Ready, Set, Sew - 5 Helpful Tips for Making Baskets from Cotton Rope

With such malleable consistency, it’s easy to see why rope has become a staple in our studio when getting creative. In this post I share my five tips for making baskets using cotton rope, from choosing your materials wisely, to adding your own personal touch to the finished product.

As each summer approaches, I begin to receive a raft of compliments once I rock my rope basket bags – from my chic plain ones to the fun embroidered ones I’ve created in one of my workshops.

And to be honest, the rope basket bag is such a simple and beautiful make, I’m not surprised.

The rope basket bag has, in fact, been one of the most popular projects from Baskets – my debut book that was published in 2019 – so it was a natural decision to launch a dedicated kit for people to make their own. That decision was certainly the right one as it continues to fly off the shelves each and every summer.

But why limit yourself to basket bags? There are so many other makes you can create when working with rope, including coasters, placemats, plant pots and, of course, storage for the kitchen, bedroom, or nursery.

In today’s post I wanted to share my top 5 tips for making baskets with cotton rope that I’ve picked up along the way.

woman using a Pfaff sewing machine to make a cotton rope bag

Tip 1: You’ll need a sewing machine

Technically you can hand sew your project, but this a long and tedious process so I would encourage you to work with your sewing machine if you know how to use one. I currently use the Pfaff Expression 710 (on loan), which is incredibly easy to manoeuvre. Be sure to order leather/denim needles, plus strong thread, as these are perfect for working with rope.

Tip 2: Choose your materials wisely

Like any creative project, you want to make sure you choose your materials wisely – I’ve trialled a lot of different ropes throughout the years, and if I have one piece of advice for you, it would be to buy the materials in person. Pop down to your local haberdashery or craft shop so you are able to touch and feel the materials – it is really important to get a good sense of the quality of the product you’ll be working with.

You’ll also want to avoid twisted ropes that are used quite a lot in macrame, for example, as the strands are twisted and they can unravel under the needle. My preferences are soft, smooth and braided cotton rope (6-8mm diameter) that will give a smooth finish to your baskets and homemade crafts. Shop here

selection of cotton rope plant pots sat on the corner of a stairwell

Tip 3: Start small

I know you’ll want to dive headfirst into making your basket bag but start with something simple as you get used to the materials. Something small like a coaster is the perfect mini project to help you become familiar with the rope and zigzag stitch. Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful set of coasters for your next dinner party.

Tip 4: Be kind to yourself (and your body) 

It is so easy to get lost when you are in the zone and continue to sew sometimes for hours on end – I’m guilt of this for sure! It can so easily become addictive and hypnotic to see your project come alive, but nothing good will come from you being sat in your chair for the whole day/night. Make sure you take regular breaks – if needed, put a timer on your phone to remind you to stand up, stretch and do some steps around the house.

Living in the UK, we don’t get much sunlight so make sure you have good lighting wherever you work – especially if your machine doesn’t have an overhead lamp like the Pfaff is fitted with.

a pair of hands sewing pompoms onto a cotton rope basket

Tip 5: Let your creativity shine through

Rope is a natural fibre which makes it even more fun to work with, especially when you consider how easily it can be dyed. There are countless online tutorials on how to use onion skins or avocado skins to naturally dye materials. The rope can also easily be painted or what not add embroidery or beads to give its own personal touch.

Tell us about your latest project - is rope something you’ve used in your creative endeavors before and if so, what did you make?

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collage of cotton rope baskets and basket bags including a Pfaff sewing machine

woman stood holding a cotton rope basket bag in a garden