L. Neil Smith's
The Miracle of Macramé
by David M. Brown
Exclusive to TLE
Macramé is all about knots. It is the art of making things out of knots, things with lanterns. The knots are yarn-based. Macramé is a species of lace work.
Macramé is an ancient art. It goes back to the Arabs of the thirteenth century. Then it infiltrated Europe. Now people do it in the U.S. too. Macramé is not just for sissies, although it mostly is. Even sailors have indulged in macramé to while away the time during long voyages. Not so much these days, though. Also, sailors don't get scurvy as much as they used to. There is a clear correlation between the degree to which sailors are no longer doing macramé and the lack of scurvy. While some say that there is a causal relationship as well, others say that there is no causal relationship.
People make all kinds of things using macramé. Craft-wise, it's like Legos or Tinker Toys, except using knots instead of Legos or Tinker Toys. People do macramé to make: blankets, sweaters, shawls, foot cozies, lantern covers, mittens, plant hangers, and the Linux operating system, with varying degrees of success.
According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, "The craft revival of the 1960s brought the technique to life after decades of obscurity." (Why is this so easy to believe?) One thing that is very obvious about macramé is that people who are doing macramé are not doing something else instead. They might want to think about this.
Macramé can be risky. According to one anonymous testifier (see http://www.catenema.com/macrame.html), it may even be deadly. This person's story may not be true. However, even if false, it's a good example of the kind of thing that can happen.
The person in question first attempted macramé when he was 12 years old, an age when people are especially susceptible and impressionable. It was his Aunt Eileen who taught him the art one summer, during a visit. When he returned home, he in all innocence continued to make macramé, liking it very much. Then disaster struck.
"I was working on an owl that I was especially proud of when it occurred to me that the cord was much too frayed and fringed and needed to be cleaned up a bit. I decided to try another innovation, which was to burn off the fringes with a lighted match. I lit a match, and touched it to the frayed area on the owl, which was hanging on my wall at the time. POOF! The owl went up in flames! I panicked and tried to pat out the fire with my hands but the brittle, dry macramé cord was fully ablaze within a few seconds."
While this practitioner of macramé survived the attack, he was understandably traumatized.
"I didn't macramé again for the next 15 years or so. Then, one crisp spring day in 1992, I decided to get back on the horse that threw me. I invited a bunch of my friends over, bought some cord, beads and a pattern book, and we spent a fun day making macramé plant hangers. I made three of them in one day, and they turned out great. I proudly hung my three new plant hangers on my front porch, with nice plants in each of them. Then, the next day, somebody stole all three hangers. I gave up. No more macramé for me, ever. It's just not worth it."
Macramé is thus associated with fire, theft, and perhaps other bad things. Although, as a craft, it seems peaceful and even boring, any bit of macramé could burst into flames at any moment if you light it with a match; and it is very possible that things left on a porch that are macramé-made could be stolen.
In closing, let me say that I will be happy to entertain any objections to my interpretation of macramé, alternative perspectives on this ancient art, and so forth. Also, let me stress that in making these comments about macramé, I speak only for myself, and not for any organization or movement.