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
NATURAL means the cords are made from plants or
SYNTHETIC means the material is made with a
chemical process. Those materials are now
listed on a separate page, called Synthetic
Materials. Click on the link
to view that page.
2017 Update: This is a replacement
for the page called "Macrame Cord" previously
listed in Macrame Essentials. New
images and information has been added.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
YARN ranges from double knit weight
(1mm) to worsted weight (2mm). Material
less than 1mm is sometimes available (lace
Hemp fibers are resistant to mold and mildew,
which makes it different from the other natural
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
materials made with Hemp are supposed to
be smooth, as shown in this image. Good
quality Hemp will be comfortable on the
All three types should have a slight sheen
in bright light.
Don't purchase any material that's dry and
Hemp YARN is made from 2 or more fibers
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
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
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
Hemp is biodegradable, so any Macrame projects
that stay outdoors should be covered and protected
from rain and sun.
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.
remains one of the most common natural
materials for Macrame and related
crafts. It's a very clean fiber, and
Cotton fibers are easy to dye, so the
materials come in many colors. The
natural color is creamy white.
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.
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
Size 18 = 1.5mm
Size 30 = 2mm
Size 72 = 3mm
16-ply = 3.5mm
24-ply = 4mm
Cotton cords 5mm or wider are considered
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
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
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.
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.
Cotton twine is usually formed by twisting
multiple fibers together.
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
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.
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.
Qualities: You MUST prepare the tips of
the cords with tape or knots to prevent
Cotton Embroidery and Crochet cords can be
prepared with glue to stiffen the tips, which
makes beading easier.
you apply beeswax
to eliminate the fuzz from cotton cord
The best type to use is a stick. You
can rub it on both sides of the material
lie a crayon.
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.
Of all the
natural materials available for Macrame,
Jute twine is the least
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
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
I recommend you obtain a sample before
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
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
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
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
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.
The quality of the material was the best
I've ever seen (excellent).
Jute twine is a twisted style material. You
will find it in the natural brown color in most
Colored Jute (dyed) can sometimes be found, but in
Qualities: Make sure you protect
Jute from sun and moisture, even if it's
I recommend keeping the material wrapped up when
not in use, because even the best quality Jute
will flake somewhat.
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 is a
unique fiber made from the Flax
It's not as common as the other natural
materials. Since it's used primarily
for jewelry, online stores sometimes carry
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
materials can be made from animals.
Silk is made from the moth larvae called
the Silkworm, which used to be native to
Each cocoon is made of a continuous thread
of raw silk filament 1,000 - 2,000 feet
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
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.
Silk cord, often called thread, is such a fine
material that it's primarily used for
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
This image shows the natural color of
silk, which is cream to white.
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.
Silk cord products are usually twist
style, but here is an image of material
that looks like a long strip of
Silk can also be rolled and sewn to form
Properties: Silk and Satin are
often confused with one another. So you may
think you're buying Silk, then it turns out to be
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
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
Silk varies in price by country, but the average
is $0.70 to $1.00 per
yard/meter (US dollars).
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.
Cattle are raised primarily for food, but all
parts are used, including the hide. Leather
in various forms are made from the hides and
Leather is tanned to prevent decomposition. This
is done with a variety of ingredients, many
of which are natural products like tree bark and
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
Not all leather is made from cattle:
Fish Leather is made from skin and scales of
Deerskin Leather is made from deer hides.
Leather from other animals include: Pig,
Buffalo, Alligator, Snake, Yak, Ostrich,
Leather cord comes in many sizes, but it's
really hard to make knots if it's wider
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Natural materials are often more expensive than
That definitely applies to Leather, which is
usually sold in small rolls of 10
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 materials include various types of yarn,
which can be used for Macrame
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
yarn can usually be stretched,
and will spring back when released.
The material repels moisture and is flame
Merino Wool is extra soft, and doesn't
feel as scratchy as other types of wool
yarn is softer and more luxurious
than wool. It's also not prickly,
and has no lanolin. So it's
Some brands are slightly shiny.
materials don't have to be made from
Yarn is made from a variety of
paper products, including rice paper,
washi, and raffia.
These materials are fuzz-free and easy to
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
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