The Making of Rope Bowls

If you think sewing is dull, think again; it’s really just a ‘tool’ to be creative in so many shapes & forms. How simply amazing when I learnt the making of Rope Bowls!

Who knew you could sew Rope?!

One of may favourite things is working with form since I have taught perspective form drawing for many years. How true it is that spiralling some cord can make shapes… and there really isn’t a limit to how many. Doodle on paper and see what you can dream up. ‘But before I get too complicated we will start with the most basic; the simple rope bowls!

The supplies can vary but you need some type of substantial cord. The most common is cotton cord or clothesline rope. They come in many thicknesses (3/16″ – 1/4″) and what you use also depends on what size and strength of bowl you’d like. I used 7/32″ Tuff Rope here as it was the best I could find close to 1/4″. It worked great. Some also come in polyester which also worked but looks a bit more shiny and pure white in colour. ( I’ll be following up with the other options in next posts) When in doubt, I try it…

The Basic Rope Bowl

Since I am just going to explain the most simple of rope bowls, we are starting with a round bottom. Take the cord and wind a tight spiral. You can wrap the end with thread or make sure to sew over later on a few times. Pinning through will ensure it stays put.

If you feel confident enough you can just start sewing the spiral with the zigzag stitch or follow below…

Your sewing machine will need to be able to have about 1/4″ lift below the presser foot and use a zigzag foot. The idea is to anchor the spiral with cross stitching. I sew over the pins until I can pull them out.

I usually like to use coordinating thread but for visibility here I used black for you to see. A narrow close zigzag is stitched across a couple times in 2 directions (or you can do more for extra stability)

This cross of stitching will hold the small round centre in place.

Round and Round…

Now comes the fun… Turn it so that the larger part is to the left. That is the part that makes this so easy as when it gets bigger it is not getting stuck under the machine since it is growing towards the outside. (very similar to the strip rugs) Those rugs were so much fun I just had to make bowls!

Set a wide close zigzag stitch that catches both sides of the cord evenly. Any stitch that has width can work, even decorative ones.

You will need both hands to guide the sewing but the feed-dogs will be pulling it as long as you keep it pivoting to curve around.

Making the curve:

Once you have circled around as much as you like to make the flat bottom you can start to create the upward curve of the bowl. The amount will depend on the angle you choose and also how tight you may pull on the cord. Try to keep an even amount of pull.

The head of the machine will somewhat limit but I have not found it troublesome. This rope bowl is super tiny so the curve started after a small center. A large bowl would work it’s way above the machine head.

I added some blocks of satin stitch (stitches that are pretty well solid) for some decorative pattern. When using white thread it is almost invisible.

Keep guiding the cord and circling around until you have as high or low bowl as you like. The cord come in 100′ bolts so you can make a few from one depending on the size.

Finishing off the Rope Bowl:

To end off the bowl you have a few options. The cord can be used as a loop, or made into a spiral or just hidden under a strip to finish the edge. Be creative…

In this case I just used the satin stitch (close wide stitch) to cover the cut end. (it was wrapped with thread to prevent too much unravelling)

It’s a tiny cure bowl and quite sturdy. Now imagine some extra colours wrapped around the rope, or some yarn, or coloured thread, or different colour rope, or dyed rope, or multiple swirls on the sides… endless design possibilities!

These were the first ones to experiment… ‘But just wait and see what comes next! Simple, modern and Boho style bowls and baskets! No crocheting or knitting.

To finish the rope end I like the use of a leather (or vegan leather) strip that is riveted in place. If you want to customize the bowl why not?!

These stamps work well with leather scraps to customize… I know they would come in handy someday!

Stay tuned for even more creative bowls… One idea leads to another, as I hate being typical as you may have noticed. ‘And I want to be able to up-cycle instead of always buying new…

‘Going to have bowls of fun…

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    1. I have sewn them with my trusty old kenmore (SEARS KENMORE 158.19310 SEWING MACHINE) and it has cams! It was one of my thrift store finds before all the hype of sewing masks they were easier to find. My Pfaff would also sew the bowls too.

    2. Thanks Barb the rope bow by profession , the rope bowls are beautiful and the instruction for making them is straight forward.
      I am Social Worker by profession, i run youth groups. We focus on life skills and self empowerment. These programmes aim to build their self esteem.
      i am going to start the rope bowl making project with them.
      Thank you!!!

  1. I can’t wait to see what’s next! I have lots of fabric and am thinking wrapping some thin strips of fabric around the rope 🙂

  2. Beautiful work as always! You’re so talents in so many mediums! Thank you for sharing with us. Im looking forward to trying a rope bowl using my trusty old JCPenney’s machine (circa 1975)!
    Thank you again .. by the way as I’m writing one of my “Peepers” is looking at me 👀

    1. I bet it’s a great machine. My first new Kenmore machine was my birthday present about close to that year; but I won’t tell you how old I was! (so you can’t do the math, LOL!) Ah those darn peepers!

  3. I always enjoy seeing what you are up to! I, too, have been recently charmed by the making of rope bowls. Not wanting to buy more new rope, I’ve been experimenting with using my spinning wheel to make cordage from strips of silk (cut from cast-off clothing). The vessels I’m sewing from the silk cordage are lovely and I can’t stop making them!

    1. We must have some kind of connection! I was thinking of the same and also the use of a spinning wheel. I am not a spinner but do have spinning wheels from my parents. I do not have any idea how to make them work as they were vertical antique types. You are fortunate to have silk! I would prob eco print that instead… I know it gets to be an addiction to make bowls. I may have to sell a few! Thanks for the info!

      1. A PDF would be amazing please I would buy the instructions so I can make some pretty bowls. Would make wonderful Christmas gifts. Cheers.

    1. I have not done the math… and I was one who loved math. I often would start with a big 100′ rope and then just use what was left for the smaller ones at the end. If wrapping with fabric then you can piece the rope and keep going. As a test you could coil it on a table and see. They are fun to make!

    1. I just use regular polyester thread as the bowls do not get any really hard wear. If you were to make a bag then I would possibly use a stronger thread. You can also make the stitches closer for strength.

  4. Thank you, Barb, for this easy lesson. Just made my first ever rope bowl, and I love it. My wonderful husband just claimed it for his own. Yeah!!