The end of the school year is drawing to a close and I’m always stumped by what to get teachers. We have a lot of teachers in our lives (my son attends 2 different preschools this year) as well as amazing admin staff and his speech therapist. I trolled Pinterest for gift ideas both worthy of the teachers and people who make both our lives and our son’s life more enriched as well as something useful and handmade. I couldn’t come up with anything I liked until I saw what I’m about to share with you.
I remember giving my own teachers end-of-year gifts as well as holiday gifts back when I was in school. Their desks would be littered with mugs, cookies, candles and ceramic apples. Having some amazing friends in my adult life that are teachers (and two cousins that are teachers), I often hear “I appreciate the thought, but seriously. If I get one more candle I don’t know what I’m going to do with it…” With that dialogue running through my mind, I searched for a gift that says “You are an important part of my son’s life. We appreciate the work you do and THANK YOU.”
I came across some baskets made out of clothesline recently. They looked easy to make and everyone needs a basket for their treasures, phones, desk stuff, notions and other small things, right? I looked at some tutorials, spent some time at my sewing machine and voila! I have 10 baskets to give to deserving educators. After posting a picture of one of them on Instagram, I got dozens of requests on how to make them and I am only too happy to oblige.
These baskets are a great way to use up old or odd-colored thread you have lying around, or keep it neutral and use white, gray or tan. I like to make them bright and colorful, so I tend to go for the pinks, reds, blue and greens. Some of them I dip-dyed after finishing them (and we’ll talk more about that later) to match the thread. You’ll need a fair amount of thread and your bobbin thread will end up being your outside color, so keep that in mind if you’re using neutral inside and a bright color on the outside.
What do you need to make your own sewed basket? You’ll need clothesline – and you want to make sure it’s 100% cotton, not too thick and not stretchy. I went with 7/32″ thickness and found it easily on Amazon. The one I got had 200 feet and I was able to make 3 medium-sized baskets as well as a small one with the leftovers. It’s not easy to start a new clothesline in the middle of a basket (not like joining in new yarn when the skein runs out), so I always make sure I have enough to make it through a basket and save my little leftover bits for small bowls and baskets. Make sure you have a solid sewing machine that has a zigzag stitch and plenty of elbow room.
Then, making sure you’re on the zigzag stitch and that the tail attached to the clothesline is coming off to the right side, sew across, then across the other way (making an “x”) through the small base. If you want you can go across again and again, making it into 1/8’s, but I found an “x” works just fine.
Now start to turn your work clockwise, and this is the key element – be sure that when you zigzag that you’re grabbing part of the clothesline from the existing circle and the new added piece (you’re basically working in the ditch between the two) and that you’re attaching them together. If you miss one side it won’t attach and it can’t stay together. Make sense? Continue doing that, turning it slowly and letting your machine feed the new clothesline in. One other thing worth mentioning is that they don’t have to be perfect. These are handmade gifts! Part of the charm is some wonky stitches or changing your thread color halfway through. Embrace any weirdness happening and roll with it – that’s what makes each one unique.
Keep doing this, letting your work hang over and out, just make sure you’re keeping your base flat. The bigger the base, the harder it is to manage, so start thinking about how wide across you want your base to be before things get out of hand and difficult to control.
On some baskets I painted the bottom part (I really like the look of just a dip-dye or a partial paint job) or let it sit in a bowl of dye for a hint of color. Make each basket unique and put your own look and finishing touches on it. If you can find out the recipients favorite color, all the better.
Happy making, readers!