Hemp is a natural fiber produced from the cannabis sativa L. plant. It is not marijuana, although the plants are from the same family. Hemp is similar to cotton, but stronger, which makes it great stringing material for jewelry. Hemp twine is commonly combined with wooden beads to give the jewelry a natural and organic look, but any beads with holes large enough to slip over the hemp fiber can be used. Its natural color is an earthy tan, but dyed twine is also available for jewelry making.
To make hemp jewelry, you need to be familiar with macrame knots. They are what hold the beads together in different patterns on the bracelet or necklace. You can view tutorials and illustrations of different macrame knots by visiting one of the links in the Resource section. To start a hemp necklace or bracelet, measure and cut a length of hemp twine that is twice as long as the item you want to make (it will be folded in half) and add about 4 more inches to it for finishing the ends later. For example, if you wanted to make a 20-inch necklace, measure out 40 inches of twine and add 4 inches to it for a total of 44 inches.
Next, measure out a piece of twine that is five times the length of the previous piece you cut. This is the piece that will be used to tie the knots, so it needs to be much longer. For the 20-inch necklace example, this piece would be about 220 inches long. Fold each piece in half and hold them together by the centers. You will use these four strands to construct the necklace or bracelet. Holding all the strands together, make a simple knot near the top, creating a 1- to 2-inch loop. Pin this loop to a piece of cardboard or wood to serve as resistance when you tie knots in the twine. You will be pulling very hard when you make knots, so make sure the pin is secure in the work surface you choose.
Place the two longer strands on the outside of the group and leave the two shorter ones in the middle. Clip a weight to the bottom of the middle strands to keep them straight at all times. This will allow you to easily tie knots around them without the middle strands moving too much or getting in the way.
Making Patterns With Knots
Knots are formed by passing the outside strands over or under the middle strands and around each other. See Resources for step by step instructions. Use a half knot continuously for the length of the piece if you want the design to spiral. Use square knots (a combination of half knots done in opposite directions), if you want the design to lay flat and look rectangular. Half hitch knots wrap the outside strands around the middle strands creating tiny coils.
Slide beads up the middle strands if you want them to appear in the middle of the design, or use the outside strands to have the beads appear on the top or bottom of the jewelry. Pull the knots tight against the beads after they are strung to prevent them from moving. If you want the beads to have more wiggle room, simply tie the knot looser. You can leave large gaps between knots if you want the necklace or bracelet to have loops and open spaces in it.
Finishing and Clasps
To finish a hemp macrame necklace or bracelet, simply stop making knots when it's the length you want. Trim the twine strands even, leaving enough length to tie them together for the simplest of finishes. For a more polished finish, trim the loose strands short and add cord tips over them for attaching jump rings and clasps. To make the jewelry adjustable, use a lobster or spring clasp on one end of the necklace or bracelet, and attach a small length of chain to the other end. This enables the clasp to hook into different links to decrease or increase the fit.