Olive’s pretend play grows more entertaining with every passing day, and she loves interacting with her “dollies”. We don’t have a lot of doll accessories as Harry never really showed much passion for them, and I thought making her a cotton rope doll bassinet would be appreciated for her second birthday.
I’ve been planning this doll bassinet in my head (and had supplies sitting around!) for a while. The idea initially emerged following this instagram post last year from @MisterDomestic. He uses a zig-zag stitch and cotton rope to make a rope bowl, and it got me wondering how else one could apply his technique.
The rope was surprisingly hard to source locally. I started looking for macrame, but found only lighter weights. Thinner rope would have worked, though with more sewing, thinner walls, and flimsier edges. It was important to me to use cotton rope, both because I was confident my sewing machine could handle sewing it, and as a toy, it would (hopefully) contain fewer unknown substances.
I’d read about “cotton clothes line” but couldn’t find that anywhere local. Amazon in this case was my friend, and allowed me to source some 8mm cotton cord in a neutral shade. I went with this “Tenn Well 8mm Cotton Cord”, but a search for “8mm Cotton Cord” will also give a few options, including some colours. I bought two 18 meter (60 feet) spools, and probably used 20 meters (65 feet) total, just over one full spool. This resulted in a cotton rope doll bassinet that is 15×8 inches.
The “pops” of yellow are quilting cotton cut into 1″ strips, as is done in @MisterDomestic’s original post. Other supplies include thread, a universal needle, scissors, and obviously a sewing machine. I used a scrap of leather to cover the tail of rope left over on completion of this doll bassinet.
Starting the Spiral
To gauge the size, I arranged the rope in a spiral, sizing to what I guessed to be a good width for the bottom of my cotton rope doll bassinet. I laid one of Olive’s larger dolls over it, in this case a 13″ tall “cabbage patch” doll, and figured out where I wanted the centre of the spiral to fall (thus, estimating the overall length by identifying what would be a good “centre spiral” to “centre spiral” measurement). What I came up with for the length of rope before the first “turn” to start my spiral was 8 inches. I folded that length back on itself, stuffed it under my presser-foot and started sewing my widest zig-zag stitch.
Small Tip: I found that once stitched, thread pulled at the sides of the rope, and the side tension on the strand shrank the length of it by a full inch. If I sew another toy bassinet, I’d give myself at least an extra 1-2 inches on that tail before folding it back to start sewing the spiral to allow for that stretch.
I set my stitch length to 3 to minimize thread use, though smaller stitches may have been more appropriate. Tighter stitches would leave a less obvious stitch pattern, and I suspect the “walls” of the basket would wind up stiffer. I’d be mindful if you choose thicker rope to ensure it fits under the foot of your machine. 8 mm rope sewed perfectly in my machine, and I suspect I could use 10 mm, but I’m not sure anything larger would fit.
That Colour, That Texture
I picked up 30 cm of the yellow quilting cotton at Nelson Stitch Lab when I was there a few days ago, and liked how it brightened my cream coloured rope. I cut it into 1 inch strips, and wrapped them around the rope before sewing it.
Small Tip: Wrap the strips onto the rope from you TO the machine. It will make the fabric layers overlap in a way that the presser foot rolls over them without catching. It won’t make a huge difference, but is easier to sew, and looks neater.
The spiral will eventually wind up resembling more of a mat, and when it reaches the size you’d like the base to be, start angling up!
To fashion side walls, angle the base up so that the needle sews through what was previously the top of the outer piece of rope. It may take an extra pass or two of sewing while holding it angled to start seeing the sides “go up”.
Small Tip: the rope is decently stretchy, so be mindful of the tension you apply as you sew the side walls. I found applying no tension would allow the walls to flute out. I overcompensated for this in some spots with then too much tension, which pulled the walls back in more than I like. The lesson here is basically: some tension is good, too little or too much is bad.
Keep sewing in the round until you are 2 inches from your chosen doll bassinet height.
Decide where you would like the bassinet handles to go. I stressed about placement, worried about symmetry, but my advice is to not! Adjusting the handles once the bassinet is complete is an easy and precise fix. Pick an approximate location on each side, decide how loose you want them to be, and the approximate the length.
Once you’ve approximated the location of your handles, stop stitching at the chosen “handle start” and backstitch a few stitches to lock it. Then, when sewing forward, sew only on one length of rope (either the basket base or handle rope, doesn’t matter). You don’t want to stitch both rope pieces together, obviously, or you would not have handles (alternately, ignore this and create a cotton rope doll bassinet with no handles if you’d like!).
Once both handles are created with a single layer of rope, continue sewing that strand of rope it to the head of the bassinet and cut it off.
I made an attempt to fashion a hood by sewing the entire bassinet in one piece. I wound up intensely frustrated and after some seam ripping decided to fashion it as a separate piece to attach. This was neater, since I could centre it with ease, and once attached, the cut end of the rope was completely hidden in the seam. My process picture is not the best, but you can see the shape I created in the photo below.
As in the first step, I started in the centre and “spiralled” outwards. The difference for the hood comes when you reach the end of the horizontal aspect. Instead of rounding it around the shape you’ve created, sew a small “tail” beyond 1 inch and then fold it back, continuing to zig-zag the top with every pass until it is the desired size. Mine wound up 7 rope lengths deep at the centre and 14 inches wide. Don’t cut the rope tail when you have this shape completed, you will continue to sew this in the round to to the body of your bassinet to “blend” the head piece into the shape, and add more rope to thicken your handles (which, if you are following along, are currently only a single rope strand deep).
Small tip: Where the “sewn-back-on-itself” piece reattaches to the spiral of the hood, smoosh both sides of the piece together firmly while you sew. This will minimize gaps where the rope has to angle back onto the piece. I returned to those spots at the end and did a small row of stitching and backstitching over those sites to make them less noticeable.
Once the hood is the desired size, it can be centred on the bassinet body and sewn on. Once it is attached, continue to sew the rope tail around the entire bassinet and hood one or two more times. This “encloses” the hood in the body and will smooth out the top edge of your bassinet. In my opinion, this is what really separates it from looking like “just a rope basket”.
When you are happy with the height of the bassinet, you will need to decide where to finish the rope tail. I chose to have it at the right-foot, but it can be anywhere.
Regular backstitching secured the end of my rope, just as I’d use to finish any sewing project. I enclosed it with a scrap of leather so it was hidden and couldn’t unravel. Lacking a piece of leather, one could use a piece of fabric, or encase it in coloured embroidery floss. In my “research” for this post, I saw rope tails secured with a longer tail and then unravelled to resemble a tassel, and some with elaborate knot work.
Finally, return to the handles in all their asymmetric glory. They should be composed of one rope strand from the original bassinet body attached to one or more rope strands that trailed off the hood, making the top edge of your bassinet. If your sewing skills are impeccable and your attention to detail flawless, this step may be unnecessary, but if your skills resemble mine, those bassinet handles are likely a bit uneven. Identify where adjustments need to be and seam rip or zig zag stitch accordingly. Make sure anywhere you seam rip, you do some stitches where the two rope pieces diverge to prevent unravelling.
Give it a Sauna
On completion, depending on how consistent you were able to keep tension on your rope tail while sewing, your bassinet may come out…lumpy. With mine, some rows bulged out, some rolled in. Steaming it will help to smooth that all out. I use a spray bottle and a thrift store iron, nothing fancy.
You could also take a knitting technique called “blocking” where you wet your project and shape it to the position you want it to “set” in as it dries. If you go this route, give your cotton rope doll bassinet a good wet down (moist, not dripping), and stretch and smooth your walls into a shape you appreciate and let it dry before handling.
Cotton Rope Doll Bassinet
This project was completed in an afternoon, and let me say, it’s refreshing to have a project I can complete in one sitting. Had I omitted adding the fabric accent, and not been so exacting with my initial bassinet-handle-placement, this whole project could be done in just over an hour.
Sewing the rope with my machine, and catching everything with my zig zag stitch was surprisingly easy. I’m left wondering what else one can make with this technique. It should go without saying that this is absolutely not a safe option to fashion a sleep space for any real child as the soft sides lack the stability to fulfill any “safe sleep surface” criteria.
Olive turns two tomorrow, and she has only known birthdays under the shadow of a global pandemic. I picture her third birthday being a significant ordeal, one that will involve elaborate celebrations with all sorts of extended family and actual friends (and not simply the younger siblings of one’s brother’s friends).
Being the compulsive crafter that I am, I hope my kids are never disappointed by my handmade gifts. As a Mom, I am wholly confident enough in myself and my makes that I am never offended if they are tossed aside for the brighter coloured plastic and battery-operated options. I envision my gifts to be ones that endure (as well as ones I gain validation from posting here, if not from my children!).
An Ode to Olive Jean
Cheers to you “Baby O”. My wild child, who I often find after nap time sitting atop the dresser perched like a queen. Who can run longer and almost as fast as her wild brother, and who can disappear from my watchful eye with the skill and ease of a cheetah in tall grass.
You are the future “strong woman” we all aspire to know, and whom mothers everywhere should both fear and indulge in the pleasure of raising. I wrote in my post “A Little Like Me” that no interest of your brother’s will ever limit his potential, and I want you to know that when I wrote it, it would be a few months at that time before your presence was even whispered of. It applies to you as truly as if you were a real little girl sitting in front of me as I wrote it, on that International Women’s Day in 2018. I hope your birthday this year was a good one, one that will be followed by many, many more. I hope future celebrations will be surrounded by an infinite number of souls who love you.
Whether you play with your “dolly bassinet” – or not will not matter to me, what matters is your happiness and satisfaction, and I will do my best to maintain it to the standards that we have created thus far.
All Those Product Links
Have you ever wondered why a lot of blogs contain links to products or websites that sell things? Amazon specifically, despite Amazon not always being the best way to source certain items?
“Amazon Associates” is the name of Amazon’s affiliate program. Basically, it’s a way one gets rewarded for sending them traffic that makes them money. If you “click through” someone’s link and make a purchase (on anything!) in the 24 hours following, a fractional percentage of what you pay Amazon for your product is paid out to the blogger (basically). It doesn’t cost the purchaser anything at all, but those few dollars are so very appreciated by the little guys out there working on creating things.
I’m not a career blogger, I do this as a hobby and don’t make an income of much (I made $24 last year off my links, which I still think is pretty cool!). I see any income as a way to theoretically offset my yearly website fees, and I wanted to add this addendum as an “Aaah, I get it” opportunity for those of you that have no idea that THIS IS HOW IT WORKS?! Not just for the purpose of my links either! Find a site or blogger whose work you appreciate, and see if they have any affiliate links you can click through on sites that you would already be buying things for. They’ll be sending you mental hugs every time they see that 30 cent increment show up in their account!