FAQ: What is the Difference Between Rope, String and Yarn?

Sometimes the smallest things can throw us for a loop. Like, why does this stuff that looks mostly the same have so many different names? Rope, string, thread, cord, yarn, twine, floss, ribbon, just to name a few.

These are some of the words used to describe the strands that are generally used in fiber craft. And the specific craft you pursue will inform what material form your fiber will take. Here we will focus on the craft of macramé and when making macramé you will usually be dealing with rope, string, cord and, to a lesser extent, yarn.

Image of Rope, Yarn, String, Cord in Warm Colors


Yarn is defined as a continuous often plied strand composed of either natural or man-made fibers or filaments and used in weaving and knitting to form cloth (Merriam Webster). Yarn is characterized by the craft for which it is used.

A weaver could weave with ribbon and a knitter could knit with our 2mm string (which we highly recommend!) but generally speaking those materials would be referred to as yarn when used for those crafts where the end result is cloth. Yarn is sometimes thought of as being made only of wool but it can be composed of any fiber.

And, you can absolutely use yarn to knot! We have a plush yet hefty yarn that knots up beautifully for those curious about using wool yarn for macramé click here. 

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We carry both rope and string at Modern Macramé and you may want to know how they differ because their material qualities lend them distinctly different characters.

Rope is similar to string but rope is plied, meaning that each rope is composed of bundles of multiple strings that are twisted (or sometimes braided) together to form the rope. That is the difference! Both are twisted but only one is plied. Rope has a different texture and tends to be a firmer material, with a girthier knot.

Our cotton rope comes in 3mm, 5mm and 12mm and in an array of appealing, modern colors. 

Modern Macramé 5mm Cotton Rope Colored Rope Colored String Fiber Cord


A string is a twisted bundle of fibers used to “bind, fasten or tie” (American Heritage). Once again the purpose of the object is defined by its intended use. And if it is meant for tying you can bet it is good for macramé! String tends to be softer and more supple than rope because it is unplied and has a lower profile knot.

Our cotton string comes in three different diameters, 2mm, 4mm and 9mm, an ideal material for myriad projects, large or small scale.

Modern Macramé Elemental Coaster Pattern 2mm Cotton String Colored String Lifestyle Image


This is a term you will come across frequently when reading a macramé pattern. Cord is a word we use interchangeably for both rope, string and yarn. It’s a catchall! If you are knotting you can think of all your working lengths as cords

Now that you know the difference between these dynamic materials you should be able to communicate more fluently in the language of your craft. You may also find you can determine which fiber format is suitable for your project and shop for materials more easily. With any luck this clarity will encourage you to explore rope, string and yarn and all their many applications with confidence.

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