The Oxford dictionary defines Macramé as 'the art of knotting string in patterns to make decorative articles.' An ancient craft, Macramé has an extensive history, tracing back to 13th Century Arabian weavers, who created decorative and useful artworks to deter flies away from their horses and camels. It also has links to ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and the Turkish cultures.
Eight centuries later, and a world away from the Arabian deserts, I decided to try this intriguing artform by attending a workshop hosted by Heartfull Box. Heartfull Box is a collaboration of Brisbane girls Mia and Shandel, who sought to share their love of creativity, discovery and playfulness with others through monthly workshops.
We started the class with a short meditation session, to get us all in the mood for some confident and contemplative creativity. Also, on offer to spark our creative juices was iced herbal tea, and gluten-dairy-free cookies. Yum! Mia and Shandel then provided us with an overview of the day, including an example of what we would be creating – a hanging pot plant holder. One look at the loops and knots and I have to say, I was beginning to question if my fine motor skills were up to the task. Pushing my concerns aside, I got stuck into cutting up the materials we would be using. Traditional Macramé uses string, but for a beginner's class, we used recycled T-Shirt material which was easier to handle (and much easier to untie for mistakes!)
Next step was to tie our cut up strips on our sticks – each participant was given a garden stick about 30 cm long – looping the strips so the knot showed at the front. Voila! Our masterpieces were taking shape. Next, the girls demonstrated the square knot, the base of all Macramé pieces. Four pieces of string, an L shape loop, loop behind the tail and pull (something like that!) and repeat… I promise I was listening. Let's just say there was plenty of untying happening in my corner of the room. Mia and Shandel spent one-on-one time with each of us, doing close-up demonstrations and keeping us all on track. The girls were incredibly patient, even though I'm sure they heard me mutter "I hate Macramé!" several times (sorry, ladies).
I eventually got into the rhythm of the weaving, I found it helped if I let my hands do the work and switched my brain off for a little while. Hands are very good at learning manual repetitive tasks, something our ancestors in the 13th Century probably knew well. It is an intriguing thought, that despite how much the world has changed, there are certain things that connect us with our past, and with those long gone.
Two hours, many contemplative thoughts, several cookies, and many knots later, I had finished my pot plant holder. I'm sure it isn't the best piece of Macramé ever made and the Arabian weavers would probably throw it on the reject pile, but I don't mind all that, because my Mum says it's beautiful.