This is probably the most-asked question I receive from new makers. You see a visual of a macrame piece on Pinterest or Instagram and want to replicate it (for personal use), but you don’t know how much rope you will need.
Cord LENGTH is the most difficult part to gauge when making a project as there are so many variables that go into deciding on rope length.
The size (mm) and type of rope you use, the types of knots you are making, how many knots, how complicated the pattern is, and your own tension style all impact how much rope you need.
If you are starting out, the best plan is to follow a pattern or YouTube tutorial. Making from pattern will give you a sense of how the ropes are worked and how much you are using on different knots. Once you become more confident with your skills, you can begin to guesstimate rope lengths.
You can buy my macrame starter kit here. It includes contains 2 spools of rope and a full set of instructions to make a simple wall hanging and a simple plant hanger. There’s enough rope to make at least two wall hangings and almost nine plant hangers. (It also includes beads, a metal hoop, wooden rings, s-hooks, and a discount card off your next purchase).
Okay, shameless plug over, my second suggestion is the good old-fashioned swatch.
You should create a row of knots similar to your project, before you begin, to find out how much rope you use up making the knot. This is the most accurate method as it takes rope width (mm) into consideration, and it also takes into account your own knot tension – how tightly or loosely you make your knots.
Because this is the most accurate way, it stands to reason that very few people actually use this method 😉 Like me, you just want to ‘dive in’!!
If you have seen a picture of a project, and really want to start right now, then you will have to guesstimate how much cord you will need. So, let’s get started!
In essence, the more knots your pattern has, the more rope you will need.
I think the Golden Rule is always cut more rope than you think you’ll need. You can keep any cut-off remnants to use later for fringing, feathers, or mini ornaments, so don’t worry about wastage!
How to Measure
Loose Open WorkExample Relatively few knots and lots of gaps between knots Single ply cord is used
Here, I suggest 4x times the finished length of the project (single-ply uses up less rope than 3-ply).
The Atzaro Plant Hanger has only a few knots and it is approx. 80cms long finished.
Therefore, this pattern uses 6 lengths of rope, each 320cms.
Each rope is folded with a lark’s head, giving 12 x 160cms long strings.
Closely Knotted Work Example The Bambu Cushion This is made using 3mm 3-ply ropes, with closely knotted square knots.
This is approx. 45cms long finished.
I multiply the length 10x time to get 450cms.
I then added another 30cms to allow for fringing on each end.
Therefore, this pattern uses lengths of rope, each 480cms.
If in doubt, round up.
Sidenote – Calculating rope WIDTH is much easier – I’ll do a post on that soon!
Spiral Knots from one length of cord Example Hope Dream Catcher The hoop section is made with lots of spiral knots. 3-ply 3mm cord is used.
Spiral knots are made from half a square knot. They use a colossal amounts of rope!
I usually allow 10x times the ‘finished length’ for twists.
The hoop consists of spiral knots twisted around the full circumference.
The hoop is 80cms circumference, so I cut one 800cms length rope.
The rope is folded in half and used to create spiral knots around the metal hoop, (which is effectively working here as the ‘filler cord’).
Spiral knots from 4 cords When making a spiral knot from 4 cords (e.g. wallhanging or plant hanger) make the working cords much longer than the filler cords. In the example here, I’ve used 4mm cords. I’ve made a 20cm long spiral.
The inner ‘filler’ cords I left hanging at just over 20cms from the bottom of the dowel, as they don’t do any work, but just act as the conduit to wrap cords around.
The outside working cords I multiplied by 6x – so 120cms long.
Therefore I cut TWO x 150cms long ropes:
120cm for outside working cord
+ 20cm for inside filler cord
+ 10cm for the lark’s head
+ leftover fringling
Without getting too hung up (!) on measurements, if I am working on a Wall Hanging – a mix of closely knotted work and loose fringing – I always suggest 6x – 8x times the amount of rope for square knots.
If in doubt, round up.
When you measure a piece, you can use this rule of thumb to get the total length needed:
(A x 8) + (B x 2)
Where A = knotted section and B = the fringed section.
Remember, there are many variables (3-ply rope uses up more rope than single ply, the thicker the cord, the more rope needed, etc.) so keep this in mind and experiment as much as possible.
Lastly, don’t be too worried as there are techniques for adding ropes to your project if you feel like you are running out.
You can find a great guide to adding more rope to your project HERE which explains the 2 simplest methods.
Also, remember that I always display the metres of rope per spool on this site (rather than weight, which I don’t find very helpful), so after you work out your metres, you can figure out how much rope you need to buy.