when they hear the word “macrame”. The massive hippie movement, as it carried into the seventies, created the perfect storm for a macrame popularity explosion!

Red woven window hanging from the 1970s
In the 70s, groovy macrame was all the rage, like this window treatment! Photo from Etsy.

In this decade, macrame was used for everything from home decor to purses, sweaters, and even flip-flops! Macrame fit in with the counter-cultural aesthetic because it represented a rejection of mass-produced, unethical manufacturing.

Macrame’s homemade, earthy vibes were a perfect fit for anyone who went against the cultural and political grain of the decade. America was dealing with the Vietnam war, oil shortages, and economic strife.

So, naturally, when people went to decorate their home or shop for something new to wear, they went with items that didn’t represent any of that. Macrame was an obvious, stylish, and effortlessly chic choice for many people!

1970s macrame wall hanging
Wall hangings like this were natural and represented a counter-cultural mindset in the 1970s. Photo from Pinterest.

Five Cool Modern Macrame Ideas

Today, macrame is experiencing something of a renaissance. It’s trendy with all sorts of people, and doesn’t show any signs of stopping! Plus, nowadays, there are tons of awesome places to learn macrame for free! To close out this article on the origin of macrame, let’s look at some awesome modern ideas!

1. Giant Wall Hanging

Modern detailed macrame hanging
Giant Natural Wall Hanging, from Etsy.

First off, we have the classic wall hanging. The best thing about macrame wall hangings is that no two are the same! They’re a wonderful, understated way of decorating your walls! They look great in every room.

Plant Hangers

small plant hanging in a woven basket
Modern Macrame Plant Hanger, from Pinterest.

Plant hangers will never, ever get old! They’re simple, easy to hang, and look so much better than boring black wire or chain!

3. Macrame Shelves

Shelves made from macrame on a wall
Cool, bohemian-style shelves. Picture from Annisa Ica.

These shelves are an easy way to create storage space that fits your bohemian or farmhouse style decor!

4. Hanging Lanterns

Macrame lantern hanging on a green wall
Modern Hippie Lantern Hanging, from Pinterest.

This super cool hanging lantern will add tons of style, and really cool light, to your home!

5. Cute Macrame Blooms

small macrame flower tied to old piece of driftwood
Handmade macrame flowers, from Etsy.

Macrame patterns can be used to make all sorts of interest creations, like these cute blooming flowers!

Conclusion

The history of macrame extends back centuries, much farther than the 1970’s trend we remember. From 13th century Arabia, to globe-trotting sailors, to Victorian England, Macrame has had quite the journey!

Did you learn anything new about macrame? Feeling inspired to learn macrame for yourself? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

modern macrame wall hanging
Image from Annisa Ica.

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  1. Pingback: Macrame Ideas To Add A Little Boho To Your Vibe - Wild River Workshop

  2. Pingback: Popular Seventies Decorating Styles that Hold Up Today - Wild River Workshop

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