Friday, 1 January 2016

Quick Stitch Project - Fabric Rope Bowl

I've been lucky this festive season to have time for one of my favourite stitch makes - a fabric rope bowl.  I love making these simple vessels because they're pretty, practical, economical and just simply fun to make.  Their uses are infinite (my morning porridge excluded) and they can be made in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

The supplies required are quite simple - nylon washing line which can be purchased from Crossways Patch and cotton fabric.  You can use all sorts of fabrics, although personally I prefer a cotton fabric that is coloured both sides.  The reason for this is because the fabric strips that wind around the rope are torn rather than cut and where fabric has a white reverse, the frayed edges tend to show more.

I start off by tearing a few 1" strips from my first fabric choice.  It might seem a better option to cut the strips, but trust me tearing leads to a much neater finish.  I usually do an initial tear to get a straight edge and then I snip and tear 1" strips from thereon.  I find it's best to tear strips as I go so that I don't end up with more than I need.  I then take my first 1" strip and wind it clockwise around the end of rope my uncut rope, leaving a tail of about 3". 

The next step is a bit fiddly - I twist to surplus tail of fabric and then coil it into a spiral.  I coil so that the rope within the twist starts where the coil ends and comes off to the right.  Next I thread up my machine with a machine thread (not embroidery) and set to zigzag.  I also make sure that I have a good solid needle like 'Jeans' or 'Topstitch'.  Now I stitch backward and forward across the fabric coil to hold it in place.  It doesn't look very neat at this point, but that isn't noticed once the bowl starts to take shape.  At this point I now start to wind the fabric strip clockwise around the rope, tightly enough to ensure that the rope within isn't visible.

Next I set a zigzag stitch around 1.5 in length and 2.5 in width.  I now increase the coil and zigzag to hold together so that the stitch catches fabric on the coil on the left and the fabric covered rope being added to the coil on the right.  It helps to push together as you stitch, gently turning anti-clockwise.  I also use a bull dog clip to hold where I've wound the fabric round the rope up to.  Initially it feels like you won't be able to stitch without catching the needle on the rope.  I've always found that as long as I stitch slowly and the zigzag isn't set too wide, that the needle rarely catches.  This said, I always have a few spare ones to hand just in case.

When I need to add an additional fabric strip, I stitch to about 1" within the end of the first strip.  Then I diagonally cut the beginning of the next strip, carefully position underneath as shown and the fold over and start to catch with zigzag.  Where it doesn't happen to fold in neatly, I am usually able to secure further when I get back to that point on the next round.

Once the base is the size I want, I start to angle the coil to create the bowl sides.  The basis rule is the more that angle, the steeper the sides will rise up.  For this bowl I was looking for a gentle rise so I angled my coil only slightly.

I usually include at least two colours in my bowl and I chose a pretty batik for my second fabric.  The change over is as before, albeit that I concentrated on getting as neat a start as possible.  On this occasion I didn't change my thread and stuck with the lime green I started with.

I continued to angle the bowl gently and stitch round until I'd reach the size and height I was aiming at.  In terms of when to stop, I looked for the point that I changed the fabric colour and worked on finishing at that point to ensure an even number of darker rounds.

I then cut the rope 1" or so short of my finishing point and the fabric a few inches longer.  I cut the fabric end diagonally and then twisted down to a point.  A few final machine stitches to hold in place was then all that was required and the odd hand stitch too for neatness.

And so for a few hours of gentle stitching I have a pretty rope bowl which will be delivered to its new owner very soon.  This simple and fun creation can become rather addictive as other stitchers have also found - Louise she created her first rope bowl at one of my recent stitch workshops and enjoyed many hours following making this delightful collection. Just lovely Louise - I'm very tempted to start stitching another one straight away!


  1. Only just saw this Pam - if this is the one on its way to me then it will find a very welcome home - looks fantastic!