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Synthetic Materials


Synthetic Materials


Synthetic materials are frequently used in Macrame projects.  This page contains a description of several common types, along with tips and advice.

The image above shows the most popular types:  Olefin, Parachute cord, Nylon beading cord, and Satin cord.

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


The term SYNTHETIC means the fibers are made through a chemical process. 


NATURAL means the fibers are made from plants or animals. Those materials are now listed on a separate page called Natural 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. 

Contact me if you want the original page.


 


Olefin 


Of all the synthetic materials you can use for Macrame, Olefin is the most suitable.  It is sometimes called Poly-Olefin.

It's often sold specifically for Macrame, since it has all the right features.



Polyolefin

Here in the USA, the Pepperell Braiding company produces Bonnie Braid, which is shown in this image and the ones below. 

You can get it from the Macrame Superstore.  
 



Size

Size:  Olefin comes in 2mm to 8mm sizes (width). 

The most common sizes for Macrame projects are 4mm and 6mm. 




Properties:  Like other synthetic materials, Olefin is resistant to stain and mildew.  It can be washed by hand and air dried.  

It is a great choice for outdoor projects, such as hanging tables and swings.




Hammock

Large items like hammocks made with 6mm Olefin material can safely hold 200 pounds or more, depending on how they are constructed.  

The color can fade in bright sunlight, so any Macrame items that remain outdoors should be protected and covered. 



Olefin is lightweight and very flexible. It has very little stretch, which is important if you are making something heavy.

The texture is usually soft, but some of the older brands are more coarse. 

Good quality Olefin will have a waxy feel and will be slightly shiny.



Cord

Style:  Olefin comes in both braided and twisted forms.

The twisted style is harder to find than the braided type.  It unravels easily, so the tips need to be prepared with knots or tape.



Tassel

Unique Quality: Olefin can be brushed to form very soft fringes and tassels.

You won't get the same level of smoothness if you do this with other synthetic materials.



Melted

Unique Quality:  Olefin can be melted with a flame when preparing and finishing the cords, but some colors will turn black when heated. 

Test a small piece beforehand, to make sure it actually MELTS rather than burns.



Price:  The average price for 100 yards (US Dollars):

  • 6mm size =  $9.00 - $12.00
  • 4mm size = $5.00 - $10.00
  • 2mm size = $5.00 - $8.00
  • 8mm size = $6.00 - $10.00




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Nylon Materials


Synthetic materials made with nylon were originally developed as a substitute for silk, which is still expensive.

These cord materials come in a variety of bright colors, and are often shiny in appearance. 



Nylon

There are several types of nylon suitable for Macrame. 

Beading cord, Parachute cord, and Satin are described separately below.




Fine Nylon

Size:  Most Nylon materials for beading are 0.5 to 1.5mm in diameter.

This is S-Lon Beading Cord, a popular type of 1mm nylon that's used for Micro-Macrame projects.



Properties:  Fine Nylon beading cord is strong and very flexible, and will form tight knots.  The material is soft, smooth, and comfortable on the skin.

Because all types of nylon material tend to be slippery, make sure you tighten all the knots as much as possible


Style:
  Beading cord made with nylon can be either braided or twisted when manufactured.  The image shown above is a twisted form of nylon.  


Metallic

Synthetic materials like nylon can be so shiny, they are often labeled as "metallic".  

Shown here is a braided style nylon material.



Unique Quality:   Some brands of nylon can be prepared and finished with a flame, where you melt the ends of the cords.

Test the material first to make sure it MELTS rather than burns.



Price: The price for nylon cord varies depending on where you get it.  But it's usually less than $5.00 USD for 75 - 100 yards.



Parachute Cord



Parachute Cord

Also called Paracord, this type of nylon material is often used to make safety bracelets and survival gear.

It has several core yarns and an outer sleeve, which makes it very strong.



550 Size

Size:  Parachute cord comes in 1mm to 6mm sizes, which are listed below 

The most common is size 550, which was used to make this Bootlace Bar.



450 Size

Best Sizes for Jewelry
  • Nano Size = 0.75mm
  • Micro Size = 1.2mm
  • Size 95 = 1.75mm
  • Type 1 = 1.85mm



Best Sizes for Larger projects

  • Size 275 = 2.4mm
  • Size 325 = 3mm
  • Size 450 = 3.5mm
  • Size 550 = 4mm
  • Size 650 = 4mm - 4.5mm
  • Size 750 = 5mm



Properties:  Some sources will say that 550 Parachute cord can hold up to 550 pounds, but there are factors that can weaken it.   For example, knots can reduce the strength by over 50%.   Water can also weaken the fibers.   

Since you are combining several cords when you make a Macrame project, the strength is usually not all that important.   When using this material for a Hammock, Swing, or Hanging table, you should periodically check for signs of weakening, especially if it stays outdoors.


The flexibility of Paracord depends on the size.  Knots like Double Half Hitches are a challenge to tighten adequately when using 550 size (4mm), due to the bulkiness of the material. 

For designs requiring tight knots, it's best to use size 325 or 450.


Paracord is smooth and comfortable against the skin.  Some brands are very slippery, so tighten all the knots as much as possible.




Style:  Parachute cord has a braided outer sleeve surrounding one or more core yarns, which are twisted together.  



Prepare

Unique Quality: When preparing Parachute cord, you should always cut the core yarns down to the edge of the outer sleeve.

Then apply a flame to the outer sleeve to melt the material and seal in the core.



Price: The average price for Parachute cord is between $5.00 - 8.00 for 100 feet, which is about 33 yards (US dollars).

Large rolls of 1000 feet (330 yards) are between $50.00 and $70.00.




Satin Cord



Satin Cord

Of all the synthetic materials, Satin is the most luxurious. It is a type of nylon material suitable for many projects, especially jewelry.

Satin can also be made with rayon, which is cellulose (wood pulp) that's been chemically changed. 




Size:  Satin cord is usually 1mm to 3mm in size, so is used primarily for jewelry.


Properties:
  Like all synthetic materials, Satin nylon is very strong.  It's also very flexible, but not stretchy. 

It's best to use this type of cord material in projects that have loosely tied knots, since it's slippery.  Tight knots don't usually stay that way.

Satin made with rayon is slightly more flexible than the nylon, but the knots have a tendency to loosen more easily.



Satin Choker

Both nylon and rayon varieties are VERY luxurious and soft.  The smooth texture is one of the reasons Satin is so popular.

This is the Figure Eight Choker, made with Satin rayon material.



Style:  Satin cord materials are either woven or braided



Cross Pin Technique

Unique Quality:  Satin cord is DELICATE. 

Avoid using pins
because they can damage the fibers.

Use the Cross-Pin technique or tape.



Important: Satin will sometimes darken when glue is applied, so always test the glue on a small piece first.  Let it dry to see if the dark color is permanent, then decide if you still wish to use the glue.

Finishing or preparing with a flame may not work out well, because Satin material made with RAYON doesn't melt.  And you don't always know which type you have.

ALWAYS do a test to make sure the material melts and doesn't burn. 



Price:  The price range for Satin cord:

  • 25 to 50 yards = $5.00
  • 100 - 200 yards = $7.00 - $15.00




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Polyester



Polyester


Synthetic materials made with Polyester fibers used to be difficult to find, but not anymore.

This material has always been a very popular choice for Micro-Macrame.




Size:   Linhasita brand is 1mm in diameter, and is used for Micro-Macrame and beading. 

Polyester is larger sizes (width) can be found online, but it's not easy to locate a supplier.   Shipping supply companies sometimes have polyester rope, which is 4mm or wider.



Properties:  Polyester material is very flexible, and produces tight knots.  It's strong has very little to no stretching, so can be used for heavy items.

It's smooth and comfortable against the skin.  Some brands are shiny, but not as much as nylon.

Polyester is resistant to mildew, and dries quickly, making it a great material for outdoor projects.



Style

Style:  Polyester cord materials are usually braided during manufacture.   You'll sometimes see those referred to as "solid braid". 

You can find twisted styles, but they are not as common.



Unique Qualities:  Polyester retains it's shape, even after washing and drying.  So Macrame projects like place mats, clothing, and handbags are suitable uses for this product.

Many brands of Polyester are popular synthetic materials because they can be melted for preparation and finishing.

Always do a test with a small piece of material to make sure it does not burn or darken.



Price:  Linhasita brand cord is usually sold in small quantities of 10 - 15 yards, which the average price is $2.00 (US dollars). 

The average price for 150 - 250 yards of other brands is $10.00.




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Synthetic Yarn



Acrylic

Yarn is often made from synthetic materials.  They have different properties than cord, but you can use yarn for a variety of Macrame projects.

This synthetic yarn is Acrylic, and Polyester is also easy to find.



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.  Super-bulky size yarn will produce knots similar to those tied with 4mm cord material.



Properties:  Just about all types of yarn will be weak compared to other synthetic materials.  Some brands have quite a bit of stretch when pulled, which is why yarn is good for clothing.

I recommend you use yarn only when making small items or decorations.

Most yarn is extremely flexible.  It may be too flexible for some Macrame projects.  (See unique properties below)



Fuzzy

Polyester and Acrylic yarns are NOT smooth, they are fuzzy.  Yarn is soft and feels nice against the skin. 

Most people don't like it for jewelry, but it works well for Macrame clothing like shawls, scarves and vests.


Style:  Acrylic Yarn is usually a twisted style material. 

Polyester yarn comes in several unique styles, which are described below.



Baby Blanket

Baby Blanket Yarn usually 4mm to 6mm thick.  It's not braided or twisted, but actually one piece sewn to form a tube.  It is extremely soft and comfortable.  

You can't see the knots very well with this material.



Fur Yarn

Fur Yarn is very unique.  It's often used for boa scarves.

It's composed of a single strand of polyester cord, with a soft fringe sewn onto it.



Animal

Macrame animals are a great way to use Fur Yarn. 

This is the Shaggy Dog.



Feather Yarn

Feather Yarn is similar to Fur Yarn, but the polyester cord is narrower and the fringe is much finer.

This is a great material to use when making Macrame birds or other animals.  It usually comes in more colors than Fur Yarn.



Metallic

You can find yarn that has been treated to make it metallic gold or silver.

It won't be as flexible as ordinary yarn, but will be softer than other types of metallic cords.




Unique Qualities:  Yarn compresses a lot more than other types of synthetic materials, so the knots will be extremely tight and hard to remove if you make a mistake. 

The knots have a tendency to blend in so much that you can't really see them clearly.  Keep that in mind if you choose to use yarn instead of other synthetic materials.

Do not use a flame for preparation or finishing, unless you have tested the material first to make sure it MELTS rather than burns.



Price:  Synthetic yarn is easy to find online and in stores. The average price for yarn varies greatly.

One roll is usually between $2.00 and $8.00 (US dollars), depending on the type.  Acrylic yarn is less expensive than Polyester.  

It's hard to determine how much is in one roll, because it's sold by weight rather than length.   Some brands will say on the label how much is in the roll, but not always.  So you will often need to purchase several rolls to make sure you have enough for your project.





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Have any comments about the Synthetic Materials? Contact Me.



 
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