One of the most common questions I get asked by beginner macramé artists is “what is the difference between string and rope?”
When I get asked this, I always feel the easiest way to answer is to actually show you the difference. If you have asked me this in the past, it is likely I have sent you a comparison image to help explain.
So you can see for yourself, here is the comparison photo I generally use.
Here in Australia we commonly refer to the first roll as single twist string and the second as rope. String is created by twisting multiple cotton fibres all together to create one single twisted strand, while rope is often three or four smaller strands twisted all together to create one rope.
It is clear to see the difference when looking at an image of the two types side by side. Here you can see the rope breaking out into multiple strands at the end.
Just to confuse things, if you are located elsewhere in the world, it is quite possible that you refer to our single twist string as rope, and our rope as cord. What! To me that doesn’t make sense but hey, who am I to judge. Really, now that you are aware, the only real issue with this is if you have purchased a pattern from a maker in another country and they have referred to the materials differently. I just suggest looking closely at the pictures provided in your pattern, as more often than not you can tell which has been used. In saying that, both string and rope are in most cases interchangeable so it won’t matter if you use one or the other.
Now to confuse you just a little bit more, there is also such a thing as braided cord. This cord is even more strands, tightly braided together, like some shoelaces. It can be, but is not always more stiff and it does NOT fray easily at all!
So, which is better? I hear you asking.
Well really it comes down to personal preference and sometimes the type of look you are hoping to achieve. As a beginner, I do feel that rope can be easier to use, and I suggest a 4 or 5mm thickness to my beginners.
For me, I also learnt using rope but soon stumbled across Luxe cotton string (you can see the range here) and was blown away with the choice of colours and the way it felt. I now almost always use string for my wall hangings because
1. That is what I am most used to and most comfortable using
2. I like the softer, flowy look of string
3. I love doing fringes and tassels.
4. It generally suits my style of work better.
Like anything, there are pros and cons to both products and things to consider before choosing string or rope for your project. See below for my thoughts on these.
Rope provides a much more structured look, it is great for geometric type pieces, I use this often for my plant hangers too, and the knots are clear and defined. I also find that it holds its twist as you work.
The ends of rope can also be unravelled to give a beautiful wavy fringe which can add an extra depth and dimension to your pieces, but this is a double edged sword. When working with rope it is important to ALWAYS tape your ends (this is best done at the time of measuring and cutting so that each of your ends have tape on them once you cut to length) If you do not tape, you will find that each of those 3 or 4 strands will begin to unravel from each other as you work. This can really mess you up if you haven’t finished knotting but all your rope is unraveled.
Once you have finished your piece, rope can be unravelled and combed out to create a fringe. This is certainly not as easy as using string however and never seems to look as lush or straight, but it can be done.
Rope comes in both Natural and coloured varieties and a wide range of sizes. At Vada Blue we stock an Australian natural cotton rope in 3, 4, 5, 7, 8mm and 3 and 4.5mm coloured Australian range plus the Luxe coloured rope in 4mm.
String has a much softer look overall and brushes out perfectly for stunning, full fringes and tassels. I find it easier to work with and more gentle on the hands when working a very large piece.
On occasion, some people find that the single twist un-twists on them as they are working and can create some loose or messy strands. What I have found from experience is that generally this can be due to the manufacturing process, with some strings being wound more tightly then others, or it can be down to the user and the way they work, hold their string and their tension. If this occurs, I just retwist as I work and this fixes the problem, however this can be a tricky solution for beginners who need to just focus on learning the knots, not twisting and knotting at the same time.
In saying this though, if you attend one of my Wall hanging workshops, we use a 5mm single twist string for our design.
At Vada Blue we have a very large range of single twist string. These include the Australian natural string which can be found in 3, 4, 5, 7.5 and 9mm, Australian coloured string in 3 and 4mm as well as the Luxe coloured range in 3, 4, 5 and 10mm plus the limited edition Silk touch and Bamboo range in 3, 4 and 5mm
To all those who ask me which is better, my answer always ends with a recommendation to try both at least once. I know many makers who only use string and many who only use rope for all of their pieces no matter what the design. It will most defiantly come down to your own personal style and preference.
So, try them both out across various projects. I would love to know which you prefer.