macrame rainbow

By Michael Gabrielle

Thanks for celebrating Pride Month with me and Jenny Lemons!

For this project, we’ll be making macrame rainbows. Macrame is an artform that uses rope and knot tying to create elaborate designs and art pieces, like wall tapestries and plant hangers. 

 Making macrame is a meditative experience for me, an exercise in patience and creativity. In both the process and the product, macrame is intricate and calming all at once. It might seem like a tedious or tiring art form, but with just a few simple knots (and a little bit of perseverance!) you will certainly find the beauty and serenity in making macrame.  

 This project only uses two knots: the Gathering Knot and the Spiral Knot. It’s quick to whip up and a perfect way to bring a little bit of color and joy into your space. Let’s get started!


Gather Your Materials

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SHOP MACRAME SUPPLIES


Rope measurements:

Before you begin, you need to cut your ropes.

Inner arch:  completed arch length is about 17 inches.  To make this, cut your rope at the following lengths: 

  • Two pieces at: ~27 inches (these will be used for the gathering knots) 
  • Two pieces at: ~30 inches (these will be used as the Filler Strands) 
  • Two pieces at: ~75 inches (these will be used as the Working Strands) 

Middle arch: total arch length is about 24 inches.You will need:

  • Two pieces at: ~27 inches (these will be used for the gathering knots) 
  • Two pieces at: ~40 inches (these will be used as the Filler Strands)  
  • Two pieces at: ~100 inches (these will be used as the Working Strands) 

Outer arch:  total arch length is about 28 inches. Cut your rope at the following lengths: 

  • Two pieces at: ~27 inches (these will be used for the gathering knots) 
  • Two pieces at: ~45 inches (these will be used as the Filler Strands)  
  • Two pieces at: ~120 inches (these will be used as the Working Strands)

Let's Knot!

1. PREPARE YOUR ROPE

Cut 6 pieces of rope in the color you’ll be using for your innermost strand. You should have 2 pieces at 27”, 2 pieces at 30”, and 2 pieces at 75”. Set the two 27” pieces aside. Line up the other four pieces with the two longer strands in the middle, and place them behind your dowel. 

2. MAKE A GATHERING KNOT

Fold the end of your ropes over the dowel so they overlap about 3”. This will be the start of our first knot: the Gathering Knot. The Gathering Knot will bundle the ropes over the dowel and hold them in place.

Grab one of the 27” pieces from earlier, and fold the end to create a loop.The loop should leave a long tail.  Place the loop on top of the bundled ropes with the loop facing down, and the tails towards the top. Note: it is important to make sure the loop goes a little further than the bottom of the ropes folded over the dowel, and that the short tail lays above the dowel itself.

Grab one of the 27” pieces from earlier, and fold the end to create a loop.The loop should leave a long tail.  Place the loop on top of the bundled ropes with the loop facing down, and the tails towards the top. Note: it is important to make sure the loop goes a little further than the bottom of the ropes folded over the dowel, and that the short tail lays above the dowel itself.

Continue to wrap the ropes with the long tail of your gathering knot. Move downwards over all of the ropes, including the loop you created earlier. Do this 5 times.

3. TIE IT OFF

Once you have wrapped the ropes 5 times, take the tail you have been “gathering” with and thread it through the bottom of the loop you created at the beginning.

Using the tail end that is sticking up at the top over the dowel, pull the loop closed. Make sure the opposite tail is still threaded through the loop at the bottom of your knot.

Continue to gently pull the tail at the top until the loop “disappears” under the wrapped column you have created. This will hide the knot and keep it secure.

Using your scissors, carefully trim the ends that are sticking out. This includes both ends of the rope you used to make the Gathering Knot, as well as any tail ends from the original fold over the dowel. Cut the ropes closely, but don’t worry if there is fringe - you can tuck those into the knot, or leave them as this is the back of the piece!

4. THE SPIRAL KNOT

Then flip over your dowel, and admire your beautiful Gathering Knot!  

 Now, we’ll get started on our next knot: the Spiral Knot (also known as a Half Square Knot).  

 Find your two longer strands, and make sure there is one on each side of the shorter strands. These long ropes will be your Working Strands. Your two shorter strands should be in the middle - these will be your Filler Strands. 

 TIP: at this point, I like to tape the ends of my Working and Filler Strands. This helps to make sure that they don’t come unraveled and frayed at the ends while you are tying your knots!

Take the Working Strand from the right hand side. First, cross it over in front of the two Filler Strands, and then place it behind the left hand side Working Strand. This should create a loop on the right side.

Next, take the Working Strand from the left side and cross it to the right, looping around the tail of the right side Working Strand, and then going under the two Filler Strands and out through the loop created by the right Working Strand.

Gently pull the two Working Strands to close the knot, keeping the two Filler Strands straight and taut. Be sure to pull the Working Strands until they are snug, but not too tight. 

5. REPEAT

And that’s the knot! Continue to repeat these steps:

cross the right Working Strands over the two Filler Strands and under the left Working Strand, creating a loop.

Again, bring the left Working Strand behind the two Filler Strands and through the loop created by the right Working Strand.

Pull the two Working Strands taught to complete the knot. Snug, but not tight!

Keep repeating this process. As you create more knots, you will notice the piece beginning to gently turn towards the left. When this happens, allow it to curve by moving the left Working Strand to the right, and the right Working Strand to the left. Continue to knot as normal.

In this photo, you can see the beginning of the curve. In the next, notice how to curve is accentuated by flipping the Working Strands.

Repeat these steps until the Spiral Knots measure about 11”. 

6. MAKE MORE ARCHES

For the next arch, knot until the Spiral Knots measure about 17”, and for the final arch, knot until the Spiral Knots measure about 22”.

7. FINISH YOUR RAINBOW

And that’s it! Continue your Spiral Knot to your desired length, and then repeat the Gathering Knot at the end. 

For the second Gathering Knot, be sure to leave enough space at the end of your Spiral Knots to create a Gathering Knot that matches the size of your first Gathering Knot.  

TIP: Be sure to flip the piece over when securing the Gathering Knot, so that all of your cut ends will be on the backside of the piece. 

 Once you finish with one strand, you can repeat the process with your next color choice.

Yay! Thanks for knotting along with me. 

Macrame can be a bit tough at first, but with a little patience and perseverance you’ll get the hang of it in no time. It’s a learning process! And it’s important to remember that with any learning process, you’ll make some mistakes along the way and that’s okay. Sometimes our mistakes can even lead us to fun new discoveries. It’s about the process just as much as the product, so don’t worry to much, have fun, and everything will turn out beautifully! 

 If you want to learn more, Here are some resources and materials that I've found super helpful on my journey:  

 Windy Chien is an amazing San Francisco-based artist who works in fiber sculpture and installation art. Her book The Year of Knots is an awesome resource for diving into knot tying! 

Elsie Goodwin (@reformfibers) is an incredible macrame artist with some beautiful, simple tutorials available. 

 Emily Katz is the founder of Modern Macrame - you can order all sorts of rope and macrame tools from their website, and as well as a Modern Macrame book that is a treasure trove of resources and project patterns. 

 You can also order cotton rope & twine from Niroma Studio (which is run by an incredibly lovely woman named Cindy), or Knot & Rope Supply.  

 And finally, some other amazing macrame & fiber artists to support and check out for inspiration: @jac.home.heart, @meghanshimek, @bonfireheart.co, @brittmariealmdesigns, @hitchandarrow, and @marymakerstudio, among many others! 

 That’s all for now! If you have any questions feel free to reach out on instagram at @michaelgabrielle_ and please send some photos of your rainbows when they’re done! Best of luck my dears!

MICHAEL GABRIELLE 

Michael Gabrielle is a queer artist and facilitator based in San Francisco. Michael is the Education Programs Manager at Root Division, a Bay Area arts non-profit that supports local and emerging artists, and brings free art classes to kids in the community. His personal art practice currently includes macrame & fiber arts, illustration, woodworking, and painting.