All New Tutorial: How To Make A Sewn Fabric + Rope Basket!

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! Gratuitous Starr picture because its funny!

A fabric bowl I just made became a dog hat, it even matches her fur! #dailystarr

This was my first practice basket bowl thingamajig. She was not amused but a good sport as always with the promise of a cookie.

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


By |2017-10-21T14:01:07+00:00January 25th, 2016|Cheap n' Cheerful Project!, Free pattern, Tutorial|32 Comments

About the Author:


  1. Marilyn January 25, 2016 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Yay!! Thank you! Going to get the supplies tomorrow. I really want to make one!

  2. andrea January 26, 2016 at 7:19 am - Reply

    soooo cool! i’ve been wanting to do this forever. thanks for sharing!

  3. Amanda February 23, 2016 at 11:20 am - Reply

    How much fabric would you say you used? I have a pack of 1-1/2 in. skinny strips (a honeybun). If I halved each strip they would be exactly 3/4 in. I’m trying to figure out how many Easter baskets this would get me 😉

    • Cynthia February 23, 2016 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Oh wow that is a very good question! It really depends how closely you wrap/overlap as you go and how big the basket is in the end. I’d say maybe 1/2yd to 3/4yard for a good big basket but I’m just not exactly sure as I usually cut a huge pile to pull from and also use a lot of scraps so I don’t really measure. It’s kind of an experiment every time! 😀

  4. Barb May 26, 2016 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    Hi, you did not sew the strips together, did you? I think you just glued the new strip to the previous strip, right? Thanks, Barb

  5. Madaline Dillard August 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    I have made several rope baskets , but lately my sewing machines ( phaff and baby lock) have started messing up. My phaff skips the wide part of the zigzag and just sews a straight stich. My baby lock just leaves clogs of bobbin thread. I have tried changing the kind of needle I am using, and several things. Short of throwing both machines out the window, I don’t know what else to do. Any suggestions?

    • Cynthia August 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Hi Madaline! Oh no that sucks!
      I can suggest trying a heavier needle, and also try using a different kind of thread?

      I know my old Bernina used to shred Aurifil thread and would not sew with it at all. I always use just a good quality regular polyester thread, like Gutterman or similar, for baskets & it works fine on my old Pfaff and my new Janome.

      Also check your tension maybe?

      And try giving your machine a good clean & oil (if needed) inside, often that will help too.

      Also if you are using any batik fabrics (which are more tightly woven), it can cause problems, so try with a regular cotton quilting fabric too.

      I hope that will help! 😀

  6. Toni Fisher August 21, 2016 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    I was looking forward to masking a basket as described – I bought the cotton rope and have wound most of the rope with fabric but have now found that the rope is too thick to fit under my machine foot!
    What was the thickness of your rope?
    Also I bought the rope from a large hardware distributor but it cost $20 Aus.
    Maybe I could try to sew it together by hand?
    Regards, Toni

    • Cynthia August 22, 2016 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Hi Toni, oh no! I just used regular clothesline weight, it’s maybe around 3/16″ or so thick, maybe a bit thinner (I don’t have any on hand right now to check!). You can definitely try by hand, I’ve seen some interesting ways of doing them that way using a crochet hook or a large upholstery needle, Pinterest is a great source for them to find tutorials in different methods. I hope you can get it sorted! 😀

  7. Sally Bystrom September 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    I just came across this tutorial and thought I would share a few things from my experiences with making these baskets. I have made about175 – 200 of them, all sizes, ranging from diameters of 3 inches to 12 inches, as well as trivets, coasters and small placemats and chair pads. As you say, they are extremely addicting! The best rope for these is the 3/16″ size and try to find the stiffest product that you can. When I started out, I quickly discovered the stiffer, the better, and was able to buy a rope that had an inner core, believe it or not, of plastic fibers. That rope made the most beautiful, stable baskets and bowls and was not at all difficult for my machine. As I said, I probably made 150 items with that particular rope. Unfortunately, that company has discontinued it and I have had to go back to the softer ropes, but I have been starching all my rope now and it has given me a better finished product, as well as being much easier to work with. If your rope is soft, it takes a lot of work to get the fabric nice and tight and even more work to keep it snug as you are sewing. One other thing, I never use glue for my ends, although I know a lot of people do. Too messy for me! Maybe it is all the practice I have done, but a tightly twisted, overlapped end will actually hold on its own and if I have to, a clip is just faster for me than a glue stick. This is a great tutorial, and I hope it encourages others to give this a try. It is truly great fun and with just a little practice, you can have a lovely item to use, gift, or sell.

    • Cynthia September 5, 2016 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Wow Sally thank you for the awesome tips! 😀

      • Lori Lanier November 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm - Reply

        I don’t use glue either and I wrap alot of rope before I start mine. I do that while watching tv. I have used clothesline but cotton cording works the best. I was getting skipped stitches with the clothesline with the inner core thing.

  8. Annette December 3, 2016 at 2:44 am - Reply

    Thank you I learned a lot! I have made several bowls and I buy my clothesline from Amazon. How on earth would you starch your clothesline as suggested in previous comments? These bowls are addictive but they are great gifts! I will look for you on

  9. PAULA HARRIS February 4, 2017 at 8:50 am - Reply

    I am going to be starting this new hobby. I started quilting about 18 months ago and love it. Now I have a use for all my scraps and some squares I don’t like.

    Also, I love the bowl hat on your dog. I had to look twice because I thought you had my dog. LOL. My cocker has the markings very similar especially on the face. Yours appears more tolerant.

    Thanks for the tips
    Paula H
    South Carolina

  10. Carol Stroud February 7, 2017 at 11:30 am - Reply

    thanks for the help & tips. I had been looking for help and was so glad to find you
    Thank you again

  11. Shirley crittenden February 8, 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Do I drop the feed dog on my sewing machine to make a cloth line fabric basket cause it’s hard to get it under feed dog

    • Cynthia February 8, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hi Shirley, you shouldn’t need to drop the feeddogs, but if you can lighten the presser foot pressure on your machine, it helps!

  12. Margarete Barnes February 20, 2017 at 2:21 am - Reply

    I wonder if piping cord would work as I am not sure I can get cotton clothes line. What do you think?

    • Cynthia February 20, 2017 at 8:35 am - Reply

      Hi Margarete, it might work, depending in the weight/thickness, you might have to experiment with it a bit! 😀

  13. Karen March 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I just made my first one and I think it turned out cute! Thanks for the directions!

  14. Diane April 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    I’m loving this!! It’s like a happy day at summer camp! I bought a jelly roll of batiks and decided I didn’t like the darker colors. They were perfect however for a whole bunch of smaller bowls. I’m going to fill them with candy and give them away for Easter. Thanks for the terrific directions. 🙂

  15. Sue Spence April 13, 2017 at 4:06 am - Reply

    I would dearly like to make this basket but the rope won’t fit under the presser foot. I am using a 9mm poly rope on a Brother machine. Is it the machine I’m using or is there a way to adjust the presser foot. There is no mention of this in the instruction booklet.

  16. Susan Bell April 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Our sewing club made these at one of our monthly meetings. Such fun! The member who taught us the technique had us use sisal rope. It’s great! Stiffer than clothesline and holds the shape beautifully. We got it at wal-mart for about $4.95 for 100 feet. I have a vintage Kenmore heavy duty machine and it sewed quite easily.

  17. Judy Brummet April 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I have made several of these bowls. I use old fashioned clothes pins instead of pins to hold ends together as I wrap. Can you suggest how to put on a handle that will look nice? Judy

  18. Cynthia Jensen May 29, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    I basically make mine the same as you – if I want a more finished look I iron under a little on each strip top edge after sewing several together to make at least a 45 inch strip which is easy to work with. As to the rope line I put mine on the floor & put my foot on it to keep it taut while coiling the fabric on .

  19. Nancy June 2, 2017 at 5:39 am - Reply

    What a wonderful tutorial! It felt like my instructor was right by my side. And yes this project certainly is addictive. Thank you so much. Maybe you could show us how to make a lid for our basket?

  20. Jacqueline Grice June 20, 2017 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Hi there
    Just working on my first basket hopefully bag . Great tutorial! Can you tell me what the best way is to add rope to the existing rope? I have so far only been able to find at Wallmart a cotton cord 1/8 ” at 45 feet long so to make a bigger and higher bag basket I need to add rope together. Any help would be much appreciated

  21. Cathy Diefenbach September 28, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    I have a Janome Horizon 8200QC. Would I be able to make this on my machine? Worth a “jean” needle?Thanks in advance.

    • Cynthia September 29, 2017 at 9:47 am - Reply

      Hi Cathy, you should be able to no problem, thats the same machine I have and it works beautifully! I find I just had to lighten the presser foot tension a bit to accommodate the rope and adjust the stitch length. You can always do a practice one first to see how it works! Happy stitching! 😀

  22. Tonia January 18, 2018 at 9:27 am - Reply

    We are hosting a quilt show in March and I am going have a table on what to do with scraps. It is a free demo and I make these bowls all the time from my scraps. Would you mind if I used your instructions to give out on “how to” to people interested in learning? I will provide your information and website on the flyers along with your instagram tag. I know it says to share but wanted to make sure this would be ok.

  23. Katie Jamieson February 1, 2018 at 9:26 am - Reply

    This is so awesome!!! Excellent instructions, thank you so much! I received a very large decorative basket with handles on it from a ‘bestie’ friend for Christmas and I was just overwhelmed with its beauty and creativity. Started hunting for a site for these and finally found yours. What a wonderful presentation. Thanks so much.

    • Alida February 16, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Great tutorial! I’ve been making bowls and trivet for some time and, initially, the first few beginning rounds were painful. I tried knitting needles and pencils to keep the cord tightly wound (and to prevent stitching through a finger!). Then I found the perfect tools to use – a pair of wooden chopsticks! I cut them down to about six inches in length for easy maneuvering. Note – don’t try plastic chopsticks – they slip on the fabric .

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies and third party services. Ok