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Natural Materials

Natural Materials

Natural materials are still very popular choices for Macrame.  They have very different qualities than synthetic materials, which you need to know if you plan to use them.

This page contains a description of the most common natural cord materials available today.  That includes Hemp, Jute, Cotton, Leather, Flax and Silk. Yarns made with natural fibers are also on this page.

The information includes common sizes, general and unique properties, styles available, and price range.

NATURAL means the cords are made from plants or animals.

SYNTHETIC means the material is made with a chemical process.  Those materials are listed on a separate page, called Synthetic Materials.  Click on the link to view that page.


Hemp Material


Of all the natural materials used for Macrame, Hemp twine is the most popular. 

The natural color is light brown, shown here in the back.  Dyed hemp comes in single or mixed colors.

Hemp Facts: 

Hemp materials are made from the outer bark of the Cannabis Sativa plant species, which is one of the fastest growing plants.  Sometimes called "Industrial Hemp", this material was first spun into fiber 10,000 years ago.  

The plants don't usually require chemicals or pesticides, making it one the cleanest natural materials in use today.  Materials made from the fibers include paper, clothing, biodegradable plastic, food, paint, and biofuel.
HEMP BASICS has a page filled with facts about Hemp and all the many products it can produce.  I encourage you to read it.

Hemp comes in three forms:  Twine, Cord and Yarn.  They each have different properties, so I will describe them separately.


Size:  Hemp TWINE is sold by weight, and that can get confusing if you are looking for a specific width.

This image shows 20# dyed Hemp, which is usually 1.5mm wide.  This is the size most often used for Micro-Macrame jewelry.

Common Hemp Twine sizes (varies by manufacturer):
(# = pound)
  • 10# = 0.75 to 1mm
  • 20# = 1mm to 1.5mm
  • 48# = 2mm to 2.5mm
  • 170# = 3mm to 3.5mm

Hemp CORD is usually 1mm to 3mm in diameter, and it's described by size rather than weight.   Size 3mm is often called "Spring Cord" because it's sometimes used in the construction of spring mattresses.

Hemp YARN ranges from double knit weight (1mm) to worsted weight (2mm).  Material less than 1mm is sometimes available (lace weight).

Properties:  Hemp fibers are resistant to mold and mildew, which makes it different from the other natural materials.

Hemp YARN is strong and flexible, but not like yarn for knitting.  It's similar to cotton in the way it bends.  It produces really nice, tight knots that hold their shape.

Hemp TWINE is just as flexible, and a good choice for tight knot patterns. 

Hemp CORD is less flexible, and you may find tightening some knots a challenge when using it. 


Natural materials made with Hemp are supposed to be smooth, as shown in this image. Good quality Hemp will be comfortable on the skin. 

All three types should have a slight sheen in bright light.

Don't purchase any material that's dry and flaky.


Style:  Hemp YARN is made from 2 or more fibers twisted together. 

You can find it in the natural brown color, or bleached white (with peroxide).  Colored Hemp yarn is also available, but harder to find.

Hemp TWINE is also made with several fibers, but usually has more than the yarn. It can be found in many different colors and patterns.  

Hemp CORD starts out as yarn, made with several fibers twisted together.  Then the yarns are twisted together to form the cord.  So it's double twisted, which makes it much stronger.  It's not easy to find, and usually is the natural brown color. 

Unique Qualities:  It's a good practice to keep all natural materials in plastic bags or wrapped in some way, so they don't become too dry.   When you use Hemp twine, applying beeswax will help to provide moisture.

Hemp materials that are too dry will become brittle, and the material will feel rough.  You'll see small pieces sticking out or flaking off.    Avoid using any materials with poor quality, because you won't have good results.

Hemp is biodegradable, so any Macrame projects that stay outdoors should be covered and protected from rain and sun.

Price: The price for Hemp YARN is around $21.00 per roll (US dollars).  The amount in the rolls will vary depending on the weight/size, but it's usually at least 200 yards.  It's well worth the price if you can find a supplier.

Hemp TWINE is sold in smaller quantities, with rolls containing 100 - 150 yards. The price ranges between $5.00 to $10.00 per roll (for 20# Hemp).

Hemp CORD is usually $9.00 to $12.00 per roll, depending on the size.  The amount per roll is usually 75 to 100 yards.


Cotton Materials


Cotton cord remains one of the most common natural materials for Macrame and related crafts.  It's a very clean fiber, and hypo-allergenic.

Cotton fibers are easy to dye, so the materials come in many colors.  The natural color is creamy white.

Cotton Facts:

Cotton is currently the world's most used natural fiber.   Every part of the plant can be used in some manner.

The short fibers (lint) are used to make paper and medical supplies.  The seeds are used to make food (cottonseed oil), cosmetics, paint, candles, soap, and much more.   The longer fibers are mostly cellulose, and are used to make thread, cord, and fabric.

Size:  Cotton cord (also called twine) comes in many sizes, and it's sold by ply or weight.  It's difficult to determine the actual width unless you measure it.

These are approximate sizes because cord materials vary by manufacturer:

  • Size 5 = 0.75mm  (Used for embroidery)
  • Size 9 = 1mm   (Most popular size for Micro-Macrame)
  • Size 18 = 1.5mm
  • Size 30 = 2mm   
  • Size 72 = 3mm 
  • 16-ply = 3.5mm
  • 24-ply = 4mm
  • Cotton cords 5mm or wider are considered ROPES.

Properties:  Of all the natural materials used in Macrame, Cotton is the most versatile.  You can use it for fine jewelry all the way up to large items like hammocks and hanging tables.

Cotton is the softest of all the natural materials.  But one thing people don't like is that it can be a little fuzzy, depending on the style.

Cotton cord is very strong and flexible. It can be washed and dried, but can shrink. Macrame handbags and clothing should be washed by hand and air dried.

This material produces uniform, tight knots. There's very little stretching, which is important when making items to hold weight.

The strength of cotton increases when it's wet.  But it can't stay that way, or it will become rotten.    Cotton is affected by sunlight, which can turn the color yellow and cause it to degrade.

When using the material for outdoor items, keep them covered and inspect the material regularly for signs of rot or breaking.

Hammock Chair

This is the Hammock Chair, one of the most popular patterns on Free Macrame Patterns.

Cotton rope is the best natural material you can use to make it.  Synthetic materials also work well.


Style:  Cotton twine is usually formed by twisting multiple fibers together.


Crochet cotton is loosely twisted, so is more flexible than standard material.  It also stretches a bit more.

You can use it in Micro-Macrame projects where you need a soft material and very tight knots.

Cable Cord

Cotton Cable cord is different than the twine in that it is composed of three small cords or "cables" twisted together. 

It's not as smooth as twisted style, and it's a challenge to make tight knots.


Cotton comes in braided form, too.  It's usually waxed or polished to make it smoother.

The material shown here is 1.5mm, which is the size most often sold for jewelry making and beading.

Unique Qualities: You MUST prepare the tips of the cords with tape or knots to prevent unraveling.

Cotton Embroidery and Crochet cords can be prepared with glue to stiffen the tips, which makes beading easier.


I recommend you apply beeswax to eliminate the fuzz from cotton cord materials.

The best type to use is a stick.  You can rub it on both sides of the material lie a crayon.

Price:  Of all the natural materials, cotton cord is the least expensive.  The best place to purchase large rolls is a shipping supplier.    You can get 500 yards or more for around $25.00 (US dollars).
Cotton rope is expensive, and not usually worth the effort to use it.  I recommend you use standard cord sizes (less than 5mm), even if you need to change the Macrame pattern slightly.


Jute Twine


Of all the natural materials available for Macrame, Jute twine is the least popular.  

It's really hard to find a good quality Jute material, which will be the same width all the way through the roll.  It will also be clean, with a slight sheen.


This is poor quality Jute, which is dry and brittle.

Pieces of plant matter can easily be seen, and the cord will have thick and thin areas. 

I recommend you obtain a sample before purchasing Jute.

Jute Facts:

Jute is a plant high in cellulose and wood fiber. It is spun into coarse threads which are compressed and twisted to form cords. 

Most fabric made with Jute fiber is used to make inexpensive burlap sacks, carpets, furniture, canvas, etc.  Jute fibers are sometimes combined with other materials to make clothing and household furnishings.


One of the things people like is it's fuzzy nature.  Good quality Jute will have SMALL tendrils like in this image. 

Colored Jute is hard to find, but online stores that carry packaging supplies may have it. 

Size:  The natural materials are often sold by how many fibers make up the cord which is called PLY. 

With Jute, the sizes are described both by ply and weight, which makes things very confusing.  The size also differs by manufacturer.

Here's the best information I could find online:

  • 2-ply Medium weight = 1.5 to 2mm
  • 3-ply Medium weight = 2.5mm to 3mm
  • 4-ply Medium weight = 3.5mm to 4mm
  • 4-ply Heavy weight = 5mm to 6mm

Properties:   This coarse material is strong, and surprisingly flexible, even in the heavy weight size.   The medium weights produce tight knots.  The heavy weight requires more effort, but the knots are still fairly tight.  

The strength of Jute will decrease if it is wet.  It's also biodegrades quickly.  That's why it's not the best option for projects that remain outdoors.  

The most challenging issue with Jute cord is finding good quality material.


This All Natural Owl was made with 4-ply medium weight Jute.

The quality of the material was the best I've ever seen (excellent).

Style:  Jute twine is a twisted style material.  You will find it in the natural brown color in most cases. 

Colored Jute (dyed) can sometimes be found, but in limited colors.

Unique Qualities:  Make sure you protect Jute from sun and moisture, even if it's indoors. 

I recommend keeping the material wrapped up when not in use, because even the best quality Jute will flake somewhat.   

Price: The average price for large rolls is $25.00 for 200 yards (US dollars).

Small rolls of 50 - 100 yards range in price from $5.00 to $10.00.


Linen Cord

Flax Linen

Linen cord is a unique fiber made from the Flax plant. 

It's not as common as the other natural materials.  Since it's used primarily for jewelry, online stores sometimes carry it.

Flax Fibers

Flax Linen Facts:

The cellulose fibers just beneath the bark of the flax plant (stem) are first harvested, then spun into threads and yarns.  They are then used to make clothing, bedding, and household items.

As you can see, the fibers are soft and silky.

Since 3,000 b.c., this ancient fiber has been used to make fabric.  Back then, it was finer and more luxurious than anything in use today.   Egyptian Kings were wrapped with strips of Flax fabric prior to burial.  Greeks and Romans valued it greatly, and considered it sacred.

Since that time, other natural fibers like cotton have replaced Flax linen in many areas of the world.  Harvesting and processing the fiber takes time and effort, so only a few countries still produce it commercially. 

Size:  Unfortunately, it's hard to find Flax linen in cord or yarn form, unless you live in the countries that produce it.   Ireland, Belgium, and Scotland produce it, along with several other nearby countries.

When you do find this material, it's sometimes labeled as "Irish Linen", and is usually 0.6mm to 2mm in diameter.

It's sold by the PLY, which can range from 2-ply to 8-ply. 

Properties:  Flax Linen is the strongest of all the natural materials made from plants.  It's unique in that it gets stronger when wet.  It can last for hundreds of years without degrading.  

It's anti-static properties help it resist stain and dust.


Style:  Flax linen cord is usually a twist-style material.  It is very flexible, and produces tight knots.

The natural color is usually gray, yellow-gold or brown.  You can find it in a variety of colors as well.

Waxed Linen cord is a great option for beading and Micro-Macrame.


Flax cord material will sometimes have a flat profile, similar to lacing.

You can still tie knots with this form, but you need to work with the cord a little bit more, so it folds and bends neatly.

Unique Qualities:  Linen cord is recommended for people with sensitive skin, since it's so smooth and compatible with our skin.  It also is non-allergenic.

Price:  Make sure when you search for it online you look for cord rather than yarn. 

Both waxed and natural variations are usually priced at $5.00 to $8.00 for 25 to 50 yards.


Silk Cord


Natural materials can be made from animals.

Silk is made from the moth larvae called the Silkworm, which used to be native to northern China.

Each cocoon is made of a continuous thread of raw silk filament 1,000 - 2,000 feet long.

Silk Facts:

In ancient China, Silk was used in clothing, art, and decorations. It was a luxury material back then, just as it is now.     

It takes around 3,000 cocoons to make 1 yard/meter of fabric.

Synthetic materials were developed to replace silk, due to it's increased cost after World War ll.   Several countries still produce authentic silk, but it remains expensive.

Size:  Silk cord, often called thread, is such a fine material that it's primarily used for jewelry. 

These are approximate size/width comparisons:

  • Size 1 = 0.3mm (sewing thread)
  • Size 3 = 0.5 (beading thread)
  • Size 7 = 0.75mm (Micro-Macrame)
  • Size 16 = 1mm (Micro-Macrame)
  • Silk in 2mm size is usually sold by single strands, 1 yard/meter in length.


Silk YARN is usually 1mm to 2mm in diameter. 

It's a lot more flexible than beading cord.

This image shows the natural color of silk, which is cream to white.

Properties:  Silk is the strongest of all the natural materials.   It has a soft texture that's shiny, but not slippery.  

If the cord/yarn is stretched, it usually stays that way.  It becomes weakened when wet, or when exposed to sunlight for long periods.

Despite its strength, Silk is delicate.  So use the Cross-Pin Technique (or no pins at all) when working with it.


Style:  Silk cord products are usually twist style, but here is an image of material that looks like a long strip of fabric. 

Silk can also be rolled and sewn to form the cord.

Unique Properties:  Silk and Satin are often confused with one another.  So you may think you're buying Silk, then it turns out to be Satin.

Here's the difference:

Silk is usually sold in small quantities of 5 yards or less. You can sometimes find rolled Silk in larger quantities, but it will be expensive (see price).

Satin is sometimes called Rattail, and is sold in 25 - 200 yard quantities.


Satin cord is usually completely smooth and extra shiny.  >>

<<  Silk has more texture, and is not as shiny.

Price:  Silk varies in price by country, but the average is $0.70 to $1.00 per yard/meter (US dollars).  


Leather Cord


Leather is also made from animals.  It has properties that are very different than other types of natural materials.

This is round Leather, the type most commonly used for crafts and jewelry.

General Leather Facts:

Cattle are raised primarily for food, but all parts are used, including the hide.  Leather in various forms are made from the hides and skins. 

Leather is tanned to prevent decomposition. This is done with a variety of  ingredients, many of which are natural products like tree bark and leaves. 

Buckskin is tanned with brains or other fatty substances.  The most common chemical for tanning is chromium.

After tanning, Leather is stabilized, thinned, lubricated.  This is called crusting. Then it may be dyed, softened, and finished in a variety of ways. 

Not all leather is made from cattle:
  • Fish Leather is made from skin and scales of fish species.
  • Deerskin Leather is made from deer hides.
  • Leather from other animals include: Pig, Buffalo, Alligator, Snake, Yak, Ostrich, Kangaroo.


Size:  Leather cord comes in many sizes, but it's really hard to make knots if it's wider than 2mm.

This Leather Star Bracelet was made with 2mm size material, and it was difficult to tighten the knots. 

The best size for jewelry is 1mm to 1.5mm.

Properties:   Leather is extremely strong, but is also very delicate.  It's important that you do not pass pins through the material, because the holes are permanent.

Use the Cross-Pin Technique or tape to secure the cords to a project board.

Leather cord is very smooth and comfortable on the skin.  It doesn't breathe very well, so it's best to use as little as possible in your designs.

The natural color of Leather made from cattle is brown, but you can also get it in many colors. 


Leather holds the shape of the knots better than any other cord material. 

Even loosely tied knots, like the ones making up this Leather Bracelet, will keep their shape. 


Leather is NOT flexible compared to other natural materials.   It's very hard to tighten knots with material over 2mm wide.

That's the primary reason it's not used to make large Macrame items. 


Style:  Leather cord comes in the round shape shown above, or as lacing.

The flat profile of lacing makes it a little more flexible than round Leather.

Unique Qualities:   Leather cord does not usually require the conditioning that fabric does.  But the quality goes down if the material is too dry.  It's a good idea to keep it in a closed container.

Price: Natural materials are often more expensive than synthetics. 

That definitely applies to Leather, which is usually sold in small rolls of 10 yards/meters. 

The price range for 1mm to 2mm size Leather is $0.60 to $0.75 per yard/meter.

Large rolls of 50 yards/meters range in price from $25.00 to $60.00.


Natural Yarns

Natural materials include various types of yarn, which can be used for Macrame projects.  

Size:  All yarns are sold by weight, so it's hard to determine the actual width of the material until you receive it and measure.   Only a few brands will state on the label the actual width, and quantity in the roll. 

The best sizes for Macrame are:
  • Medium = 3mm to 4mm
  • Bulky = 5mm to 6mm
  • Super-bulky = 8mm to 9mm

Keep in mind that yarn compresses so much that the knots will be smaller than expected. 


Wool yarn can usually be stretched, and will spring back when released.  The material repels moisture and is flame resistant, too.

Merino Wool is extra soft, and doesn't feel as scratchy as other types of wool yarn. 


Alpaca yarn is softer and more luxurious than wool.  It's also not prickly, and has no lanolin.  So it's considered hypo-allergenic.

Some brands are slightly shiny.


Natural materials don't have to be made from animals.

Paper Yarn is made from a variety of paper products, including rice paper, washi, and raffia. 

These materials are fuzz-free and easy to dye.


Bamboo yarn is another unique type of natural material, made from the pulp of the Bamboo plant.

It's strong, very flexible, and can be as soft as silk.  It has a beautiful natural sheen.  It produces very small, tight knots.

Bamboo yarn can be damaged by pins, so treat it like you would any delicate material and use the Cross-Pin Technique, or no pins at all. 

Using tape is not recommended for any type of yarn.

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Macrame Cord Divider