perseverance and some other lessons learned from rope

Sometimes you get fired up about a project and you can't wait to start. You get the supplies. You set aside the time. It should be an easy project. You should be able to fly through it with something beautiful to show for your effort. You begin. And then... things don't work out quite as planned.

Yeah, that's what happened with the rope.

Did you guess what I had in mind when I mentioned it on Friday?

I was inspired to try playing with rope when I saw Maya Donenfeld (from the blog maya*made) posting her beautiful bowls and baskets on Instagram and then Amanda Blake Soule (SouleMama) began trying her hand at it, too (and sharing her photos on Instagram). Both women were creating such beautiful pieces and experimenting with dye and paint. It looked so easy. I could not help but be carried away by their enthusiasm. I got some rope and extra thread. I set Saturday morning aside to get started. I watched the Creativebug class and was convinced that this would be easy peasy.

It should have been easy peasy.

My sewing machine had other ideas. Although I was using a denim needle, my machine kept dropping stitches. Against the creamy-white of the rope, my beautiful, bright-orange thread made that very obvious.

Undaunted I took out my seam ripper and started over. I took apart my sewing machine, gave it a good cleaning, oiled it, re-threaded everything with a natural-colored thread. Things started out ok, but after a bit my usually trusty machine was having every sort of problem it possibly could. With the bobbin thread. With the top thread. It jammed up. I'd fix things and start again. A few inches later it would jam again. Or the thread would break. I did research online. I tinkered. I even made the mistake of trying to adjust the tension, something I've never had to do before and something that really made my sewing machine cranky.

I felt like a failure. These rope bowls and baskets were flying off of other people's machines and I couldn't even make one.

So I took a break. My brother stopped by. We chatted. Had lunch. But I didn't want to give up on the rope. I couldn't give up on the rope. After all, I had mentioned it on Friday and was holding myself accountable to all of you. Mostly, though, I just really wanted to make a basket.

It took me hours. Hours of starting and stopping. Hours of finessing my sewing machine. I patted it. Talked to it. Even kissed it. I chanted my mantra, keep going. And in the end I had a basket.

rope basket, sewn rope basket, red bench, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

A basket that I love.

sewn rope basket, rope basket, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

A basket that is sturdy and sweet and filled to its brim with perseverance.

sewn rope, sewn rope basket, spiral sewn rope, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

(That little spiral detail was inspired by spirals that both Amanda and Maya made -- you can see them in this post and this one).

It's a basket that's far from perfect and yet, that doesn't seem to matter one bit.

What does matter is that it's a bit too small for what I had in mind. And do you know what that means? Yep. I'm going to make another one. This time I'm ready. This time I know just how to finesse my sewing machine to keep going.

The project itself is very easy and the results are beautiful. I don't want to dissuade you from trying if you're even a little bit smitten. I think my biggest problem was that my needle just couldn't make it through the tough poly core of the clothesline rope. If your machine has no trouble with heavy-duty tasks, I don't think you'll have any problems. Here are a few things that I learned that might make it easier if you have a wimpy machine like I do:

  • Make sure your machine is in perfect working order. Clean and oil it before you start.
  • If you can find 100% cotton rope, use that.
  • Use the most heavy-duty needle that you can and be sure to use a new one so it's as sharp as can be.
  • Go slowly (it's easier to catch mistakes that way).
  • If you notice your machine drop some stitches, make a few reverse stitches right away to close the gap.
  • Keep going.


  1. Great job - and it looks fab on that pretty little bench.

    1. Thanks, Madeline. I love it and can't wait to fill it up with gardeny things. I wanted a basket to carry all my stuff out to the garden so I can work on art and writing and reading outside and not have to make a bunch of trips or have to try to balance everything. This one is too small, but I imagine it holding other good things like flowers or veggies.

  2. Your basket is a triumph! Well done on seeing the project through to the end. I would be extremely proud to achieve such professional results. :-)

    1. Thank you, Simone! Sometimes I just can't give up on something like this. And I am happy with how it turned out!

  3. Anne, your basket is beautiful!!!!! Well done!!! You inspired me again. Thank you

    1. Thank you, Aga. Maybe you'll make some baskets yourself! I hope so!

  4. Well done, Anne. It was fun to watch those baskets blossom all over the internet, like some sort of sweet maya*made virus.

    1. Thanks, Karen! I love that "sweet, maya*made virus". It certainly was contagious!

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you, Carla! I don't know if it's amazing. I'm just very stubborn!


Post a Comment