Sunshine Beachcomber Bag




Introduction: Sunshine Beachcomber Bag

About: Where there's a will, there's a way! Never give up, never give in...BE the good you want to see in the world. :)

I don't know about you, but I am so ready for summer!

OK, I'd take autumn any day of the week (that's my happy place as far as weather is concerned)...but summer, A/C, the beach...that all sounds absolutely perfect right now!

This Sunshine Beachcomber Bag is perfect for a fun and relaxing day at the beach, or anytime! I've designed it for beautyand functionality when dealing with a beach day adventure (wet clothes/swimsuits/shoes, sand in everything--I didn't know I could get sand there!, and the loads of stuff we just have to haul to and from the beach). This bag can tackle it all!

Feel free to improvise on the original design and make it as big or small, complex or simple as you want!

NOTE: There's an alternative suggestion at the end of this Instructable for making a purse-sized bag instead of a full-size tote bag.


  • 1 - 24 can foam cooler
  • 3 - 100 foot rolls of 1/4" sisal rope
  • Hot glue gun (high heat)
  • Lots and lots of hot glue sticks (for high heat)
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Black marker, pen, or other writing utensil that shows up on foam
  • OPTIONAL: white twine (for decorative additions)

Step 1: Remove the Handles

Use scissors or a box cutter to carefully remove the implanted handles from the foam cooler. This will allow you to wrap the rope all the way to the rim of the cooler, making it the perfect size for a beachcomber bag.

When you're done, there will be a bunch of foam balls everywhere. I took the time to quickly vacuum those up.

Step 2: Begin the Base

Fold the end of the sisal rope over onto itself about 1.5" (as seen in picture 1).

Glue this together, pinching it tightly so there's no gaps.

Continue to coil the rope around the center start point, gluing the rope to itself, and holding it together until the glue dries (to secure it).

Step 3: Around & Around

Continue coiling and gluing the rope around...and around...and around until the edges of the height of the circle reach the edges of the cooler's base (as seen in the last picture).

Occasionally, lift up the rope circle to make sure the glue isn't securing the rope to the foam. The foam is just a support to form the perfect shape of the bag.

On a side note: My kids were so confused when I first started this project! They thought I was gluing the rope to the foam and using that as a bag! Ha ha! They were relieved to find out that wasn't the case.

NOTE: You can use the aid of pins to to keep the rope secured in different ways to the foam cooler. This is extremely helpful for continuing on while a strand is drying, or for detailed work as you will see later in this Instructable.

Step 4: Frame the Base

Using a continued strand of rope, line the natural edges of the foam base. Stick pins in to keep everything where you want it until we get back to it in a future step.

And that's where we will "pin" this base for now (pun implied!)...We will come back to this later.

Step 5: Continue On

Continue wrapping the rope around the walls of the foam cooler (underneath the frame you just made).

You will wrap around the entire cooler over and over again (without cutting the rope, unless you reach the end of it) to make a more secure bag.

You can glue every little bit here and there in strategic locations as you go, however I found myself gluing pretty much all of it in each row as I wanted the strongest bag I could get.

Step 6: Keep Going

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming....

Continue wrapping and gluing until you reach about 3.5" to 4" down (or about 15-17 lines down).

You can see here that the sun literally set on my time doing this bag (although I started in the afternoon, taking breaks along the way). Ugh! Have you ever felt like there are just not enough hours in a day to get everything done!? I'm feeling that today!

Step 7: Swirls

I wanted to add visual interest to the bag, so about 15-17 lines down (about 3.5" - 4" down), I added in these swirls. I definitely needed a break from the monotony of the around-and around-and around motion!

This is one place your pins will definitely come in handy! Especially because we won't be able to fully secure these swirls in place (via glue) until they're all completed around the entire cooler.

By the way, I highly recommend making one side of the bag the "back" so you will do all your line changes, hiding/merging lines, and it will be where you will start and end different types of designs. This will ensure a more "professional quality" look to the finished bag, as opposed to random disturbances littered throughout the bag.

First, add a pin to the top center of swirl #1.

Next, swoop down in a tear drop-like shape about 3 inches, and pull it back up to cross over the original starting point. Put a couple of pins in the bottom to secure the rope in this shape.

Continue on by making another swirl as close in shape and size to the first one as you can.

Rule of thumb: wherever rope touches itself, GLUE IT!

So you will glue where the sides of two swirls touch, at the top where the rope crosses over itself, and where the rope touches the top wrapped rope again before beginning a new swirl.

Continue swirling until you reach a corner (see next step).

Step 8: Swirls on the Corners

The corners of the cooler are a bit wider around, so to keep the swirls looking uniform (and not some bigger than the others), you need to do the following simple step:

  • Glue a second little bit of the top of the strand to the wrapped strands of rope before pulling it down to make a swirl (this will give the little extra clearance needed to get around the corner, without making the swirl itself larger)

Then continue on swirling around the foam.

BE CAREFUL of the zillion pins sticking into the center of the cooler! True story: I was going to turn the cooler around to show my husband my progress --totally forgetting about all those pins--and when I stuck my hand inside the cooler instinctively, OUCH! Let's just leave it at that (ha ha!). So moral of the story, REMEMBER those pins are in there and be careful of them!

Step 9: Finishing the Swirls

To finish the swirls, when you get to the final swirl leave about a 1/4" gap between the first swirl made (on the right) and the last swirl made (on the left).

Then, pull the rope straight down the middle of the two swirls (as seen in picture 1).

Glue the swirls to this rope, and in all the places needed to secure everything (where the rope touches itself).

Now, continue this rope on its merry way (going in the same direction you've been going all this time) by making a straight line underneath all of the swirls.

Glue the swirls to the straight rope where they touch.

Step 10: Reaching the End of Your Rope

Winston Churchill once said, "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!"

Good advice!

But in our case, we are going to glue the end of the old rope down, and adhere the end of the new rope to it.

Step 11: Remove the Pins

Once you have the straight line of rope started underneath the swirls, you can remove the pins.

You can actually remove the pins from everywhere except leaving at least one in the center of the bottom circle (the eventual base of the bag).

Step 12: Continuing the Monotony

Time to get back to it!

I turned the container over (top side of the bag now facing up) to continue wrapping the rope. You don't have to do this necessarily, but the bag gets a bit "bottom heavy" (literally) if you don't.

It's getting late tonight, so off to bed!

Step 13: Marking Handles

Good morning! :)

Every great bag comes with multiple options for carrying it, and this bag is no exception!

To mark the handle openings for the bag, simply find the center of long side #1 (about 3/4" down from the top rim of the cooler) and mark to the left 2 inches and to the right 2 inches, so the full length of the line is 4 inches.

Then, mark down an inch, and shade in the rectangle made. This signifies your starting and stopping points for the rope, to leave an opening for a handle. Repeat this on the opposite side of the cooler.

Step 14: Finish Off the Wrapped Strands

To finish off the wrapped strands and begin working on the handle strands, simply cut the rope where the last strand you were wrapping meets up with the previous rope strand (where it went up a row moving from one row to the next).

Glue the cut end down to the rope strands.

Step 15: Creating Handles

Start the rope end on the side of the handle box you drew, and glue it into place. I also covered the raw parts of the rope with glue so it was soft to the touch (nice for when you want to put your hand in the handles!).

Wrap this strand around the foam cooler until your reach the other handle's edge of the handle box. Cut the rope here in line with the handle box edge, and glue it down. Start the rope again on the opposite side of the handle box edge, and wrap it around until you get to the other side's handle box edge.

Continue this process until you have reached the height of the handle box on both sides of the bag.

NOTE: Do NOT cut the last strand!

Step 16: Finishing It Off

When you get to the final time around the handle boxes, DO NOT CUT THE LAST STRAND!

Continue this strand across the top of each box to close in the handle openings, and to continue wrapping around the bag.

Wrap this all the way up to the top rim of the cooler. It should take about 3 strands around to finish.

Again, keep occasionally checking under the rope to make sure it isn't adhering to the foam.

Step 17: Seal the End

At the very end of the last strand of the bag, cut it and glue it down to seal it in place.

Step 18: Adding a Little Sunshine

We are coming back around to the base of the bag now!

On the base of this bag, I wanted to give it a little sunshine. So that's what I'm going to make -- a sun!

First, cut 3 strands of rope 4" long each. Glue these strands together at the tops.

Step 19: Braiding Sunbeams

Pin this group of 3 strands down to some part of the foam cooler.

Braid the strands (using the pictures if needed).

Glue the base of the strands together to secure the braid.

Repeat this process 5 more times to make a total of 6 braids.

Step 20: Add the Sunbeams

The six sunbeams will be glued underneath the center circle.

Make sure that the flat part of the braids (this should be the side where you started the braids from), is underneath the circle.

First, place the braided beams as shown in picture 1.

Then, move the ends of these under the center circle and outer edges.

Glue down allouter edges first, then all center edges last.

Trust me, if you don't do this, it will make your life harder!

Step 21: Add Smaller Sunbeams

Trim four 3" pieces of rope and four 2" pieces of rope.

Step 22: Add the Sunbeams

Place and glue these sunbeams into place (as seen in picture 1).

The four 3" pieces will be between the center and diagonal lines, top and bottom, right and left (as seen).

The four 2" pieces will fill in the little gaps between the diagonal lines of braided rope and the circle piece (as seen).

Step 23: Making Handles (Again)

We are going to make handles again, but this time they are going to be shoulder straps instead of empty gaps (hey! I'm a poet and I didn't know it!).

Cut three 4 foot long strands of rope. Yes, 48" each.

Glue the tops together.

Pin the glued end down, and braid it all the way to the end.

Glue the end together.

Step 24: Place the Handle

Place the handle where you want it, and pin it down in place. I placed mine so the vertical lines went over areas where the swirls touched each other. This gave it a more polished look.

Glue this handle down in multiple places. You can also glue between the holes of the braid to secure it.

Step 25: Repeat

Repeat the process (cutting the strands through adhering the braided handles) on the other side of the bag.

Step 26: Another Circle

Coil another circle like you made in the beginning. Except this time, it will go on the INSIDE of the bag at the bottom, to sandwich in all the sunbeam strands, and give the bag more stability (see last picture).

But to get there, you first have to....

Step 27: Break Out!

Break out (or slide it out if you can) the foam cooler from the finished bag.

Good thing it was only a couple bucks, eh?

If you accidentally glued some parts of the rope to the foam and have some remnants of foam stuck to the inside of the bag, simply cut the glue (with its adhered foam parts) off the bag. The rest of the foam dots should just wipe away.

Step 28: Hip Hip Hooray!

You're done!

Isn't it a BEAUTIFUL bag!? If I do say so myself...

It's sturdy, strong, and eye-pleasing to boot!

NOTE: If you still need extra security, you can try sewing across the strands of rope to keep the glue from eventually breaking away from itself.

You can also add in any other decorative touches you like! Make it uniquely yours! :)

Step 29: Alternative Approach

Alternatively, you can make the bag a purse instead of a full-size tote bag.

To do so, simply take a purse you already have that you want to mimic its size, and stand it up next to the foam cooler. Mark on your cooler where the top of the purse is (represented by the solid straight line in the pictures). Place this line in the general area of center.

Mark down from this line 1" (for the top of the handle), finding the exact center of the longer side. Then mark down another 1" (for the bottom of the handle).

Using a straight edge, mark to the left and right of each dot 2" in each direction (to make two 4" lines). Then connect these lines to form a rectangle.

Repeat this process on the opposite side. Then proceed with this Instructable, modifying the decorative details to fit the smaller bag.

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    2 years ago

    ECO Friendly, but foam cooler :| you will dump it to trash


    Reply 2 years ago

    If you can slide out the foam cooler, you can use it as a cooler and not need to trash it. I literally walked around WalMart for hours looking for a good form to build the bag around that was budget-friendly and that's what I came up with. Thanks for checking it out!


    2 years ago

    I love it! The sunshine on the bottom is beautiful!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! :D <3

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    2 years ago

    That is so impressive! It came out great and your directions are so thorough :D


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you so much, Penolopy! :)