Confused? I really was when I started, and I have to say that I can't give you a complete translation as to what everything means and refers to, as there seems to be regional and national differences too.
Here in the UK, in general we knotters call it cord as the all-encompassing name, there are many types of cord and I will touch on a few here. Each comes in different thicknesses and made from different fibres so we'll keep you on your toes! In general, the thicker a cord gets the softer it will appear and likely feel. If you're just starting out, then 4 or 5 mm is best. I would suggest grabbing a whole neutral spool from a good supplier, Artsy North East is my favourite, and begin trying your first makes. If it makes it easier, then grab a kit. It'll cost you more, but a kit will hold your hand through your first pieces.
Ok so most people interested in cord want it for macramé, in general most people pronounce it as mac-ra-me in UK where as in US, Aus and South Africa it's often pronounced ma-cra-may. There will forever be debate but my mum told me mac-ra-me and I’m not brave enough to argue! I remember it as macramé army and so created a community of knotters named that through my website.
Macramé isn't the only fibre art though, macra-weave is a short jump, some can use cord to crochet or knit depending on a pattern, there's always arm knitting and finger knitting too!
Rope is generally used to refer to a more engineered style of cord, normally double, triple or 4 twist. This is great for strength, durability and texture. Outdoor plant hangers, hanging shelves, hanging seats are good examples. Untwisting the rope does result in a beautiful curly texture and brushed a crazy frizz (much like my hair) and yet still beautiful in cord form.
The downside of twisted cord is that it's not so kind on your hands, a little at a time or possibly wear gloves. Trust the calloused lady!
Great for anything to go outside, plant hanger, swing, hanging shelf. Treat it like outdoor cushions, try to bring them in before rain but a summer shower is fine
Single ply or single spun rope is generally much kinder on your fingers than rope and can be knotted into beautiful soft shapes or smooth feathers or leaves. It also comes in so many types; cotton as standard, bamboo, jute, raffia, vegan wooltops, cotton frizz, metallic and plastics too.
The downside is that it's not so strong or durable, collects dust more easily and spills soak in more, fear not though. Most macrame can be cleaned with a little laundry detergent and cold water. Do not use warm as it may warp, hot will ruin it. Once dry brush out any fringes from the ends back to the root and it'll be beautiful again. Frequent feather dustering keep most wall hangings clean for years.
My staple for wall hangings and any cord to be close to the skin like a bag strap or necklace is cotton or bamboo cord. Also beautiful on table tops as coasters/ runners/ placemats. Great for texture whether it's raffia or brushed out cotton.
Braided are a bit of both worlds really, stronger than single ply, kinder than rope. Textured like rope but has some stretch. More uniform like single ply but can't really be brushed out.
I like braided for bags and structured small things like my pumpkins as it can be worked with without fraying and has a little give in it to effectively sculpt shapes out of cord.
Lots of knots tightly together give rigidity but still a poor choice so far for making a belt.
Did that help?
There are many more things I can talk about but I’d like to keep it short and sweet. Let me know your questions about cord or anything else macramé and I’ll get back to you. I may even blog about it!