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I'm working on a macrame belt, so I need pretty long threads for my project. How can I handle those, without them getting tangled?

I've already tried two different things:

  1. Just leave them as they are, and treat the project carefully. The amount of tangled threads is workable, but it takes about forever to form a knot and pull the whole thread through it.
  2. Use 'knitting fishes' to wind the threads:

    Knitting fishes
    This way the project won't get completely tangled, but you constantly need to push/pull a rather large thing through each knot. Not convenient either.

What can I do to make working with those long threads easier? I'm looking for answers that include either better tools or techniques.

  • I removed the tangle tag as it is not likely to help the question anyway and tangling is not unique to thread. – Matt Jun 11 '16 at 20:51
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    Do you intend to do the entire belt in macrame (aside from belt hardware)? So you are looking for techniques that don't involve something like beads hiding your stopping and starting again? – Matt Jun 11 '16 at 21:05
  • @Matt My plan is to do the entire belt in macrame, but I had not thought of adding beads yet. Things like that are indeed valid answers too. And thanks for editing my question. I thought the 'tangle' tag would be appropriate, as there are more questions about how to keep a project untangled. But there must be a better tag for that. – Ji Ugug Jun 12 '16 at 15:07
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You don't need to work with cord that spans the length of your entire project

You have a couple of options that depend on what aesthetic you are trying to achieve and what you are willing to accept as far as look.

Adding cord with knots

There is a family of knots used to add in new cords to your project. Mostly suggested as a means of adding more colours or something like a handle. Regardless this is to show that you can make changes on the fly. Something like the fisherman's knot you could use to start and stop cords.

fisherman's knot

Looking at the linked page above you will see many other knots. I only showcased the fisherman's as I am familiar with it as far as connecting two cords goes.

Beads

Only issue with adding cords is that you still have to hide the ends. None of the knots I found that are used in this way were accompanied with end hiding instructions.

From what I understand beads are used for flair. However you could easily hide ends inside the beads as well. If you tie a bead close enough to neighboring knots the bead will not be able to slide around. Then you can hide cord ends inside the bead(s). Gluing it inside the bead could also help.

Splice your ends

A better solution would be to splice your ends. You can do this with either sewing thread or, preferably, strands of the cords you are using.

If sewing: pin the cords ends with their butts facing each other to prevent them from moving and get proper alignment when completed. Get the first few stitches in, for stability, and remove the pins so you can finish.

Thread sewn ends

It's same principle using the cord in the project. Pull out a strand and use that to bind the cord ends. Since you are using the same material you can hide the connection easier.

Cord sewn ends

In either case you should stagger the cuts so that they don't all stop at the same point. This will help with the overall strength. Also, it will be easier to hide individual splices inside other larger knots.

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  • Unless the design is made such that the shorter lengths are part of the design features, do not use lengths which are not long enough. It is very hard to add in new lengths in such a way that it is not seen. Most of the time the spot where the new string is added is ugly and a weak spot. – Willeke Apr 14 '17 at 16:56
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In many macrame projects you mostly tie with only a part of the ends, the rest are just there waiting for their turn.

Your knitting fish work well for the 'waiting' ends, making the few that work at the time less likely to get in tangles.
Or, if you do not have those fish, bundle the string and tie the end around it or use a small elastic band.

When working knots where one string goes side to side of the work, you can teach yourself to only use one string, by tying in reverse and flipping the knot if the other one should have been used. The double half hitch is such a knot. In square knots (also known as Portuguese sinnet, Soloman bar, and many other names) you seem to work with two strings and have two in the middle you tie around.
But most people tie with one string, having to pull through only one string, again you can work in such a way that you use just the same string all the time.

For a belt where the design is for string running the whole length of the belt, you should always use string which is long enough to run that whole length, substituting new string will almost always show and can sometimes fail. If you do run out of string unexpectedly or when string breaks you can try out the tricks in the other answer, but I would not plan on doing so unless needed. It is not easy but it is worth the extra work for the full length strings.

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