You may remember the gorgeous rope basket bag I was carrying in my last me-made outfit post, and as promised, I’m super excited to share a tutorial with you to make your own!
This DIY is brought to you from my friend Amy. She’s a genius at crafting and sewing awesome stuff on a super frugal budget, and has an Etsy shop where she sells some of what she’s making. She’s been on a rope bowl kick for a while, and I basically begged her to write a tutorial for this bag after she showed it to me during one of our weekly Bachelorette sessions. We’ve been brainstorming other DIY posts in the future; hope you guys love this one!
This make is coming just in time for the second half of summer! For the beach, for a trip; this bag pairs perfectly with a casual outfit but feels substantial enough to take to a wedding (where I’ll be going). I love it bag for traveling since you can throw stuff in it without looking, you can stand it up so nothing really disappears to the bottomless depths and you can close it up and hold it close if you are traversing a Paris train station (backpacks on your front?! Ew.) I made it with a cross-body strap cause that’s how I roll, but as you will see, the variations are just about endless so you can choose your own adventure once you understand the basics.
I have to warn you though, once you start making rope bowls/baskets/bags you will have a hard time stopping. They whip up so quick and much like pottery, no piece is exactly the same. The more you make, the better you will get at controlling what you end up with, and you can start to see the possibilities for shapes and sizes.
For this rope basket bag we are using a regular sewing machine set on your widest, longest zig-zag. I used a #16 needle and a good quality polyester thread. Again, the variations on your thread colour are where things get fun. I kept it to a bone white (to match the rope) and black but you could do all kinds of things with colour, gradations, I mean….I warned you.
The thing that gets my heart pumping with crafts is when you can turn something utilitarian and boring into something beautiful and unique. So yes, you could find some fancy shmancy crafting rope or something but I used clothesline from Home Depot because HOW COOL IS THAT?! In this case, I used about 120 feet of 3/16″ diamond braid, poly-cotton clothesline, but anything around that thickness will work fine. Here is a link to something similar if you’d prefer to buy it online.
To begin, fold a two inch end section of rope in half so you are starting your sewing at the fold, and keep the working end (the whole rest of the rope) on the right hand side.
Sew using a zig-zag stitch, making sure you are hitting both ropes with your needle.
Once you reach the end, carefully turn the corner while adding more rope to sew along the length again. At the ends, leave the needle down and raise the presser foot to pivot around.
From there, just keep adding rope and sewing around the edge. The bottom of this bag is an oval, and after a few times around it will start to look that way.
At this point, you can decide the size of your base. This bag’s base is approximately 10 rows from the center, sewn flat. The curvature of the side is determined by the angle you raise up the spiral. In this case, I brought it up to about 45 degrees for a straighter sided bag, but if you raise it up less dramatically it creates more of a bowl like base.
Continue sewing around, ensuring you’re hitting both ropes. If you skip some stitches you can just back stitch and pick it up, or sometimes I just get it on the next go round. I kind of like the way it looks when the stitches aren’t perfect or even.
Before you change your thread, I would recommend checking your base for holes. It is easier to fix when it’s still flat, and then you can finish all your white before you move on to another colour.
At about 10 rows up from the bottom edge I changed to black. To achieve the textured effect with areas of darker black, I just backstitched a few times in random spots. Again, it is the imperfections in this technique that I think end up looking perfect.
After about 15 rows I switched back to white. When switching colours, backstitch a bit and then cut it off and overlap with the new colour. Every now and then you can stop and check your shape and adjust your angle.
Remember, the higher you lift the piece, the steeper the sides. You will likely start to see an end to your rope soon. You want to make sure you have enough for the last three turns around the bag. If you run out of rope, no big deal. See my note on how to handle this at the bottom of this post.
Now is time to plan your strap and toggle loop! Stand your bag up and fold it in half along the base. Mark with a pin on either side at the top corners.
Wherever you are, continue sewing to the pin. When you get to it, backstitch several times and cut your thread. Now leave a one inch gap, and continue sewing again, backstitching several times to secure the thread (this way the stitches won’t pull apart at the pressure point of the strap). Continue to the other side repeating, this step at the other pin.
The second time around, sew your new row next to the row where the gap is, creating two rows over each gap. Stop sewing after the second gap to find the location for the toggle loop.
With your bag standing up, stick a pin in the middle of the top edge; this is where the toggle will go. Continue sewing and when you come to the pin, make a loop of rope big enough to fit your toggle in. Secure either side of the loop with some backstitching on either side to add strength.
Continue sewing a few more inches, stopping before you reach the first handle loop (the gap you created earlier). Cut the rope and tuck it into the inside of the bag. For a clean finish, shorten your zig zag and then blanket stitch the rope end into the top edge of the bag. If it frays, hand stitch a whip stitch to clean it up.
Your bag is almost done! Now for the strap.
I created a 40” length for a cross body strap; the rope stretches with wear, and over time it ends just where I want it. Of course, you can adjust the length for yourself. I suggest experimenting with some rope to find a good length; just keep in mind it will stretch a few inches over time.
Start by folding a 80” length of rope in half (or whatever your final length is x 2). Sew the two rows together, keeping the working end on the right as we did at the beginning.
Sew back and forth until you have four rows of rope sewn together. At this point, cut the rope making sure to leave two more lengths (plus a little extra).
Feed the finished end of your strap through one of the gaps on your bag. Leave a little slack and pin the working end of rope back to the strap.
Sew the length to itself, making sure to backstitch several times where the rope re-attaches. When you get to the other side, feed the end through your other bag gap, repeating the above step. Make sure your strap hangs flat and double check you have it the way you want it before you sew the last length to itself.
When you come to the loop on the other side, cut your rope and finish as we did the bag edge. Your finished strap will be six rows wide. Again, if you want it thicker (as you might if you’re making a shoulder strap) just add more rows before you attach the strap to your bag.
For the toggle I chose a black horn button. I marked it with my loop in place and sewed it around a rope with black embroidery thread. Et voilà!
A few notes:
-This bag is super washable. I had one for two years that was getting a bit grimey so I soaked it in comet and dish soap (!!!) and scrubbed it with a bristle brush. It still looks great.
-If you want to make a bigger bag or you run out of rope, it’s super easy to add more. Just cut off the little plastic tips of both rope ends and overlap the new piece inside your bag. Backstitch well (5 passes) over both ends and continue on your way.
Obviously, this rope bowl technique has tons of applications. Make a bigger base at the beginning and use more rope to make a larger tote, or create a smaller fold at the very beginning and a less steep angle to make pretty bowls for around the house. I’ve been experimenting with dip dying them and would love to see some options made with stripes of brighter thread.
Hope you find this tutorial helpful! I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments below.