Interested in learning the basics of macramé? It’s simpler than it looks! Here’s an illustrated guide of the most common knots used in macramé.
Generally, when crafting the most common styles of knotted bracelets or necklaces, four cords are used (or two long cords folded in half, creating a loop at one end). The two middle cords, called carriers or carrying cords, stay stationary while the two outer cords, called knotting cords, are worked around the carriers. In the loose square knot below, the blue cords are the knotters and the green cords are the carriers.
With this concept in mind, here are a few of the most common knots you’ll see in macramé designs. With these simple techniques alone, you can begin creating your own unique jewelry!
The most basic in knot tying, this is the first thing you learn when you learn to tie your shoes. In macramé, it is commonly used to fasten off the end of a piece of jewelry.
Make a loop (1). Bring the end of the cord to the underside of the loop (2) and pull through until the knot is tight (3).
Half Square Knot
This common knot can be started from either the right or the left.
A chain of half knots, known as a half knot sennit or half square knot sennit, creates a spiral pattern. A left half knot sennit will produce a clockwise spiral; a right sennit will twist counterclockwise.
With the right knotting cord: Travel over the carrying cords and under the left knotting cord (1). With the left knotting cord: Travel to the left over the other knotting cord, under the carrying cords, and up through the loop made by the right knotting cord (2). Pull both knotting cords to tighten.
This is a right half square knot; mirror the steps to twist the other direction for a left half square knot.
This is probably the most commonly used knot for making macramé jewelry.
The square knot is made up of two half knots in alternating directions.
To make a right square knot, first follow directions for the right half knot. Repeat this process on the left side (left half knot) to complete the knot.
A chain of square knots, called a square knot sennit, provides a simple and uniform pattern.
Switch Square Knot
Also known as a Square Knot Crossover or Switch Knot, this knot is formed by alternating the knotting cords with the carrying cords and tying a square knot, creating an elegantly simple criss-cross pattern.
(1) Begin by making one square knot.
(2) Bring the knotting cords straight down. These will become your new carrying cords. Pull the previous carriers to either side (behind the new carriers). These are now your knotting cords.
(3) Complete the pattern by tying a square knot with the new set of knotters.
A switch square knot pattern worked in two different colors creates a simple and fun bracelet.
Larks Head Knots
There are two ways to construct a larks head knot: horizontally and vertically. This knot is commonly used horizontally for mounting on a ring, buckle, or other object to start a macramé project. If you’ve ever used gift tags or price tags that attach with a string, you may already know how to tie a horizontal larks head knot. Vertically, when tied in a series, it is also used to “coat” a stationary cord, giving it a thick and intricate pattern. Here we’ll cover both techniques.
Horizontal Larks Head Knot
Fold the cord in half and place on top of the carrier (or ring, buckle, etc.) so that a small loop sits above it (1). With both ends, travel behind the carrier and through the loop from behind (2). Tighten by pulling straight down on the ends (3).
Vertical Larks Head Knot
Horizontal and vertical larks head knots are the same when completed; they’re just constructed in different ways. Sometimes a simple horizontal larks head knot isn’t an option, because you’re using cords in the middle of a project and you only have one loose cord to work with. That’s where the vertical knot is used.
The simplest way I use to remember this knot: over-under-over, then under-over-under.
Over-under-over. To make a right knot, start at the right and travel to the left with the knotting cord, over the carrying cord. Make a loop around the carrier and over the same knotting cord (1).
Under-over-under. Travel to the left behind the carrier, then make a loop around the front of the carrier and under the knotting cord, parallel to where you started (2). Pull sideways to tighten.
In the bracelet shown below, I used vertical larks head knots to surround the wooden beads and switch square knots in between beads to change colors. This bracelet was made with 6 strands of unwaxed hemp: two strands through the eye of the bead, and two strands on either side of the bead.