sewing 101: recycled paper basket

Thanks to a few recent online purchases, I had an enormous pile of long brown packing paper strips in my studio. I couldn’t bear to just recycle it; it seemed to have so much crafty potential. So tasked with the challenge of creating a project to help get organized for the new year, I decided to turn that pile of paper into a woven basket. Folded into strips and edged with stitching, the paper took on a whole new quality that calls to mind upholstery webbing or even leather. This project is super easy to do, takes only an afternoon and is a great way to give new life to leftover materials. Let’s get started! — Brett Bara

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • long lengths of paper (I used packing paper, but wallpaper scraps or gift wrap would work great, too.)
  • sewing machine
  • glue or hot glue
  • paperclips



1. Fold and sew the strips.

Starting with a large piece of paper (mine was 30″ wide), begin folding the strips. Simply fold up the edge about 1″, then continue folding it over and over onto itself, creasing the paper well with each fold. The number of folds you make will depend on how heavy your paper is; I folded mine so that there were about 10 layers total. The goal is to make strips that feel sturdy but not so stiff that they won’t be able to bend around the curves of the basket.

Next, sew along one edge of the strip, about 1/8″ or so from the folded edge.

Then repeat along the other edge of the strip. Repeat this process to make as many strips as you plan to use for the base of your basket. I used eight total.

2. Weave the strips.

Weave the strips together so they create a large cross shape. If there is a wrong side to your strips (i.e., a side where you see the raw edge of the paper or any other flaws), situate these so they are facing up, which means they’ll be hidden on the inside of the basket when it’s finished.

It helps to secure the overlapping strips around the perimeter so that things won’t slip around too much while you’re working.

Next, measure the width of one side of the cross. Add about 2″ to that measurement then multiply by 4. This is the length your strips will need to be to create the sides of the basket. Make several strips to this length, using the same method as above.

Then begin weaving the long strips to create the sides. The first round is the most awkward — I find it helps to temporarily hold the strips in place with paperclips as you go.

To finish off the ends of the first round, just overlap the two ends and tuck them in (you will probably have to trim them so that the ends will hide behind another strip rather than poke out). At this point, you can either paperclip the ends or secure them with a dab of hot glue.

Then simply continue creating rounds in the same way, moving the paperclips up on each round as you work. I did four rounds total, but you can make your basket as shallow or as tall as you like.

3. Finishing

To finish off the top edge of the basket, fold all the strips to the inside . . .

. . . and then trim the raw edges and tuck them into strips from the rounds below. Secure all the folded strips in place with a bit of glue so none of them sneak out of place.

And that’s it! Use this basket to corral household clutter or craft supplies, and if you get tired of it, well, just recycle it. Happy organizing!


Awesome!!! i think ill use gift wrap + all those brown paper bags from the grocery store!


Why didn’t I think of this?! It’s brilliant. Can’t wait to make lots and lots.

amber elizabeth

I bet this would be great with fabric scraps and the right interfacing too!


sometimes i feel that way too, like i just can’t toss out these packaging scraps. they have too much potential.

it’s great to see what clever idea you came up with!


Clever, clever idea.. just need to find the time and space to do it, with a toddler in the house this could be challenging!!


I have a stack of this paper waiting for me to do something with it! SO Perfect! Great tutorial!


At first glance I thought that maybe I read the title wrong, but then I scrolled down an saw the paper! Wow, I am constantly amazed at the creativity that I see online! This is one fantastic recycling craft! Thanks!


Wow, this is a fantastic use of all of that packing paper we have laying around. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing!!


These are beautiful! Definitely gives me more ideas on what to do with all the packing material after I move! Love it!

Sandy Murphy

Fabulous idea. I have strips of hessian I think it might work well with as well – thanks for sharing.


WOW! It always takes me weeks to decide to toss (recycle) these packing paper strips because they look so useful, but inspiration never struck. Now I know what to do with them next time!

Jennifer @ Eco and Elsie

Wow. Love this! I will have to give this a try next time I get a bunch of that packing paper.


OMG. You are a genius. And I am now kicking myself for putting all the brown packing paper I had after Christmas into the recycling bin, because this looks awesome and fun and I SO need a few little soft bins like this. I love the black thread, and I could imagine funky bright thread for a kids’ room, too.


Love it! I made a similar one from newspaper a year or so ago, but, the stitching adds so much to the look! I will be making one of these asap!


I knew that beautiful kraft packing paper could be turned in to something amazing. Thanks for figuring it out! That is so cool!


I am always carefully folding this stuff up but not sure what to use it for …I keep thinking there must be something???/ And her is a brilliant idea. Thank you for posting this. I am going to add this to pinterest.

Jen v

Great project! Last time we had that paper we made indoor hopscotch in the hallway & mummy costumes but it all went on the recycling eventually.

Karla V Muntane (@Dreamaginarius)

This is the most ingenious craft I have seen lately. Thanks for sharing!


I love this too much! It combines my love of brown paper, my love of baskets, and my love of recycling.

Rachel M

This is amazing! It really does look like leather. As a knitter… pleeeeease tell us what the GORGEOUS yarn is! The colors are just beautiful, and set off so well by the basket.

Deanna C

How very clever of you. I don’t expect to make the paper basket…. it just might be out of some other material. Thanks for sharing.

Sophie Wayo

Wow! What an awesome idea, i have to steal it! I wish i could recycle all my unused stuff in such a smart way! Thanks for the post!

julia @ The BackLoop

OK, so that is amazing. I’ve never, ever thought to do something like this with packing paper. At best we smooth it out and use it for additional coloring/drawing paper – but this is just brilliant.
Thanks for sharing this great idea and tutorial.

Sue TR

This is fabulous! I have a pile of packing paper I was going to recycle but may try this instead!


Hmm… I would if, with some creativity, this project could be used to recycle all my old magazines… Hmm… I think I’m off to experiment now… not sure how it will turn out, but I need to do something with these magazines….


Hi! love this. Can you tell us how long each strip is (and how wide too?). Thanks!


I always feel so sad about tossing those packing sheets because they DO have so much potential. Now I have a plan for the next bunch I receive. Thank you!


This is a great idea , I remember when I was young we made sit – a -pons in brownies like a mat you would sit on . Oh the posibilties are endless. If you have a local newpaper they sometimes have rolls of newsprint leftover.


Amazing piece of upcycling. I’ve made baskets from magazines, newspapers and food package – fiddly business that weaving! I have used the same packing paper to wrap Christmas presents, then jazzed it up with ribbons and cut-outs from old xmas cards.


Adorable basket! Love it! I used all the brown packing paper we got from Amazon this year for Christmas wrap. I ironed it on a low setting, wrapped gifts, and then used raffia ribbon to tie them. It looked so sweet!

Mable Kropog

Great! I hope i can do this with Newspaper, I have tons of that. I will try and let you know,


Just made this using paper bags (got 3 strips out of a paper bag). Decopaged fabric to the bottom as well.

Stephanie A.

Dang! Not two weeks ago I threw out a bunch of this exact paper I had hanging around for quite awhile from a package! I love the idea of specifically using the brown paper, for the leather look. This is soooo great. I can’t have enough yarn baskets around.


This is FANTASTIC! I absolutely love a project that takes ‘nothing’ and turns it into a real something! Thank you! Off to start my own right now….

Joanne Palmisano

What a very clever way to recycle! I love this idea, it seems quick easy and fun! … Now I don’t feel too bad about those boots I just ordered online! Thanks for the tip!


This is great! What kind of needle did you use for stitching the paper? I’ve only ever sewn fabric.

Patricia Garry

This wood make some nice plant baskets put some tin foil around the plant so the water don’t leak from the bottom and sit your plant inside will try this love your idea.

Patricia Garry

This would make a cute basket for a plant, just line with plastic and set plant inside will use this.Thanks for the great idea.


Now that I have some packing paper, this is on my to do list for the very near future. Mentioned it and linked back on my blog :)

Jennifer Arbach

I’ve woven many a basket but have never made one out of paper. I have tons of packing paper from our move several years ago. Great inspiration! the only thing I would have done differently is to place an additional strip around the top as a rim. Since it’s paper, it could easily be glued in place. Happy weaving!

Shona brooks

I made these 20 yrs ago, can’t believe they have resurfaced. You can line the inside of the basket with fabric and add a braided handle.


Wonderful idea! I get TONS of that stuff! I use if for wrapping paper and making patterns.


This is the perfect idea for my closet and new bookshelf! Nice that you can make them exactly the size you need, too. I wonder whether it would work to sew or découpage fabric onto cardboard; or would that be too thick? Probably would be sturdier, though… worth a try!

Oooh, I’d also make a few for cupboards and cut shelf liner to fit inside the bottom – one for baking stuff, one for sauces, and it will be an awesome spice “drawer” until I get a proper rack!


I’m doing it with news paper and with some staples (i don’t have a sewing machine and my stitching is not good enough) and it’s looking pretty good!!

Shannon Love

Would this work with non-paper materials like 3.5 mil plastic sheeting? There are a lot of outdoor/wet applications for custom baskets or holders that are very hard to fabricate out of wood or solid plastic so being able to sew something up would be great.


I love this post and have sent it to lots of my friends. I knew that there must be a use for this paper which is stuffed into Amazon parcels. I also cut it into smaller pieces, double thickness, and seam down the side with my sewing maching to make envelopes – it was your post that gave me the idea.

Elisa Jaimes de Méndez

Me encanto la propuesta, muy útil sobre todo a las q haces trabajos manuales……..besitos


This almost reminds me of those trendy seatbelt bags…they finish them with one strip folded in half along the top :)


Me encantó…!!! para hacerlo una tarde de lluvia tomando unos ricos mates…!!!

Tracey Flores

I think I am going to make baskets out of Christmas wrapping paper and fill them with popcorn balls for gifts. :o) Thanks so much for sharing.


Great idea, the kiddies and I have made similar baskets before out of newsprint, but I never though to sew them! They look brilliant. Will definitely be making some more.


I love it! I’m going to use wrapping paper and make baskets for cookies –really very cute! Thanks for posting this.


I always see small magazine versions of this which wouldn’t really help me, my dad has a massive roll of brown paper that he got when he left his job years ago along with some other things. This would be perfect to put all of my needles and wool in for knitting :) perfect.

esther romero

muy linda idea voy a practicar felisitacionesssssss


LOVE this! My 11 YO just made a similar version using paper bags…not as big as this but still adorable! Instead of sewing around the edges, she just drew a broken line around it…one of my favorite 4H projects this year!


I saw this on Pinterest a while ago and thought this was an awesome idea! Well, I finally have a ton of that paper packaging and will finally have a chance to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!


Any reason newspaper would not work? I know the ink might rub off, but seems you could spray it when finished and add a little more stiffness/sturdiness to the basket?


I didn’t have enough paper strips, so I substituted some birch bark strips (from found fallen logs.) Thanks for the tutorial! Looks great.

Nicole R.M.

Such a great idea. Paper inside for the stiffness and cloth outside for the decor. All natural baskets and ecolo too. Thank you for the instructions.