Updated: May 26, 2022
Confused on the different types of cord out there and which one is best for your project? New to the craft and hoping to avoid buying the wrong type and ending up with blisters, a less than sturdy plant hanger, etc? Look no further, because all of your questions will be answered in this article!
First, let's talk about the different types of cord used in macramé.
Technically, you can make macramé with any type of cord under the sun. From T-shirt yarn to jute to yarn itself, as long as you can tie a knot with it you can macramé with it. If you're a beginner you certainly don't need to buy the highest quality, most luxurious string in order to just start practicing and learning the knots. However, there are certain materials and types of cord that tend to be preferred in the macrame world for their ease of use and for their ability to elevate the overall look of a macramé piece.
Cotton tends to be the preferred material for macramé artists around the world. It's soft yet strong and leads to beautiful final results. There are several types of cotton cord out there, so let's break them down.
Rope is a plied cord. That means it is composed of more than one strand of fibers, and those strands are tightly twisted together. It most often comes in a 3-ply, meaning is is composed of 3 separate strands of fibers that are then twisted together. It can also come in other plies though, such as 2 or 3 ply. The separate strands can be unraveled at the ends if desired, and they form a wavy fringe.
This type of cord is great for beginners, because it holds its structure well even if it is tied and untied multiple times. It has a clean and precise look to it, and it is also a sturdy option that works great for functional projects that are weight bearing.
Some of the less ideal aspects of rope are that is can be tough on the hands, so if you're new to knotting or are working on a very large project using only rope it can be more prone to causing blisters! It also is more difficult to comb into a fine fringe, as the separate strands need to be untwisted before it can be brushed out fully. Some people also may not prefer the wavy fringe look that rope provides as well, and extra steps to straighten out the fringe would be needed such as steaming or ironing the fringe.
Use rope for:
structured wall hangings
modern/geometric wall hangings
large scale projects (like installations)
String (often referred to as single-twist string or cotton twine) is a non-plied cord. That means it is composed of individual fibers that are all tightly twisted together.
My personal favorite to work with, string is usually favored for its soft feel, gentleness on the hands while working, its ability to be combed into fringe, and the soft, organic look it provides when knotted up. Using string results in that classic effortless boho look that we all know and love.
Some folks may find string challenging to work with in the beginning of their journey. That is because string unravels or snags more easily than any other types, since the individual fibers are only twisted together and not plied. The more string is worked with, the looser it becomes and more prone it is to snagging. That means if you are creating a large piece and untie entire sections of it, you have to be very gentle to preserve the integrity of the cord!
Use string for:
Accessories(keychains, lanyards, coasters)
Tasseled or fringe-y projects
Boho/ flowy projects
Braided cord is made up of many individual fibers that, instead of being twisted or plied together, are tightly braided.
Braided cord is extremely structurally sound, making it fantastic for projects that need strength or structural integrity. It also unravels while working way less than any other type of cord, so it is a great type of cord to use when you want a clean, finished look instead of a flowy, boho piece.
Depending on the softness and density of a braided cord, it may also be more prone to causing blisters. Another potential downside is that if you are wanting fringe, it can be incredibly tedious to unbraid the strands and some braided cords have a filler cord inside that cannot be brushed into fringe.
Use braided cord for:
Hammocks or swings
Market bags/ purses
Functional macramé items
Any other weight-bearing projects
CHOOSING A CORD SIZE
Picking the best size cord for your project is just as important as choosing the right type of cord. It has a huge effect on the final look and can potentially be the difference from a piece taking one hour... to it taking five.
The most common cord sizes are 3mm, 4-5mm, 7mm, and 9mm.
3mm is the finest cord, and while some use it even for medium to large wall hangings, many macrame artists prefer to use 3mm for smaller projects that need more fine detailing. Some great examples of projects that would use 3mm are keychains, jewelry, small wall hangings, or using it for wrapping around another cord (like for fiber-wrapped rainbows). 3mm would also be an excellent choice if you have a larger project but want really fine, almost lace-like detail.
4-5mm seems to be the standard for most macrame projects like wall hangings and plant hangers, as well as functional items like table runners and bags. It is small enough to allow for fine detail but large enough to not take forever just to get through a small section. I even use 5mm for my largest wall hangings and it is the perfect size!
7mm is a little less common and a little harder to find, but it is another good option for larger projects. For example, a statement piece like a wedding arch/backdrop would be a great project for 7mm since the larger cord would cut down on the hours of labor but not lose the ability to create detail in the design.
9mm is a very thick string, and while it can totally be used to create chunky wall hangings it is most commonly used as a filler cord for fiber wrapping. Most commonly, it is used as the filler cord for the fiber rainbows that have taken the macrame world by storm.
I hope that this information was helpful for you! If this blog didn't cover your specific project, please feel free to leave a comment below if you'd like some advice on the best type and size of cord to use!
And check out my fav macrame supplies here: