My love affair with macramé began one summer when my mother taught me the basic knots so I could make knotted hemp jewelry to wear to Lollapalooza. Yes, it was the nineties and I was stoked to see the Beastie Boys and the Smashing Pumpkins. And you can bet I swam, showered, and slept in my macramé knotted jewelry before the show so it wouldn’t look too new. Once I’d made many more hemp necklaces, I even made a Knotty Hemp Belt.
Luckily for us, knotted jewelry never really strays far from the spotlight. But from time to time it becomes very popular again – and knotting is having a moment. Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Cosmo magazines have highlighted knotted jewelry as one of the top trends of 2020.
Braiding and Knotted Jewelry
Braiding goes right along with it, whether you’re trying your hand at beaded kumihimo or a six-strand weave. The Fast & Fabulous Knots & Braids collection has seven inspiring ideas for jewelry you can make, whether you’re watching a concert online or dressing up for a Zoom cocktail hour.
One of the great things about knotting and braiding is that you really do get into a groove with it. The knotting or braiding pattern becomes meditative, whether you’re working on a small or large scale. And, it’s portable! I recommend knotting or braiding on the go, in front of the TV, next to the pool, or just about anywhere. (I used to use a safety pin to attach one end of a hemp macramé project to my jeans so I could braid in the car!) You can keep your projects simple or make them more complex. Either way, knotting and braiding adds an interesting new dimension to your beading toolbox.
The Josephine knot is a macramé staple. It’s also known as the Double Coin knot and the Empress Josephine knot. Whichever name you use, it’s an elegant knot with tons of decorative appeal. This knot takes a little practice, but it’s so worth it! I practiced and practiced until I got it just right, then made Josephine knots evenly spaced across the center of a choker. You can use any cording or wire that’s sturdy enough to hold its own shape.
I love this stylish Empress Josephine lariat by Michelle Owens because the spotlight is on the knots at front and center. This design is the first time Michelle has contributed a project to Beadwork! Michelle has been creating leather jewelry for years at LeatherCord USA, and it’s fun to share her work with you. Leather and stone beads are so beautiful together – use your favorite color or your birthstone to add extra meaning to your version.
Knotted wire is super cool. The Knot a Ring is a fun way to practice making knotted focal elements with wire. The All Knotted Up Bracelet is an intricate, woven wire bracelet with a knot at the center. Both of these projects demonstrate that knots make distinctive centerpieces, no matter which materials you use.
One of my favorite kumihimo experiences took place when I flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, to be a guest on Jewelry Television. I brought a few foam kumihimo disks and lots of leather and braided my way through the friendly skies. My seatmate was obviously curious, so I asked if she wanted to give it a try. She did, and we chatted and braided for the rest of the flight. Some people knit on planes, I braid!
Kumihimo means “gathered threads” in Japanese. And, it’s
inexpensive to try it out, even if you don’t sit next to an obsessed beader on
a plane. The braiding disk is foam and lightweight with evenly-spaced slots
around the edge of the disk. You can braid just about any type of cording that
will fit into the slots by moving the cords in prescribed patterns – or ones you
There are several kumihimo projects in Fast & Fabulous Knots & Braids. These beautiful braids take traditional 3-strand braiding in a whole new direction. From simple sari silk kumihimo to a lovely beaded round braid, you’ll want to try them out. These projects will help you get started and just might launch you into a new favorite technique!
Over the years, I’ve learned many different types of knotting and braiding. Sometimes it’s the star of the show and sometimes it’s more of a backup singer. If you haven’t tried pearl knotting yet, you should! It’s fun once you get the hang of it and it’s a beautiful way to knot many different styles of beads, not just pearls.
Pearls and gemstones are traditionally knotted to prevent
the beads from rubbing against each other and to prevent loss if a strand
should break. Beyond the practicalities, this type of knotting can also be used
as a decorative element. Bright cording provides a pop of color between beads,
and organically-shaped beads
I’ll admit that I bought a pearl knotter and stashed it away in a drawer for three years before I finally gave it a try. But once I started knotting, I got on a roll and even taught classes so other people wouldn’t have to feel as intimidated as I had. If you’re getting started, the free article “How to Knot Pearls: Real, Glass, and Cotton” by Tammy Honaman is a good introduction.
Try 7 Easy Knotted Jewelry Projects
I love the drape of knotted jewelry and frequently use small knots with gemstones, too. Terry Ricioli’s Southwest Sunset in Fast & Fabulous Knots & Braids is a twist on the traditional style of pearl knotting – and you don’t need any special tools. You can use what you have to tie knots between the beads.
Katie Hacker, Beadwork Editor in Chief