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Clothesline Basket Tutorial

The end of the school year is drawing to a close and I’m always stumped by what to get teachers. We have a lot of teachers in our lives (my son attends 2 different preschools this year) as well as amazing admin staff and his speech therapist. I trolled Pinterest for gift ideas both worthy of the teachers and people who make both our lives and our son’s life more enriched as well as something useful and handmade. I couldn’t come up with anything I liked until I saw what I’m about to share with you.

I remember giving my own teachers end-of-year gifts as well as holiday gifts back when I was in school. Their desks would be littered with mugs, cookies, candles and ceramic apples. Having some amazing friends in my adult life that are teachers (and two cousins that are teachers), I often hear “I appreciate the thought, but seriously. If I get one more candle I don’t know what I’m going to do with it…” With that dialogue running through my mind, I searched for a gift that says “You are an important part of my son’s life. We appreciate the work you do and THANK YOU.”


I came across some baskets made out of clothesline recently. They looked easy to make and everyone needs a basket for their treasures, phones, desk stuff, notions and other small things, right? I looked at some tutorials, spent some time at my sewing machine and voila! I have 10 baskets to give to deserving educators. After posting a picture of one of them on Instagram, I got dozens of requests on how to make them and I am only too happy to oblige.

These baskets are a great way to use up old or odd-colored thread you have lying around, or keep it neutral and use white, gray or tan. I like to make them bright and colorful, so I tend to go for the pinks, reds, blue and greens. Some of them I dip-dyed after finishing them (and we’ll talk more about that later) to match the thread. You’ll need a fair amount of thread and your bobbin thread will end up being your outside color, so keep that in mind if you’re using neutral inside and a bright color on the outside.

What do you need to make your own sewed basket? You’ll need clothesline – and you want to make sure it’s 100% cotton, not too thick and not stretchy. I went with 7/32″ thickness and found it easily on Amazon. The one I got had 200 feet and I was able to make 3 medium-sized baskets as well as a small one with the leftovers. It’s not easy to start a new clothesline in the middle of a basket (not like joining in new yarn when the skein runs out), so I always make sure I have enough to make it through a basket and save my little leftover bits for small bowls and baskets. Make sure you have a solid sewing machine that has a zigzag stitch and plenty of elbow room.


step2Start your center base by circling your clothesline around itself into a circle about the size of a quarter.


Then, making sure you’re on the zigzag stitch and that the tail attached to the clothesline is coming off to the right side, sew across, then across the other way (making an “x”) through the small base. If you want you can go across again and again, making it into 1/8’s, but I found an “x” works just fine.



Now start to turn your work counter-clockwise, and this is the key element – be sure that when you zigzag that you’re grabbing part of the clothesline from the existing circle and the new added piece (you’re basically working in the ditch between the two) and that you’re attaching them together. If you miss one side it won’t attach and it can’t stay together. Make sense? Continue doing that, turning it slowly and letting your machine feed the new clothesline in. One other thing worth mentioning is that they don’t have to be perfect. These are handmade gifts! Part of the charm is some wonky stitches or changing your thread color halfway through. Embrace any weirdness happening and roll with it – that’s what makes each one unique.


Keep doing this, letting your work hang over and out, just make sure you’re keeping your base flat. The bigger the base, the harder it is to manage, so start thinking about how wide across you want your base to be before things get out of hand and difficult to control.


Keep doing this until you reach the desired base diameter. For this one, I went to about 8″ across.

step8If you’re wanting to make a bunch of trivets or coasters, this is where you secure off the end and finish up. If you’re wanting to make a basket or bowl, this is where we start turning up the edges, making the bowl shape. Grab your base and pull it up so it’s vertical. I pull it up so the base is flush against the side of my machine. Using the side of the machine is a great way to keep the bowl shape consistent.

step9Keep working around in a circle the way you’ve been doing, just keep your work against your machine and go for as much as you want the height/depth of the bowl or basket to be. I went about 3.5″ deep. The clothesline may need a little more help now that you’re shaping the bowl, so just be sure it’s right up against the work. If you’re afraid of putting your fingers too close to the needle, use a stiletto or a chopstick as a pushing device.

step10Great! If you’re making bowls, go for the desired depth and finish off! If you’re wanting to make a basket and add in handles, go to the desired depth, then pull away the clothesline to make the actual handle. Be sure to backstitch a few times before you pull the clothesline away. This will add stability.

step11Cut your thread, make your loop, then reattach and start stitching again. Be sure to backstitch again a few times when you join back in. I like to mark the opposite side of the basket so I can get the handles even, but maybe you just want one or want to wing it. Anything goes!

step12Now you have a decision to make. Do you want a single loop for the handle or do you want to make it stronger and shore it up? I like to go a few times around, and how many times you do that is entirely up to you. Just keep the handle loops together and don’t rush it.

step13Once you’ve gone around enough (3 times in this case), it’s time to wrap things up.


Cut your clothesline and tuck it into one of the sides, backstitching as you come to it.


step16Each basket is so different! Finish your end off with a swirl, or make a really deep basket and attach a leather strap to make it a beach bag. Use self-striping thread or paint or dye the clothesline before you start to sew. Wrap the clothesline in fabric as you work for more of a scrapy feel, or spray paint it when you’re all done.


On some baskets I painted the bottom part (I really like the look of just a dip-dye or a partial paint job) or let it sit in a bowl of dye for a hint of color. Make each basket unique and put your own look and finishing touches on it. If you can find out the recipients favorite color, all the better.

Happy making, readers!






44 Comments Post a comment
  1. That is so cool! I may have to try that 🙂

    June 3, 2015
  2. Tanis, this is really fun! I have wanted to do this and you have broken it down so I think I can! What dye(s) would you recommend? Thanks!

    June 3, 2015
    • Any kind will work!

      June 3, 2015
    • Lucy #

      I love that idea and I’m going to making some.

      June 7, 2017
  3. Fabulous and beautiful. What a great idea. What kind of dyes did you use?

    June 3, 2015
  4. Trina #

    These are absolutely gorgeous! Unfortunately, I don’t sew. I have never owned a sewing machine , so I doubt I will have a chance to make one but they are lovely none the less!

    June 3, 2015
  5. Shing #

    OMG – this is so fabulous, and I totally want to try this. Thanks so much for the tutorial!

    June 3, 2015
  6. Linda Medina #

    Thanks for the great tutorial, Tanis! These are wonderful!

    June 3, 2015
  7. Fantastic tutorial Tanis! I have admired all of the gorgeous baskets you’ve been posting on Facebook. It is fun to see how they’re made.

    June 3, 2015
  8. Donna C #

    Thank you so much for this terrific tutorial. I might have missed it but did you say to use a heavy needle or justthe regular type?

    June 3, 2015
  9. Gatske #

    What a lovely idea, thank you for the tutorial.

    June 3, 2015
  10. elaine #

    You didn’t have any problem with needles breaking? It looks like a cool thing to try but think it would be hard on needles.

    June 3, 2015
    • Nope, no issues with a needle breaking after making over a dozen so far!

      June 3, 2015
  11. Rhonda #

    These are great! So u sew the zigzag on both sides?

    June 3, 2015
  12. LisaCinFL #

    I think this is so clever. One comment though – you said to turn the work clockwise, but it looks like you’d have to turn it counter-clockwise to allow the tail end on the right to keep feeding in. Or am I seeing this wrong?

    June 3, 2015
    • Drats, you’re right, thanks! Fixing now!

      June 3, 2015
  13. Betsy #

    You are too smart. Will def have to make me one!

    June 4, 2015
  14. Elita @ Busy Needle Quilting #

    Very nice work and a clear tutorial, Tanis! I’ll be making some of these too. What weight of thread did you use? And is it cotton or poly? Thanks for sharing!

    June 4, 2015
    • Just regular cotton sewing thread – nothing fancy!

      June 4, 2015
  15. Judy #

    Concise and very clear. Excellent tutorial!

    June 4, 2015
  16. I just made one and it is very easy, no problem with the needle, just have to keep refilling bobbin. Thank you for the idea and directions.

    June 4, 2015
  17. Very cool. And I love the yarn in the basket. What is it?

    June 7, 2015
  18. Joan Eaton #

    Thank you for the tutorial. What type of paints or dye did you use, the picture of the multiple baskets have such beautiful colors. Thanks you.

    Joan Eaton

    July 25, 2015
  19. Donna J #

    Perfect snow day craft, thank you so much for sharing!

    January 24, 2016
  20. Oh, my goodness, Tanis! I bought a starter sewing machine and am having the best time! I just realized I’m pursing my lips as I sew my basket to make sure I catch both pieces of rope. It made me laugh. Thank you for the fun tutorial.

    February 12, 2016
  21. Noemy #

    I rally love this I think Im going to try to make a few little ones for my group friends !!! Thank you so much for the idea and the tutorial!!!

    May 7, 2016
  22. jessica! #

    I make these baskets too! I learned from trial and error. You tutorial would have helped me, lol. I’ve been dying the rope then sewing it. And have dip dyed too. I like dying the rope beforehand because then I can run it through the wash. How do you set the dye when dip dying?

    May 26, 2016
  23. Christina cantu #

    Do have a recommendation for dye brands. The dye I used in the past bleeds when I dye my denim or cotton shirts black.

    June 4, 2016
    • I don’t. I haven’t had any problems with bleeding and the cotton clothesline. It might help to let them dry in the sun?

      June 4, 2016
  24. Peg #

    Made some myself, so fun. Gave as gifts last christmas. Never thought to spray paint.

    June 4, 2016
  25. Margaret King #

    This is an excellent post thankyou for sharing
    Your baskets are just lovely and your instructions are very clear.
    I will definitely be having a go. I store wool for my projects and fabrics in baskets so that’s what I will be using them for.
    Thanks again
    Margaret 😊

    June 14, 2016
  26. Karen Nobles #

    Love this! 3/4 done. How did you finish off? Any special tips?

    November 26, 2016
  27. Rena #

    If your website gets a lot of traffic it’s my fault! I made a bowl and posted it on a scrappy FB group. Everyone asked how to make one so I googled a tutorial and yours is great so I linked to it!

    November 27, 2016
  28. Deborah #

    Love your baskets! How do you get the different shapes? I’ve been great at making bowls with the sloped sides, but getting the sides to be straighter vertically, or curved in around the top, seems to be escaping me. Help?

    February 6, 2017
  29. Jenjer #

    Thank you for this post! I’ve looked at several others who were not nearly as easy to understand. The pictures and instructions were very clear and I’m excited to get started. Thanks again!!

    March 9, 2017
  30. Janice #

    Thank you. I love your baskets. I just bought 100′ of clothesline at Walmart and when I got home I noticed there is a warning that this product contains a chemical that causes cancer and birth defects. Have you ever seen this on your rope products? I’m not sure if I should handle it or not. Maybe they apply a coating for weather protection? What are your thoughts?

    March 26, 2017
    • I used cotton clothesline and mine had no warning like that on it. That’s a personal decision, but I probably wouldn’t use it, especially with 2 small kids in the house! 🙂

      March 26, 2017
  31. Karen #

    What size need,e do you use?

    April 25, 2017
  32. Mary Del Junco #

    I love these .I started making them. I had small hunks of colored clothesline. Only enough for small ones. I wanted to semd you puctures but I don’t know how.

    October 16, 2017
  33. Martha #

    Looks amazing! Can you use cotton clothesline that has a poly core?

    November 16, 2017

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Elsewhere | Fringe Association
  2. 5 Amazing DIY Baskets You Should Start Today | Love + Honey

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