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How To Dye Rope And Make A Rope Basket


  1. Cotton rope.  I used about 50 feet for my basket.   
  1. Dye in the color of your choice.  I used a food coloring dye I had on hand. Instead I would recommend using this dye, which is made for cotton.   
  1. Hot glue gun and glue  
  1. A basket or container to use as a template for your basket shape.   
  1. Strips of leather for the handles.  If you have fake leather that only has leather on one side, then you will need to double, and thus need a little more.  
  1. Gloves so you do not stain your hands.   
  1. Optional: thumb tacks or other item to put on the leather handle for decoration or to help hold the leather handle in place.   
  1. Optional:  you may need to change the color of your thumb tacks or other item you use.  I found nail polish or acrylic paint works well to cover my thumb tacks.  I used gold acrylic paint, and covered it with a clear top coat of nail polish.    

I started off by wrapping my rope around my metal basket template to insure I had enough rope, and to mark off how far I wanted my color to go on my basket.  I used some painters tape to mark off where I wanted to stop with the color.   

rope basket

Now to prepare the dye bath.  You will want to use warm or hot water.  If you want a more consistent color throughout, then add your dye first, before you put your rope in.  Mix the dye into the water.  You can dip a paper towel or something into your colored water to ensure the color is to your liking.  Your color will come out much lighter than what the water color is.  If you like the look I did, where some parts are a darker blue than others, then add your rope first, then apply drops of your food coloring.  Areas where the dye touch the rope before it becomes diluted in the water will show much darker on your rope.  If you want the blue color to fade out at the end, gradually get lighter, then dip the end for a few seconds or minutes depending on how dark you want it, then leave the rest of the rope in for longer.  The longer the rope stays in the dye, the darker it will become, to a point.  Eventually the rope will absorbed as much of the dyed water as it can and will not take in any more color.   

rope basket

Once your rope has sat in the dye for a while (this just depends on how dark you want your rope to be as to how long you leave it in the dye water) and you are happy with the color, then you can dump the water out.  The next step is rinsing the rope off in cold water.  When I did this, most of my color rinse off and my rope lost most of its color.  This could have been because I used a cheap food colorant.  I recommend not using food dye.  Instead, you should use an actual dye for cloths and things.  So, I remade a water bath with my dye and let my rope soak again.  This time I did not rinse it off, instead I just let it sit out to dry.   

I let my dyed rope sit out to dry for two days, but it was still soaking wet.  It was just sitting in an old sink in our cold downstairs laundry room.  It was finally a sunny day outside, so I laid down a tarp outside and laid my rope out on the tarp to dry in the sun.  It only took a few hours and it was completely dry.  When the rope was still wet it would stain my hands when I touched it, even after a few days.  The dye came off pretty easily with water.  Once the rope was dry it no longer came off on my hands when I touched it.  If you use a food coloring dye to dye your rope, then I recommend not to put this basket in a room that gets a lot of moister, like a bathroom with a shower.  I would be afraid that the colors might bleed when the basket soaks up the moister.   

Now it is time to assemble the basket.  I started at the bottom of my metal container template, and wrapped the rope in a coil around the bottom.  I applied hot glue as I went, but tried to only apply the glue to the edges of the rope that would be sticking to another piece of rope.  I did not want to glue the rope to the container, because I was going to remove this container when I was finished.  A plastic or metal container will work best for this part, because if you do get some hot glue on it, then it will not be too difficult to take it off or wiggle the rope free.  I did not like when the basket was lifted up that you could see some small gaps where there was no glue applied.  So, I applied glue along the entire length of the rope so I would not have any gaps in my basket.  If you choose to keep your plastic or metal container inside the rope basket, then you can glue the rope directly to the container, and you do not have to apply glue the entire length of the rope, just every now and then.  This step takes a little bit of time, but it is not too difficult.  Just keep wrapping and gluing the rope until you reach the end.   

Once I reached the end of my rope, I glued down the end of the rope to itself.  I used scissors to trim a little bit of the end of the rope at an angle so it laid down nicer.  Make sure to glue this piece well so the rope does not unravel.  You also do not random threads of the rope to be loose and flopping around.   

rope basket

For the handles I used some small faux leather I had.  It was pretty cheap stuff and only had the leather part on one side.  You could use a Cricut or hand cut this leather with scissors.  I used my Glowforge laser printer, since I had it on for another project I was doing already.  Either way you decide to cut your leather strips make sure you measure the length you want your handles to be before you cut them.  I used a piece of ribbon to ensure the curve of the handle was included in the measurement, then measured the ribbon’s length to know how long of a piece of leather I needed.   I needed to cut 4 strips leather, because I did not want the uncovered back of the leather to show.  I also decided to add a little curve to the ends of my leather strips, this is not necessary.   

rope basket

Once my leather strips were all cut out, I glued two of them together so that the leather part showed on both sides.  You will do this twice to make two handles out of your 4 strips.  I used gorilla glue in-between these leather strips, because I wanted a smooth glue when dry.  Hot glue can be bumpy and thick when it dries, which would have made my leather handles look weird.   

rope basket

Leather is typically attached with a metal clip type piece.  I wanted a similar look on my leather handles, but did not want to go out and buy the supplies to do this.  So, I made a fake one with a thumb tack.  I used acrylic paint to cover my thumb tack gold, my store was out of gold thumb tacks.  I also applied a clear top coat of nail polish over the gold paint when it was dry, to help protect it from scratching off.  I then cut off the backs to all four thumb tacks with wire cutters, so they would lay flat.   

I used hot glue to attach the gold thumb tacks to the ends of each of my leather strips.  I then applied hot glue to the backs of my leather handles and applied them to my rope baskets, where I liked.  After taking some photos of the basket and moving it around a bit, then next morning the handles where laying on the floor.  So, I decided to use gorilla glue this time to attach them to the rope basket.  This did the trip and I have not had any issues with them coming off.     

I really like how this project turned out.  I did a similar project, but tried spray painting the rope instead of dying it.  To see how that turned out please click here.  I think the spray painting method was my favorite of the two, because it was less time consuming, and I like the look of it better.  My boyfriend likes the look of the dyed rope basket better.  He said he liked that uneven distribution of color. So, which method you choose depends on which style you like better.  This project was a bit time consuming, but not too difficult to make.  I know some people have even sewed their rope together when making these types of baskets.  I am not good at sewing or have a sewing machine.  So, this was a quick but affective method to create this cute basket.  I will be using it to hold my extra toilet paper.  That way it is easy to find when I have guest over and they need an extra roll.  It perfectly fits 3 rolls of toil paper.  You can make this basket as big or small as you like depending on your needs.  You could hand paint designs on the rope, add tassels, and really make it your own.   

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