Updated: Feb 15
Ahhh, yes. The age old question. How do I know how long to cut my cord?! This one's probably given every macrame artist a headache at one time or another.
This is one of my most requested blogs, so I'll get right to it- unfortunately there is no single cut and dry answer to this because there are SO many variables to consider! For example, how large is your project? How densely knotted will it be? What type of cord are you using? These are all things that will impact your cord length.
Luckily for us, there are some ways to estimate based on those factors.
The Golden Rule
Most macramé artists have heard this rule of thumb at some point in their journey- the rule is to cut your cords to 4x the total length desired for your project. This works for most designs that have a medium-density pattern, meaning there is a fair amount of knots and not a ton of empty space between the knots. It also typically leaves you with some extra length that can be used as fringe or trimmed off for scraps to use in a smaller project.
If you consider this rule for wall hangings, plant hangers, or any other project where the cords will be attached around some sort of anchor project, keep in mind that each cord you cut is split into two equal halves when you attach it. That means you would need to double the total amount you get using the golden rule- or in other words, just multiply by 8 instead of 4.
I want my medium-density tapestry to be a total of 3 feet in length including fringe.
Since each cord is going to be split in half when attached to my dowel, I will multiply my desired length by 8 instead of 4.
3 ft x 8 = 24 feet total.
What if I want to create either a more loosely or super tightly knotted design?
You may have gathered by now that less knots = less cord and more knots = more cord.
If you are creating a piece that has more open space than closed space (aka knots), then you can decrease the amount you are multiplying by. For wall hangings, I mentioned above that using the golden rule for medium knotted pieces essentially requires you to multiply by 8. For a super loosely knotted piece, you can try lowering the number you multiply by to 4 or 6 instead (I personally would never go under 4 to be safe.)
For a very densely knotted piece, I multiply the desired length by 10 or even 12 sometimes to get my cord measurements! I have never really needed to go higher than multiplying by 12, and that is for the most densely stacked, sinnet type knots (for example, the wrapped square knot sinnets I use in my landscape designs).
Examples of Loose/Medium/Densely Knotted Projects
Additional Tips and Tricks
Measure twice, cut once. It’s easy when cutting large quantities of cord to want to get through it quickly, but there’s nothing worse than cutting a handful of cord and then realizing you measured wrong the first time.
Always opt for overestimating length, not underestimating. It’s always better to have extra string at the end than to run out, because that string can be used for smaller projects or fringe/tassels. (Although if you do run out, read on for some hacks on that!)
Always add your cords in multiples of four. Most knots require either 2 or 4 cords, so if you have an odd number of cords then you'll get stuck with one extra cord that could throw a wrench into your design later on.
Thickness of cords matters! Thicker cords require more length because they create larger knots, and thinner cords require less.
More structured cords use more length than softer cords. For example, knots made with 3 ply rope or braided cord take up more space than single twist string therefore require more length.
Some knots are composed of working/knotting cords AND lead/traveling cords (example: square & spiral knots). Keep in mind that the working cords will use up much more length than the lead cords and cut length accordingly.
Keep track of how long you cut your cords for specific projects. Write them in a notebook so that you can learn to recognize the patterns and skip the calculations in the future! Over time, it becomes much easier to approximate the length needed without calculating every time.
Help- I ran out of string halfway through my project!
All hope is not lost, I promise :)
My friend Amy of Hitch and Arrow did a fantastic series on her Instagram page showing different hacks in case you run out of macrame cord in a variety of different situations/using different knots. Here's the link to her story highlight where you can find all of these hacks gathered neatly in one place.
How do I plan out/make sure I order enough string for my project?!
Again, there's no simple way for me to answer this due to the wide range of styles and design types out there. If you have a specific design you want to create, try sketching it out and determining the dimensions you would like. Then, you can use the formulas above to try calculating how long each cord needs to be and estimating the amount of cords you'll need. I always recommend buying more than you need, because nothing is worse than running out halfway and then finding out your supplier is all out of stock!
Thanks for reading!
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