Exploring 1970's Macrame: Mixed-Media, Knots and Woven Details

Exploring the craft of Macrame during the 1970's is a journey into mixed-media and creative expression.  When macrame was rediscovered by crafters in the late 1960's, the major resources for learning this craft were old books on sailor's knots. Using the drawings from these, a whole new art was developed over the course of a few years. At first, the knotting was done using simple, plain cotton string and fine rope, but quickly this grew to include a wider range of hemp, wool and other fibers. Often hand spun yarns were added to create densely knotted or woven inserts.

By 1971 wall hangings were being produced in college art departments and out in the general population where crafting was being revived. This simple cotton shoulder bag is an example of a very uniform and tightly knotted technique. This type of knotting was popular where function was important: handbags, belts, shoulder straps and other pieces.

As lifestyle changes allowed for more free expression in home decor, the need for more natural handwork was sought after. West coast publishers from Sunset Magazine, Los Angeles Times: Home, and entrepreneurial crafters such as Hazel Pearson produced articles and books showcasing current trends in macrame. These provided an essential medium for showing the how-to and style of this new craft as it spread out into the general population.

Below are several 'breakaway' mixed-media wall hangings collected from the Pearson publication: Macrame Wall Hangings with Weaving. The first four here are mounted on hoops to create a newly unique circle format. These images are closeup views, as there are often long hanging ends to finish the work.  Within each work you will recognize weaving, feathers, applied objects and other textural details.

Working from a horizontal cross piece was quickly adapted to include nature items such as tree branches, bamboo and other 'found' objects that would provide a upper mount for the work.

As you can see by these mixed-media examples, weaving, feathers, furs and other textures were being worked into the macrame hanging to add a sense of nature, history and visual interest. These hangings allowed the artist to break away from the more mundane utilitarian flat work and develop new textures and shapes. The images below show the full pieces, including their long fringes.

The importance of these works for us today is both as inspiration, and as a document in cultural history.  The wall hangings shown here can provide a different prospective on the craft and give us new ideas for working with our own macrame wall hangings, leading the art and craft today into new (or old) territory.

Resource: Macrame Wall Hangings with Weaving, 1976, by Hazel Pearson, Creative American Craft Series, HA-47, 15 pps.,
Permission Granted: Tiffany Windsor

White Macrame Bag: from collection of the author

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