When you’re just starting out, reading patterns for a project can be very confusing. Knowing what type of string to buy is a total mystery. Today I’m sharing 19 macrame terms every beginner should know.

olive and natural macrame string with scissors and dowel rod

New to the art of macrame? Learn to macrame with these 4 basic macrame knots.

What is a sinnet? Twisted versus braided? It’s enough to make your head spin when all you want to do is create pretty pieces of fiber art. I get it!

So let’s talk macrame lingo.

First, let’s solve the mystery of macrame string. There is string, cord, and rope. They are 3 different materials and the way you want your project to look should determine which one you should use.

  • Macrame String is super soft, single twist, and most commonly made from cotton. It makes a wonderful fringe and is perfect for wall hangings. I hesitate to use it with plant hangers because I want to make sure my plant hangers will hold my plants. It isn’t very forgiving to reworking so be careful if you have to untie and retie it too many times.
natural colored macrame string
  • Macrame rope is typically 3 cotton strands twisted around each other. It’s sturdier than string and not nearly as soft, but if you are making plant hangers it’s the perfect choice. I like rope the best because it holds it’s shape, is easier to untie and retie, and when fringing it is has a wavy look that seems more modern boho to me.
roll of natural macrame string
  • Macrame cord is usually 6 strands braided together. It can be cotton or made from polypropylene (plastic). Cord is very strong and is the perfect choice when your project needs to hold a lot of weight. Think clothesline. When I first started I bought clothesline and it made some very structured pieces. It doesn’t usually fringe very well and will look fuzzy.

Now that that mystery is solved, let’s talk about some terms that will make reading a macrame pattern not seem like a foreign language.

Beginner knots and their abbreviations

  • LHK – lark’s head knot. A lark’s head knot is used to attach rope to your project. It can also be used to attach rope to rope. Notice the loop is in front. This is done by placing the rope over the dowel rod.
macrame rope tied in a lark's head knot to a dowel rod
  • RLHK – reverse lark’s head knot. The same as above only in reverse. How you want your piece to look will determine which way you tie a lark’s head knot. The reverse lark’s head knot is tied by taking the rope under and over the dowel rod.
natural colored macrame rope tied to a dowel using a reverse lark's head knot
  • HSK – half square knot. The left side of a square knot. Tying all HSK knots will give you a spiral pattern.
pink macrame rope tied in a left half square knot
  • RHSK – right half square knot. The opposite of the HSK. Tying all RHSK will give you a spiral pattern.
pink macrame rope tied in a half square knot
pink macrame rope tied with half square knots to make it spiral
  • SK – square knot. A half square knot and right half square knot together make a complete square knot. You will use square knots in every piece you make. It’s the easiest most fundamental knot you can tie.
pink macrame rope tied in a square knot
  • HHK – half hitch knot. A half hitch knot is a great knot to use to make borders or edges. This knot can also be tied left or right. A HHK is almost always made in pairs and so you will see the abbreviation DHHK used most often in patterns.
macrame rope tied in half hitch knots bordering square knots
  • It’s also important to note that a HHK can be tied vertical or horizontal so you may also see these abbreviations, VHHK and HHHK. Are you totally confused now?
  • ASK – Alternating square knot. ASKs are made by taking half the cords from adjacent and tying a new knot the lays below and between where the cords orignate.
second row of square knots

Other Macrame Terms You Need to Know

  • Sinnet – A sinnet is a column of knots that are all the same.
3 sinnets of square knots

Square knots are the most common knot used when making a sinnet of knots. I like to start my plant hangers using sinnets of square knots.

  • Working cords – Working cords are all the cords in a macrame project.
  • Knotting cords – Knotting cords are the ones that are used to tie the knots in your design.
  • Filler cords – Filler cords are the cords that knots are tied around in your project.
  • Row – a horizontal line of knots tied side by side, tied with a different working cord.
  • Finishing knot – a knot that is tied to secure the ends of cords to keep them from unraveling.

This simple finishing knot ends the pattern of HHKs and keeps them from unraveling on these wooden purse handles.

round wood handle of purse covered with macrame string
  • Gathering knot – used to gather cords together to secure them at the beginning or end of a project.
bottom of the macrame plant hanger showing how the bottom is done

Gathering knots are often used to start and finish a plant hanger.

These macrame terms will get you started and ready to read a macrame pattern.


Make sure to check out my simple wall hanging with beads made with SKs and HHKs and this easy keychain purse fob.


  • Posted
    by Marabeth

    My daughter and I have been thinking of making a plant hanger but it is scary thinking of what to buy. Your pin has help tremendously.

    • Hi Marabeth! I’m so glad my post was helpful! Don’t be scared! Just jump in! Check out my plant hanger for beginners. It has links to the perfect rope to use for your plant hanger!

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