Intro to basket making

DIY instructions

This DIY has intrigued and intimidated me for over a year now. It seemed so simple, but I had my doubts -- could my sewing machine handle it? what if my basket turns out lumpy and lopsided, and how exactly do you get it to curve and up and create the sides? Turns out that all it takes to make this basket is some cotton cord and patience.


I used cotton clothesline cord from the hardware store, in 3/16 inch thickness. I don't think my sewing machine would have liked it any thicker (might not have fit under the presser foot). I used fifty feet, and it was enough for a basket about eight inches in diameter and four inches tall. My machine had no trouble sewing through this cord.

Start the basket

Create a small spiral from one end of the rope (assuming you want a circular basket). Hold it together carefully and secure it by sewing an X shape through the center.

Sew around the spiral

Now set your machine to a zig-zag stitch. Lay the small spiral down flat, and start sewing circles around it, catching the loose cord as you go. When the spiral is small it's somewhat tricky, but will get easier as you keep going. Eventually I fell into a rhythm and was able to increase my speed.

Use a wide and open zig-zag that is about as wide as the cord. This will make it easiest to catch the cord on both sides of your stitch.

At this point I decided to switch out my white thread for a dusty pink color. I've seen some lovely baskets where the cord was dyed or painted, but swapping out thread is another easy way to create stripes and visual interest on your basket.

Sew the sides

Once the base is nice and big, start sewing up the sides. This is what I was most nervous about, but it was surprisingly easy! You just sort of start holding the base up, perpendicular to your sewing, and keeping sewing those circles. It feels a bit like you're molding or sculpting the basket. After a couple circles, you'll start to see progress.

Eventually you'll get to a point where you're holding the base of the basket completely sideways. At this point, you're just building up the walls. If you want your basket to have sloping sides, then angle the basket more while sewing.

Tip: Plan ahead to make sure your machine doesn't get in the way of your basket. If you have a tall basket with straight walls, your base has to be big enough to reach around the top of your sewing machine.

I stopped for a quick basket-photoshoot when my bobbin ran out. I also decided it was a good time to switch back to the white thread.

Finish the basket

To finish the basket, tuck the end of the cord under and stitch it down to create a loop. You can also just sew to the end of the cord, but it's a nice touch to have a little handle. For the last couple rows I used brown thread. I think this was a little too dark and shows the stitching too much, so I would opt for a milder color next time.

And you're done!

That's it! This basket takes only a couple hours and about $5 to make. I think it would make a great gift, and I'm excited to try some variations on handles.