Learn how to make a fabric covered rope bowl in under an hour! This easy sewing project is perfect for using up scraps. Do you save long skinny cotton fabric strips like I do? Do you have a stash of selvages? Use them to sew a rope bowl.
After you’ve sewn your first fabric covered rope bowl, you can use the technique to make trivets, baskets, pencil holders, placemats, table toppers, rugs, and more!
This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The free Rope Bowl Tutorial is included in the blog post below and is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF pattern for $2 is totally optional. Did you know you can get ALL the Optimized for Printing PDF files organized in a library for you to access anytime you want? Check it out.
These easy rope bowls are the perfect beginner sewing project because:
- Only a few inexpensive supplies are needed (thread, fabric, clothesline, glue stick)
- If your sewing machine has a zigzag stitch, it will work
- If you mess up, it’s easy to fix and most mistakes don’t show
How to Make Different Rope Bowl Shapes
This free tutorial will show you how to sew two different rope bowl shapes. After I demonstrate the simple round scrappy rope bowl, I’ll show you how to make an oval basket that only uses one fabric.
For reference, this scrappy bowl is 3” tall and 7” wide at the top. It used about 1/2 package (25 feet) of rope. My oval coral colored bowl is almost 4” tall and 6” x 11 1/2” at the top. For it, I used about 40 feet of rope.
I made a how-to video to accompany this blog post. It will play automatically in the video player on this page. If you don’t see it, you can watch the video on my YouTube channel too.
As you make your first bowl, you’ll start to get a feel for how to wrap fabric strips around the clothesline rope and how much to angle the bowl. Then you’ll want to make lots of different shapes and sizes.
My friend sewed the bowl in the photo above for me. Then I made a large round table topper that matches it. The table topper is approximately 16” in diameter and used 50 feet of rope. Are you getting ideas yet?
What kind of clothesline is best for a rope bowl?
Just like any other art form, it’s fun to experiment with different materials and see what happens! I totally encourage that.
However, 1/4” clothesline is a great rope to start with because it’s inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to work with. You can get 100% cotton cord, combination cotton and synthetic blend clothesline, and rope that is 100% synthetic.
For a beginner, I recommend the combination cotton and synthetic blend. The second clothesline in the photo above is cotton and polypropylene. It’s easier to sew through than 100% cotton, but it actually feels like cotton, not like nylon rope. Plus it’s cheap! The package above came from Walmart. I found a similar package of clothesline on Amazon.
To make a fabric covered rope bowl, you will need:
- fabric strips (more about cutting them is below)
- matching sewing thread for the top thread and the bobbin thread (I love variegated thread for this!)
- clothesline rope (see above)
- a glue stick (any cheap glue stick will do)
- a sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch
- a heavy duty sewing machine needle (sharp 100/16)
- sewing pins and clips
These items are optional, but helpful:
- a sewing stiletto
- Terial Magic liquid fabric stabilizer (one bottle goes a long way)
I love this project because I already have a huge stash of scrappy fabric strips saved up. Any strip from 1/2” – 1 1/2” will work great for a rope bowl. You probably won’t want to use strips less than 10″ long. They won’t cover very much rope and will slow you down.
If you are cutting new fabric strips from yardage, consider cutting your strips on the bias. This is totally optional, but bias cut strips will stretch a little bit and wrap smoother and more tightly around the rope. The basket above was made with the same clothesline and 1 1/2” wide bias cut fabric strips. It’s the second one that I’ll show you how to make in this blog post.
If you want to use fat quarters, consider my tutorial for cutting continuous bias trim from a fat quarter. You’ll have one very long piece (no joining!), and the seams in the bias strip will hardly be visible.
How to Start Your Rope Bowl
1. Choose a 18” or longer strip of fabric to start with. This will be on the bottom of the bowl at the very center. Use the glue stick to apply a generous amount of glue to the last 2-3” of the fabric strip. Lay the end of the rope on top.
2. Wrap the fabric around the end of the rope just a bit and then fold the top edge down.
3. Wrap the fabric down the rope, trying to keep it as smooth as you can and just a little bit tight.
4. When you reach the end of the first fabric strip, apply glue to the last 2” and secure it to the rope. Then apply glue to the first 2” of the next strip and start wrapping it around, overlapping the first strip a bit.
If you like, continue wrapping and glueing fabric strips to the rope until you have a very long piece.
If you don’t want to spend time wrapping all the rope before starting, you can use fabric clips to hold the end of the fabric instead of glue. This is what I prefer because I am always eager to start sewing! Make sure you use glue at the very beginning end, though, to make starting easier.
4. When you are ready to begin, wrap the end of the fabric covered rope into a small coil about 1” in diameter. Use a pin to secure it.
Note: It would have been easier for me if I had chosen a longer fabric strip for my first one. Then I wouldn’t have a clip right next to my coil.
Sew an ‘X’ to Hold the Coil Together
1. Use a straight stitch with a medium stitch length to sew an ‘X’ on the coil. This won’t show on your finished basket and will help you get started.
Use a Zig Zag Stitch to Sew the Rest of the Rope Bowl
1. Change your sewing machine to a zig zag stitch that is about 1/4” wide. On my sewing machine, that’s a width of about 6.2. For most bowls, I prefer a stitch length of 2. If you want a lot of thread showing, you can use a shorter stitch length such as 1.5.
Begin sewing at the center of the coil, zig zagging around to sew the coil together.
Important: When you begin sewing, make sure that the end of the rope extends toward you on the right side of the needle. You will use the left side of the needle to build up the bowl. This will become more apparent in a few minutes.
3. As you sew around the part of the coil that is already secured with an ‘X’, you’ll get a bunch of excess cord wrapping around the foot of your sewing machine.
You can get rid of it by passing all the clothesline around through the bed of your sewing machine. Or just wait until you have finished zig zagging the coil that is already secured, then cut threads and remove the all the rope from the sewing machine. Put it back under again with the unsewn cord coming toward you on the right side.
Now it’s time to make the bottom of your bowl!
3. Wrap more fabric strips around the cord as you go and zig zag sew it together in a spiral. The sewing will be come easier and easier as your spiral gets larger. If you would like to make a trivet or placemat, just make a very large spiral!
Tip: In the ‘How to Make an Oval Bowl or Basket’ section of this tutorial, I showed very clearly how to add new strips while you are at the sewing machine. Skip to Step 4 in that section below to see it.
4. When you feel like the bottom of your bowl is large enough, you will need to lift the rope spiral at an angle to start building up the sides.
If you use your left hand to lift the piece to a 45 degree angle, it will make a gentle curve. Lifting the spiral higher will make a steeper side of the bowl. Experiment with different angles and see what you like!
As you sew more and more rounds, you will see the bowl take shape. Continue sewing until the bowl is as tall as you want.
Sewing the End of the Rope to the Top of the Bowl
1. When you are ready to stop sewing, cut the end of the rope at an angle. The outside layer will fray. Trim away the fraying a bit, but don’t worry about getting it all.
Make sure your last fabric strip extends a few inches past the end of the rope.
2. Wrap fabric around the tapered end of the rope. Then continue wrapping the fabric on itself a bit so for about 1” at the the very end there is only fabric (no rope).
3. Finish sewing the fabric covered rope to the top edge of the bowl, then let your zig zag stitch sew completely cover the end of the fabric strip and encase it.
This secures the top edge and your bowl is done unless you want to add more embellishment. I highly recommend using Terial Magic to give it a firm professional finish and prevent fraying. I’ll share more about that after I show you how to make an oval bowl or basket!
How to Sew an Oval Rope Bowl or Basket
The main difference when sewing an oval bowl or basket is starting with a long piece instead of a coil.
For this coral colored basket, I cut up 1 yard of fabric into 1 1/2” wide bias cut strips.
1. Wrap some of the rope with fabric strips (or all if you prefer) as shown in the tutorial for the round bowl above. Fold the end of the wrapped rope over by about 7” and pin it to itself.
2. Set your sewing machine to a zig zag stitch that is 1/4” wide and a length of 2. Begin sewing at the folded end. Zig zag stitch in a straight line until you come to the wrapped end of the rope.
Tip: try to sew this piece as straight as you can. If this piece starts out wonky, the bowl may turn out wonky too (but still beautiful).
3. Wrap the rope around the end piece and use the stiletto to help you slowly turn and sew in the other direction.
4. When it comes time to add a new strip, lay the end of the new strip on top of the end of the previous strip from the front. Then wrap the length under and around the top. I find it easier to wrap the first bit squarely so it is nice and tight and then I angle the fabric to continue wrapping down the rope. This way, I only have to use the glue stick at the very beginning.
5. Grow the bottom of your oval bowl by sewing more and more fabric wrapped rope to it.
6. When you are ready to build up the sides of the bowl, lift the bottom at an angle as shown in the round bowl tutorial.
Tip: Choose one end where you will begin building the sides of the bowl. Then end the bowl in the same place.
Continue adding fabric wrapped cording.
If you add enough rope, the bowl will go around the head of your sewing machine!
7. Trim the end of the rope at an angle, wrap it with fabric, and end sewing as shown on the round bowl or in the video.
As always, I love to see what you make with my tutorials. Please post a picture to Instagram and tag me @sewcanshe or #sewcanshe so I can see!
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂