(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 17, 2008)
Macramé hangers for containers can be simple or quite elaborate. Some can take many hours to complete, and many, like the one we will make, are quite simple and require few knots. This hanging planter is a frugal craft, costing less than $4 to make, and a couple of hours will be more than enough time complete it. Once the skills are mastered in this project, we can build on them, to tackle more advanced ones.
Here's a list of materials. Pliable cord in whatever material you prefer. Jute is good, as is this nylon clothesline. The clothesline was chosen for the contrast against the dark background for photography purposes. Match the thickness of the cord to the size of the container you wish to use it with. Tiny, delicate cord will look out of place holding a heavy container, as will rough, thick cord and miniature containers. A craft ring used to make a hook loop. I always use a ring, as it reduces stress on the cords as they swing in the breeze and scissors to cut the cord.
The first task is to measure out the cord into proper lengths. Stretch out the cord as long as you wish your hanger to be. This will include the tassel on the end and about 6" extra for good measure. Cord is cheap, and you want to make sure you have enough. Now, use that length and measure it out twice more. You should have a cord that is three times longer than the intended hanger. Mark this point with a piece of tape or safety pin. Now, double the cord from this length. What you will end up with is one length of cord that is six times longer than your planned hanger. It will be marked at the halfway point, with three lengths on each side of your mark. Cut your cord.
Measure five more cords by using the first long cord as your guide. You will end up with six long cords that are six times longer than the planned project. Hold all of these cords together and thread the ring over them. Pull it to the middle point so that when you hold it up, you will have twelve cords, six on either side of the ring. A three sided macramé hanger will be made with three sets of four cords, which is what you now have.
Cut a separate length of cord about 18" long. You will use this for the first knot that will make the coil at the top of the hanger. Hang your loop on something to free your hands. A coat hook, plant hook, or just a nail on the porch outside. You will need something that can put a bit of tension on the rope as you do the macramé.
Hold the 18" cord so that a tail sticks up above the hanging loop by several inches. Then make a loop about 8" or so down, and bring the second end back up next to the first. Now, wrap all of the cords with the second end of the rope from the top down. Hold all of the ropes with your left hand and wrap with your right. (left-handed people do the opposite) what you will end up with is a coiled rope down the whole group of cords. Slip the end of your cord through the loop at the bottom and pull up on the top cord that is still sticking out of the coil. The bottom loop will tighten and close up into the coil. It looks a bit like a Hangman's Noose, and that is what it's called. Trim the short tails next to the coil so that do not show.
The next task is to divide your cords up into groups of four. You will have three groups of four cords. Loop two of them out of the way. You can tie them with short pieces of rope, rubber band them or simply clothespin them. This will leave you with four cords to start the first leg of your macramé hanger. You will use the two outside cords to tie the knots, while the two inside cords will be the ‘carrier' cords for your work.
These three images will demonstrate how to tie the first series of knots. Cross the right side cord over the carrier cords and under the left side cord. The left side cord is then brought behind the carrier cords and pulled through the loop that the right side cord has made. You are just tying a simple knot with the carrier cords in the middle. Pull the knot cords snug to the carrier cords. Repeat this process in exactly the same way, and the resulting group of knots will begin to spiral. That is what you are doing, making a Spiral Knot.
Keep the tension the same and repeat the same pattern over and over. Notice how I hold the carrier cords as I tie the outside knots. If your cords are long enough, you can step on them with a toe to hold them too, but as the work progresses, you'll need to find a way to keep the carrier cords straight.
As you tie your knots, you will notice that the outside cords will get shorter as they are used, and the carrier cords stay the same. At about the halfway point, you will want to change their positions so that the carrier cords will be used to tie the knots and the original knot tying cords will become the carrier cords. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways. You can simply thread a bead through your cords and pull the carrier cords to the outside. If your cords are bigger than your bead, or, if you're like me and forgot to get beads the proper size, you can just take a bit of cord and make another Hangman Knot right there in the middle. I used a bit of brown nylon cord and just made a few turns, but you can use anything you have, and make it as elaborate as you wish. Continue tying the spiral knots with the original carrier cords, using the original knot cords as the carriers until your side is as long as you want. Do each of the other sides the same way, being careful to make sure they are even.
When the three sides are complete, we will now connect them to hold your planter. Take two of your completed sides and hold the cords in your hand. There will be eight cords. Carefully look to see which cords fall naturally to the center of your hand, and which ones lay to the outside. Choose the four cords that fall to the center. Let the two outside cords from each side lay loose for the moment. Drop down several inches and tie one knot just like we did on the spiral. For the second part of this knot, you are going to do the opposite. Cross the left side to the front of the carrier cords and under the right side, and the right side behind and through the loop. When you tighten the tension, you will have made a Square Knot. The further down that you drop before tying these knots, the wider the opening will be for your planter. Go around and connect each side to its neighbor.
Next, drop down and do this process one more time. This time, instead of coming straight down from your square knot, join neighboring groups, so that the next square knots will fall halfway between the first group. There will be three sets of Square Knots in two different levels. It will take a bit of practice to make the resulting opening exactly the size that you want it, but you can take a piece of rope and tie everything together at the bottom and check to see if it fits before finishing.
When you get everything the way that you want it, simply drop down to the bottom point and use a length of cord and tie another Hangman Knot to hold it all together.
You can then trim the ends and fray the bottoms of the cords for an attractive look.
This is a very simple macramé project and it uses only three knots. You can build on this knowledge and branch out into more elaborate projects if you like. Children as young as 10 can do this with no problem, It makes a nice art project for a school class for Mother's Day. Older kids can make extra money if they wish. In high school, I made quite a bit of money making custom macramé hangers for florists. Of course, that was way back in the days of bell-bottom pants and tie dye too.
Macramé plant hangers are a great gift for gardening friends. It's an old craft that needs to be revived. They are easy to make, and the materials can be as inexpensive or as elaborate as you wish. With just a little practice, you can add cords, beads, or even make a double hanger that will hold two pots. Macramé is a natural craft for gardeners and is actually very simple to do. Try it!