There's a tiny bookstore not too far from our old apartment. It's tucked into a dowdy old brick building that was a factory during the first few decades of the 20th century. The selection is not grand by any stretch of the imagination; they only have a single table for their craft section. But, once in a while, we get lucky and find something awesome. The last time I was there, I was browsing the craft table and caught sight of something blue under a pile of sewing books. To my endless surprise, it was Mod Knots: Creating Jewelry and Accessories with Macrame by Cathi Milligan.
I first heard about this book in a copy of Jewelry Affaire magazine (vol. 1, iss. 2; Autumn 2010, pg. 119). Cathi's "Swallow Set" caught my attention because it employed macrame techniques in its design. I remember admiring the macrame books in our old north country library back in Potsdam when I was going to college there; shortly after we moved to the Buffalo area, one of the exhibits in the on-campus art gallery was composed of all-macrame projects. It always seemed like a fun craft form, and I was curious to know how Cathi would put together a whole book around using the techniques in jewelry projects, so I bought it.
It's a fantastic book. I didn't know I already knew some macrame until I started looking through it! All those years of Girl Scouts and summer camps I learned what we call "boondoggle"---and come to find out, it's just macrame with strands of colorful plastic! But now I'm digressing... The beginning of the book offers really well-detailed instructions in the basic knots and styles of macrame. There are colored illustrations to make sure these techniques are easy to follow and understand. I feel like this section alone was worth the total cost of the book.
In the second part, Cathi offers several jewelry projects in different media. They are all lovely; I certainly never would have thought to use beading wire to do macrame, but it looks really fantastic. Again, the projects are all colorfully illustrated and easy to follow. And there's more than just jewelry projects. The last section offers year-round projects such as a scarf, a summer throw-over, a yoga mat bag, and so forth---all made with macrame.
Now, you may call me biased, but I wasn't too terribly interested in the final part of the book. For folks who love macrame, though, it's probably fine. I just would have wished for more jewelry projects. However, the first two sections made the book more than worth the money to any jewelry maker. I've been having fun using the techniques to come up with some of my own takes on it, drawing on those Girl Scout boondoggle years, too. I did find that it was somewhat difficult to find beads with holes large enough to use with hemp or leather cording; you may have to order some special. Bead reamers are definitely handy.
Cathi Milligan certainly opened my eyes to a whole new way to join the art of macrame with the craft of jewelry-making, and with delightful results. This book has a lot to offer anyone wishing to learn these techniques, whether to create lovely jewelry or other accessories for a fantastic handmade look any time of the year and for any occasion.
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