Simply Tie Knots to Create Macramé
Macramé is an ancient fiber art that uses knots to create items that are both useful and beautiful. This activity inspired by Wall Hanging 3 by Tanya Aguiñiga uses only square knots. It is easy for beginners and for young children, with help from parents.
About the Artist:
Growing up in Mexico and California, Tanya Aguiñiga discovered a passion for making things with her hands. As a child, she got her start in fiber art by turning shredded palm fronds into jewelry and selling it to her neighbors! Today, she uses her artist/designer/activist voice to address social issues with creativity and compassion.
• Cardboard or clipboard for holding your work
• Macramé cord- this can be rope, twine or yarn cut to desired length (3 feet is a good length for beginners/young children)
• Support, something to tie your cords to- dowel, branch, straw or ruler (Your yarn will be attached to this)
1. Start by cutting your cord or yarn.
Three foot pieces (3’) are a good length to start with. You will need at least two pieces to practice tying square knots. Tape your support to the cardboard then anchor pieces to it using a simple loop called a Larks Head.
You’ll need 4 cords or strands to make a square knot.
2. Tie a Knot
Bring the ends of each cord together to find the middle. Loop it midway over your support then feed the ends through. This is called a Lark’s Head knot. Repeat with each cord. You’ll be using the Left and Right strands for knotting; the two center strands don’t move.
3. Make a Loop
Take the Left strand and make a loop over the center strands, then the Right one goes over the Left’s “tail” and through the loop in back. Then tighten. Now you’ve made a Half Square knot.
4. Now do the reverse!
Loop the Right strand, Left strand goes over the tail and through the loop in the back. Tighten the Square Knot you just made. You can keep repeating the same knots to make a chain. Here is a little trick to help you as you work:
Left over Right, tuck under. Right over Left, tuck under.
Using just square knots, you can make a chain for a bracelet or keychain. Add a few more strands and you can make a wall hanging. You can even add beads to your work!
Even young children can experiment with freeform knotting. Get them started and let them go!
Try a more advanced approach using 5 cords. Start your knots lower and skip the outer cords after the first knot, then add them back. Then use all the cords to make a large square knot. Feel free to experiment, you can always untie and start again!
“Meet” the artist in this Craft in America video (13 minutes)
Inspire the young designer with simple sewing
This family activity introduces the art of sewing to young children and is inspired by the Impressionist painting Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing, by John Leslie Breck. Parents can cut fun shapes from cardboard, punch holes, and encourage children to practice stitching.
Along with the fun and creative opportunities simple sewing provides, it also has many benefits for children including:
- Pincer grasp development
- Knowledge of bilateral coordination (using both hands)
- Motor planning
- Eye-hand coordination and visual scanning
- Cardboard or cardstock to cut into shapes
- Hole punch or pencil to make holes
- Yarn, embroidery thread or shoelace
- Markers or watercolor paints
Work with your child to plan a shape to draw on the cardboard. Cut the shape out. We selected a T-shirt and socks to “mend” with yarn. Have fun drawing, coloring, or painting designs and details on the cardboard.
Punch holes throughout your cardboard shape with a hole punch or pencil. Adults should do this part. Cut the desired length of yarn or thread, taping one end to the back to secure it, then use the other end to make a “needle” tip by tightly wrapping tape around it. A shoelace works well for this too.
Show your child how to “stitch” in and out of the holes. Let them make their own random designs.This should be a fun exercise for young children, who can pull the yarn out and stitch over and over again.
View the painting Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing together and expand the learning experience. What do you think the young woman is sewing? If you were there with her, what sounds might you hear, and scents can you smell? What is the weather like there? What would you say to her?
Ice investigations: A ‘cool’ project for kids
Freeze odds and ends from around the house in a water-filled resealable bag or plastic container, and dig them out again using tools you have on hand. Inspired by artist Danny Lane’s Threshold—a sculptural glass installation comprising an undulating wall of glass rods with colorful objects and lights placed behind—the process-based project promotes eye-hand coordination, builds vocabulary and critical-thinking skills, and is lots of fun.
- Large zip lock bag or plastic container (make sure it fits in your freezer!)
- Objects to freeze
- Real or toy hammer, metal or wooden spoon, chopsticks, peeler etc. (depending on the age and ability of the child)
- Optional: gloves, safety goggles or sunglasses, food coloring, magnifying glass
Put the resealable bag it into a bowl or container and add water. Let your child add the items one by one, observing whether the items sink or float or look different in the water. Seal the bag, removing the air, and place it in the freezer. Occasionally peek at the bag as it is freezing to see how things are changing.
Assemble your excavation tools. Be sure to take safety precautions if using any sharp tools! Once your ice is frozen, remove from container. Make observations about shape, weight, texture. Are there air bubbles? Do the objects look different from different angles?
While you wait for the water to freeze, watch this short video about the sculpture, Threshold, that inspired this activity.
Once frozen, take everything outside if you can, or place it in a tub or larger container. Experiment with chipping away at the ice with different “excavation” tools to reveal hidden objects.