Basket tute feature-01

The original tute (more like tips or hacks) for making rope and fabric baskets was posted on my old blog that got hacked a million times so we shut it down and got rid of all the spammy-code-filled content. Luckily, Norm had made a backup of my site and he found my original post so I’ve lifted some of my old tips from it, yay!  I’ve been asked a lot recently about how to make fabric and rope baskets, so, here it is! 

Fabric baskets are super fun to make and great scrap-busters. I like to use up bits and bobs of all different fabrics in them, it gives them a super scrappy, creative, and colourful vibe. This is how I make them, (might be right or wrong but works for me!) and some tips I figured out along the way!

To make a fabric and rope basket you will need:

  • A sewing machine capable of zig-zag stitch
  • An assortment of fabrics for a scrappy look- avoid fabrics that fray a lot, like linen, satin, rayon, looser weave cottons, etc.. Cotton and quilting cottons work great and don’t fray as much giving you a cleaner look.
  • Lots of thread, and a couple (at least!) of bobbins wound
  • Glue stick
  • A package of cotton clothesline rope- see note at bottom about what kind to look for and where to find it
  • New needle in your machine, I use a 90/14 quilting needle, and maybe a backup just in case!

1 basket ingredients

Let’s get started!

2 cut strips

First, cut a bunch of strips of fabric, you’ll need quite a few. Cut them freehand, anywhere between 5/8″ – 3/4″-ish wide. If you cut them too thin, the fabric won’t cover the rope very well, and too thick it tends to not wrap and will bunch up/twist.

3 strips

4 step 1

Grab your rope and find an end. (OMG see my note about your rope before you start, it’ll save you major headaches! Don’t ask me how I know, lol)
Take one strip of fabric and lay it wrong side up and apply a strip of glue on the fabric, about an inch long x the width of the strip. Place your rope near the bottom edge as shown.

5 step2

Next, fold over the top of the fabric strip, covering the rope end, and press to adhere it with the glue you applied.

6 step 3

We’re going to start wrapping the rope with fabric! Adjust the fabric strip so it is behind the rope as shown above. Then start wrapping the strip around the rope, keeping the strip on a slight bias/angle, with the rope on your left, and the fabric strip working back to front, flipping the tail up and over the top of the rope and back under and around. Wrap the fabric around and around the rope, covering the rope completely as you go.

7 roll

Once you have a few inches wrapped, coil the end and roll the fabric covered rope into a spiral. This will be the bottom centre of your basket. Keep the rope on your left as you get set up, and then as you work.

8 sew start

(I switched thread colour last second, you got me!)

Place the coil under the machine’s presser foot (Tip: I find using a clear foot super helpful in keeping the rope and needle aligned as you sew), adjust your stitch width and length so it’s a large zigzag, and zigzag  across the centre, then backstitch back to where you started. Stitch back and forth across the centre spiral, catching in the centre edges of the rope, then go back to the centre, and start stitching around each “round”, catching in all the edges of each round of rope. This can be a bit tricky to maneuver, just go slowly, catching in both sides of each round as you stitch. A small awl or even the capped end of a pen, can help you turn the piece under the presser foot as you get it started.

9 zig bottom

Note where the needle is, catching in both sides of the rope rounds, right and left. A foot with a centre mark or split can also help you keep things aligned visually as you sew.

10 join

Keep wrapping and rolling, stitching around and around the coil. When you get to the end of a fabric strip, use a dab of glue stick on the wrong side of the strip that is ending, and put your next strip face down on top, overlapping by about an inch, and adhering it with the glue. Keep wrapping, rolling, stitching, and adding strips!

11 align centre

You can see here how the needle is catching both sides of each rope. If you miss a section, you can go back over it and restitch it, no problem!

12 wrap

Here’s how I hold the rope and fabric as I work. As you get faster at sewing these, you can wrap as far ahead as you can then whiz thru a few stitched rounds without having to stop to wrap as you go.

(Ok so I did not take my own advice about re-rolling the rope into a new ball (see notes below) and yeah it got majorly tangled. Don’t do that. )

19 tip reroll your rope first

13 measure

Once you get the bottom of your basket to the size you want, I wanted mine a bit bigger than usual, this is where the fun starts….

14 tip up

To get the sides of your basket to start turning up, literally tip the bottom of your basket up as high as you can make it go, and keep sewing, holding the bottom up and turning it as you stitch.

15 taking shape

You will start to notice the shape of the basket starting to turn from flat into a 3D basket, pretty cool huh!

Keep sewing and continue holding the bottom/side up as you go, to create the sides of your basket.

18 keep on rollin

It’s starting to take shape!

17 break

Tip: If you need to take a break, change a bobbin, pour some wine ( ;D ) , take a pin and stick it thru the fabric and rope to hold your spot and keep things from unwrapping, ’til you’re back to it.

20 end of my rope

Once you reach the end of your rope, (literally or not, haha!), make sure to have about 5-6″ of fabric strip left past the end of the rope, (trim if needed). Apply gluestick to the remaining length of the fabric strip.

21 end wrap

Wrap the fabric strip around the end of the rope, securing it inside, and then wrap the end of the strip together, adhering it into a narrow end. The glue will help hold it together as you wrap it.

22 sew end down

Continue stitching, and hold the narrow end right up against the basket edge and stitch over it, catching it in the stitching and attaching it to the basket edge.

24 finish

23 finishing

To finish the top edge, continue stitching around the top edge of the basket, letting the needle go over the right edge of the basket top edge when it is at it’s furthest right position. Stitch all the way around the top of the basket, then backstitch to finish off the stitching.

A Finished basket

And done! Bet you can’t make just one!

basket texture

Here’s what I learned:

– Re-roll your rope into a ball, don’t leave it as it comes in the package, it will tangle and twist as you go. Unwrap it and re-roll it into a big ball.

– Use glue sticks to attach fabric strips to each other- it’s faster and easier. Don’t mess around with pins and clips. Too tedious!

– Cut your strips of fabric about 5/8″ – 3/4″ wide- too thin and you’ll have to wrap a million times, too thick and you get bunches and wrinkles.

– You can use regular old cotton clothesline rope you find at the hardware store. Even the lighter poly-cotton blend rope is fine and stitches up nicely. You can usually find it where the clothesline/laundry room stuff is.  I refuse to spend $20+ on a 50 foot package of rope at the sewing store when you can buy 100 feet for $10 at the hardware store!  I get the kind labelled “Clothesline” at the hardware store, it works better than thinner weights; thinner gives you a lighter and smaller finished piece but takes way longer and uses way more thread and fabric strips. Don’t buy any plasticy, nylon, or the traditional yellow rope, it won’t work and could destroy your machine, and your sanity!

– These suckers burn thru thread like crazy. Like make sure you have a couple of spools in the same colour on hand, unless you want to change colour mid-way or have a big spool to use, and wind several bobbins before you start.

– 50 feet of rope gets you a really decent sized basket.

– Prints get lost, so don’t use any special ones unless it’s like a hidden special gem of fabric you want to work in. It becomes about the colour instead, since you can only see a sliver of the print as it’s wrapped around the rope and the strips overlap. Smaller prints do work well and add nice texture. Big prints just become about the areas colour. I like to mix in bits of velvet, lamé, anything interesting! Sari fabrics are really cool too.

– Proceed with caution, you might become addicted to the process like I did, it’s very zen, and meditative!


Updated October 2017:
Troubleshooting and a few more tips: 

  • If you notice your machine is skipping stitches (looks like a straight stitch in between zig zag stitches),  try:
    – inserting a fresh new needle- this method dulls your needle quickly so you may need to replace your needle more often than usual
    – using a heavier needle- jeans/denim weight or a heavier Universal needle
    – adjust your tension to be slightly looser than normal
    – use a heavier thread and ensure you have the same thread top & bobbin
  • If you’re having problems feeding the rope through the machine, try:
    – using a walking foot instead of a regular foot
    – lessen the pressure on the presser foot if you can (Janome machines usually have a dial you can adjust)
    – ensure the rope is not too thick and is not plastic – standard clothesline cotton/cotton blend rope from the hardware store works great!
    – use sewing gloves- I use rubber palm/fingers gardening gloves from Costco
  • To join two pieces of rope:
    – keep wrapping the fabric strip around the current piece of rope until you’re about 1″ from the end of the rope.
    – apply glue stick to the free part of the fabric strip up next to the rope and continue, approx. 2″ worth of glue along the strip
    – butt up the new rope end to the old rope end and continue to wrap glue-y fabric strip tightly around the join and past it ( hold the joined section tightly to secure it then keep wrapping a few inches ahead)
    – then continue to sew as normal.

Enjoy and I hope this tute helps you get started! I’d love to see if you make a basket or two or three, please do share and tag me on Instagram! @cynthiafrenette