Let’s Go to the Beach Rag Rug Basket: Step-By-Step Guide
Take your rag rugging to the next level and make a sustainable beach basket like no others.
Author and professional rag rugger Elspeth Jackson made this colourful coiled beach basket from her friend Claire’s childhood bedroom curtains. Claire's parents were doing a proper clear-out, so Elspeth swooped in to rescue what she could fabric-wise.
The cream part of the basket is made using the thick lining of the curtains, while the colourful fabric is an animal scene, made up of lions, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, and more... although you wouldn’t know it. It just goes to show that in rag rugging, the colours are far more important than the pattern, which is why Elspeth encourages aspiring rag ruggers to get creative!
Taken from Elspeth's book Rag Rug Techniques for Beginners, this project is the perfect way to learn new skills whilst saving old unwanted textiles from landfill.
Tools and materials you'll need to make this beach basket
- Fabrics: One plain and one patterned, each a minimum of approximately 56 x 48in (142 x 122cm) in size
- Fabric or PVA glue/glue gun
- 43¾ yards (40m) of 1⁄4in (5.5mm) cotton washing/pulley line or cord
- Clothes pins
- Sandwich bag clip (optional)
- Sewing machine and matching thread (see design tip below)
- Stack of books (optional)
- Masking tape to join cord (if needed)
The thread you use for sewing will be an intrinsic part of the design, so choose a shade that works with the colours in your fabrics. It could be a complementary or contrasting colour. If in doubt, white works with most fabrics. This project uses a lot of thread, so be sure to have a few spools of your chosen colour.
Thin fabrics work best for this project.
Cut or tear your fabric into approximately 1⁄2in (1.5cm) width strips that are as long as possible. If you tear the fabric then remove any loose strands from the selvage edges as you go.
Starting with the plain fabric, glue the first fabric strip to the end of the cord as described below and begin wrapping the fabric strip diagonally around the cord, making sure to overlap so that none of the cord is visible. After wrapping at least 12in (30cm) of cord or more in fabric, pin or sandwich clip the fabric in place so that it does not come unravelled.
WRAPPING THE CORD IN FABRIC
- With the wrong side of the fabric face-up, place the end of your cord on to your fabric strip. The ends should overlap by at least 11⁄4in (3cm).
- Apply a small line of glue around the sides and end of the cord then press the fabric edges together around the cord.
- Fold the fabric strip back on itself to cover the end of the cord.
- Carefully wrap the fabric strip diagonally around the cord, completely covering the cord as you go, using pins if necessary. Tuck in the fabric corners at the end of the cord as neatly as possible. Slightly overlap the edges of the fabric strips as you wrap.
Struggling to wrap the cord? Weigh down the end of the cord with something heavy or use the sewing machine foot and needle to keep the cord taut while wrapping it with fabric. Secure the wrapped cord with a pin or plastic sandwich clip to prevent it coming unraveled when you are not working on it.
Fold the fabric-covered cord back on itself to create a “U,” that measures approximately 31⁄4in (8cm) in length, pin in place to keep the edges together and place the bend of the “U” under the sewing machine foot. It is important that the continuous tail is to the right and coming towards you, as this will ensure that your coiled basket will build to the left of the sewing machine.
With your stitch width slightly wider than normal (I used 6.5) and your stitch length at default (2), zig zag stitch the two edges together. As it is less visible than other parts of the project, use this starter section to make sure that your zig zag stitch is catching both edges of the coiled fabric and adjust your stitch width or length accordingly.
When you reach the end of the “U,” turn the stitching around to continue stitching the cord together in an elongated spiral. Keeping the oval as flat as possible, continue wrapping and stitching the plain fabric strips and cord into a coiled oval. Continue until your oval measures approximately 10in (25cm) in length. This took me fourteen rounds of cream fabric. This will form the base for your basket.
Once the stitched oval measures 10in (25cm) in length, start wrapping the cord with the patterned fabric, and begin to slightly angle the stitched oval, so that the stitched coil begins to curve upward in the beginnings of a bowl shape (see page 65). The angle that you tilt at will dictate how steep the walls of the basket will be. At first, the aim is to create a shallow angle to increase the capacity of the basket.
Continue wrapping and stitching the coil together. When you run out of cord, join more using the method on page 64. Once you are happy with the width of the basket, begin to angle the sides of the basket to make them less shallow. Do this by raising the left side of the basket sharply toward the sewing machine as you sew. You can raise it using a stack of books. After the initial 10in (25cm) oval base, I stitched 6 rounds of patterned fabric, 3 rounds cream, 6 rounds patterned, 4 rounds cream, 6 rounds patterned, 4 rounds cream, 5 rows patterned, 11⁄2 rounds cream, making sure to change colours on the short edges of the basket where possible to make them less visible.
Once you are happy with the height of the basket, cut the cord and secure the loose end to the rim of the basket. It should be tapered to blend well and ideally be positioned on a short edge of the basket.
You are ready to make the handle. Find the midpoint of each long edge of the basket and using a pencil, mark 31⁄2in (9cm) away in each direction to demarcate a 7in (18cm) section. This indicates where the handle will loop up from the basket.
Ascertain the approximate length of cord that you’ll need for the handle by pinning a length of cord to the entire rim of the basket, leaving a decent sized handle between the marked lines on each long edge of the basket. Mark on the cord where it meets where you started. You’ll need double this length to create the handles of the basket.
Unpin the cord and wrap it in plain fabric (as before) until you reach the marked halfway line, then swap to patterned fabric and wrap until you have the same length of cord wrapped in plain and patterned fabric. Secure the end with the sandwich clip.
Starting where the cream covered cord meets the patterned fabric covered cord, zig zag stitch the plain and patterned lengths of cord together.
Starting at one of the “handle position” pencil marks and working towards the short edge of the basket first, pin the double thickness cord to the top rim of the basket. When you come away from the rim to form the handle, twist the cord once. This means that half the basket will have the plain cord on top and half the basket will have the patterned fabric on top.
Once you are happy with the positioning of the handle, zig zag stitch it to the main body of the basket, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of the cord to reinforce it. Glue and taper the final cut end of fabric to the basket smoothly before stitching it in position.
Once you've completed your Rag Rug Beach Basket, we'd love to see your creation! Share your puff stitch masterpiece on Instagram and tag @yodomo.co or hashtag #yodomomakes and we'll share it with our creative community.
Want even more fabulous ideas to turn your offcuts and old clothes into gorgeous new accessories? You can purchase Elspeth's book Rag Rug Techniques for Beginners: 30 planet-friendly projects using rag-rugging methods from around the world from the Yodomo Bookshop today.
Rag Rug Techniques for Beginners by Elspeth Jackson (CICO Books, £14.99). Photography by James Gardiner © CICO Books