It’s hard not to love textiles; we dress in them every day and accessorize with handbags, hats, belts, and jewelry. We also dress our homes in textiles with the carpet we choose, the upholstery we love, the art on our walls, and the blanket we wrap up in to snuggle up for a movie. We use brightly colored and interestingly textured patterns and designs to complement our personalities and tastes. We are surrounded with gloriously beautiful fibers!
Macramé is one of the many fiber arts to explode on the scene recently, and a growing community of makers is decorating the world with captivating creations from cat beds to clothing to giant art installations in homes and businesses. However, taking care of fiber art is important to its survival. In this article, I offer some suggestions to consider for preserving your beloved and bespoke pieces.
Part 1 Unboxing
The nature of a finished macramé piece may make it a challenge to pack and ship. Don’t be surprised when you open your new package and find a rolled or folded bundle of cords that looks quite dissimilar to the polished photo on the website store. Please attend to the following suggestions for getting to know your macramé.
The item you purchase may have an abundance of long fringe, or it may be more solidly knotted. Be cautious when unwrapping, unrolling, or unfolding the piece; you do not want tangled cords. So be gentle and take your time to unbox and lay out your item on a clean, flat surface. Determine right (displayed) side from wrong side (against wall, hidden) if applicable.
Macramé consists of knots, lots of knots. This can make a piece bulky or it can be very loose knotting. Again, you don’t want to get anything tangled, so take your time. It’s likely that your item has changed shape during shipping and needs to be gently massaged back into its original shape (you’ve seen the picture). Knots are pretty cooperative in this process since you will mostly be flattening out bumps and kinks. Do a little of this massaging while the piece is still lying flat. Notice that fringe is especially prone to kinks during the packing and shipping process. The fringe will need to relax after hanging. Occasional gentle finger combing should help.
Next, you will be ready to hang or otherwise display the piece. For example, if you have acquired a wall hanging, it will be suspended from a rod, dowel, or branch. If cords are loosely mounted on this rod, they may have shifted and need to be repositioned. Upon hanging you will want to center things, which may involve more massaging. Macramé is pretty forgiving, so gently pull and stretch things as needed. This gentle shaping will probably be necessary for most items from large hangings to elaborate jewelry items.
Notes on fringe: Fringe is different for each cord type. Common 3-ply cord consists of 3 twisted strands, which when unraveled produce a kinky or wavy look. Single strand cord is one strand consisting of many threads twisted together. This cord may be brushed to create a smoother, fluffier effect, or it may be left unbrushed. Either way, you may need to rebrush or otherwise groom your fringe to keep it the way you want it. Fringe does have a tendency to return to its original shape, so your piece may require some periodic grooming!
Part 2 Maintenance
Like any fiber in the home- think carpets, drapes, bedding- your macramé plant hanger, pillow cover, table runner, or wall hanging will attract household soil, such as dust, grease, smoke, and such. It is a good idea to dust it regularly with a feather duster or the like. Or try a gentle shake outside. This will extend the life of the piece. If spot cleaning is necessary, use a water dampened rag and dab gently at the spot. To prevent damage to the design, avoid stretching damp fibers. Machine washing for cotton fiber is not recommended.
Smaller items such as jewelry and keychains may be washable depending upon the material of construction. Ask the maker what kind of cord is being used and specific questions regarding cleaning of the product. Generally, polyester cords are more water resistant and withstand exposure to the elements better than natural fibers such as cotton, jute, or hemp. To learn more about materials and their characteristics, check out this article at Tiny Workshops.