A Short History of Macrame

Macrame, the modern art of decorating with knots, is believed to have originated with 13th-century Arabian weavers. They knotted the excess thread and yam along the edges of hand-loomed fabrics into decorative fringes on bath towels, shawls, and veils. The original meaning of the Arabic Migramah, from which the word macrame is derived, is variously rendered as "striped towel," "ornamental fringe," and "embroidered veil." As a result of the Moorish conquest the art of macrame was taken to Spain, and from there it spread throughout Europe. It was first introduced into England at the court of Queen Mary, the wife of William of Orange, in the late 17th century.

Sailors played an important part in keeping alive and spreading this exported Arab art. From China to the New World they sold or bartered their own novel macrame objects made during the long months at sea. Macrame remained a popular pastime with 19th- century British and American seamen, who called it square knotting after the knot they most preferred in making their hammocks, bell fringes, and belts.

Macrame reached its zenith during the Victorian era. Sylvia's Book of Macrame Lace, a favorite at that time, urged its readers "to work rich trimmings for black and coloured costumes, both for home wear, garden parties, seaside ramblings, and balls- fairylike adornments for household and underlinens ..." Few Victorian homes went unadorned. While the craze for macrame waned in subsequent years, it is now enjoying a renewed and widespread popularity as a technique for making wall hangings, articles of clothing, bedspreads, tablecloths, draperies, plant hangers, and other furnishings.

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