For this Instructable I am going to teach you how to construct The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made. I decided to do this because a fellow AIR asked me to help her with a project that was a variation on this box, and I thought it might be nice to have instructions for a basic model as a starting point for anybody that wanted to know.
In my world objects aren't always objects. Objects are stories, they are relationships, they are history, they can even be emotions. They remind me of where I've been and things I've learned.
Here are the supplies you will need for The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made:
1 - 15" x 13" rectangle of stiffly woven fabric
1- 24" x 2" strip of matching or contrast bias tape
See Through Grid Ruler (18 inch)
A Bit of Magic
Friendships Lasting Many Years
A Sewing Machine
A Healthy Love of Stories
Things to put inside The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made
Step 1: Find the Perfect Fabric
The first thing you'll have to do is find the perfect fabric for your project. I'd recommend some kind of sturdy, woven textile like canvas, denim, duck, ballistic nylon, coutil, linen, waxed cotton, and even some heavier weight wool or felt. There are a lot of options, just make sure the fabric has the ability to stand on it's own.
Choosing the right fabric for the job is one of the most important steps. Educating yourself about textiles is always a good idea. Find out the contents of the fabric and some of the properties of these materials. For example, linen as a fabric generally behaves in a rigid and reedy manner, similar to the flax plant that it comes from. Having a solid understanding of what materials you are using and where they come from will help you respect and use them better. Also it's a fun mental exercise to figure out where else your raw material might be used in the world. In the case of flax we also see it used widely in food and for health. You'll notice that there is consistent crossover between textiles, food, and health.
For my box, I've chose a medium-heavy linen blend textile, a remnant from a home decorating project completed for professor Christopher Sprigman, in 2011 or so. This is where the hoarder tendencies that you've brought serve you well. Save scraps from projects you like, especially when you've worked with interesting people who do interesting things in the world.
Step 2: Tell the Story Behind That Fabric
Chris Sprigman was a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law when I met him. I'm not exactly sure how we got connected, but I think it had something to do with a model that we both knew. A shared interest in fashion is usually what connects me to people, that and food, and health. (See any patterns?) Prof. Sprigman was in the process of publishing, The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation, when we met.
The book's thesis centers around the concept that lack of legal protection in certain industries, along with copying, increases creativity and innovation. The authors use fashion, food, and football as examples, but there is a good chance that this applies to other industries too (especially technology). In the words of one very astute Amazon reviewer, "Creating monopoly rights is not a requirement for vibrant innovation, growth and creativity."
I am also going to argue that the prevalence of copying in the fashion industry causes designers to be selective and secretive about their work until it is unveiled. I'm constantly working with designers and photographers who give me strict instructions about when and how I am able to share our work. This is because, once you've given your designs to the world, anyone is free to use them how they like (as long as they don't steal your logo and even then it's a crapshoot as to whether you'll be awarded anything in court). In this sense fashion is a bit similar to commodities like flour or sugar (again with the food), general, to be used by the people to make their lives more delicious. Yum.
Also you can think about it this way. The more complicated an industry is and specialized the knowledge is, the less likely that innovations will be copied by just anyone, they will be copied by other people with the specialized and limited skill. Sewing and food making, well, these activities have been necessary for the survival of the human race for centuries and may continue to be (unless we all become nudists and breatharians), and because of this, the knowledge is commonplace - universal even. We get creative in these fields not because we have to, but because we want to, because these are aspects of human existence that make life beautiful, enjoyable, and worth living. The joy comes from the surprise, from the possibility of innovation using the same old materials as always. Secrecy is the only way to achieve this element of surprise, to experience this joyful transformation.
Step 3: Decide on Measurements + Math
Here is a really basic sketch of The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made. Most of my sketches are not more complicated than this/don't look like much of anything. Part of that is because I do the majority of designing in my head. When I decide to make a garment I've already made a mental picture of what the associated pattern pieces will look like.
I did some really simple math and figured out that my rectangle needs to be 13" by 15" to end up with an inner area that is approximately 8" by 10" with a height of 2.5".
Here is that simple math:
8" (width) + 2.5" (side height) + 2.5" (side height) = 13"
10" (length) + 2.5" (side height) + 2.5" (side height) = 15"
You can make a box of any dimensions you want!
Step 4: Tell the Story of How You Learned to Make This Object
Your story will be different from mine because you learned it here, on Instructables. I learned how to make this particular kind of fabric box (there are many kinds) while working for my friend Geana Sieburger who owns her own softgoods business in Oakland, California. Her company is called GDS Cloth Goods and if you like coffee, there's a good chance you'll like what she does.
The design I'm showing you here is a simplified version of a product we made for Four Barrel Coffee last holiday season. I've learned most of the things about sewing and design while on the job. I find working this way, connecting with people and making things to be used in the world, very satisfying.
Step 5: Draw Pattern on Fabric
Since were making a household object (and not a fancy wedding dress) I think it's fine to draw the 13" x 15" rectangle that will turn into your box directly on the fabric. I did this with a clear plastic grid ruler and some blue chalk.
Step 6: Cut It Out
Then you cut the rectangle out.
I wish I had an interesting story about the scissors, but alas, I didn't use the pair given to me by Len and Estelle Ross, the fashion moguls who've been a part of my family's life since before I was born. Both Len and Estelle were orphans. They married relatively late in life, but built a lucrative dressmaking business together in Los Angeles. Easily the most joyful people I'd ever met, Estelle supported my designs and a vision of my success before I even knew those things myself. When Estelle passed her daughter, who was my deceased mother's best friend, gave me many of her sewing supplies - including the oldest pair of scissors on earth. They still work perfectly.
Estelle and Len made their millions through exclusivity. Others might call it a monopoly, but I don't really like that word because every attempt I make at playing the game ends poorly. (see gif)
They managed to get exclusive rights to a specific type of synthetic, dotted swiss that was both beautiful and easy to care for. Any company that wanted a dress made out of that fabric had to go through the Ross' and that, my friends, is how you make millions.
An interesting juxtaposition of ideas we've been presented with in this box making Instructable. For innovation and creativity eliminate legal protections. For money exercise exclusivity.
Anyway, I didn't use those scissors.
Step 7: Pin + Sew Sides
This is easily the trickiest part of the whole project and if you get it, well, then you're almost done making The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made.
1. Start with any corner and fold it towards the opposite edge until you have an angle that's 90 degrees. Pin as pictured, horizontally at the length that measures 2.5" (the depth of the box).
2. Repeat this step 3 times until you have something that looks like the second picture.
3. Then sew up all the sides along that line.
You will get something that looks like the third picture and you will be able to start seeing what kind of objects fit into your version of The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made.
Step 8: Sew Down Flaps
If you've followed the directions correctly, you will notice that your box looking object ends up with four flappy wings - one at each corner. We are going to sew down those flappy things.
1. Press each flap toward the center of the longer side of the box and secure down with a pin.
2. Top stitch each flap down along its diagonal edge.
Step 9: Bind Edge
The final step in making The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made is binding up all the edges using your bias strip.
To do this:
1. Position binding on the top edge of the box, right sides together.
2. Seam binding together so it fits snugly around the top edge of the box.
3. Stitch binding down at 1/4" from the edge of the fabric and press the resulting seam allowance up.
4. Fold free edge of bias binding over 1/4" toward the inside of the box and press. This will create a clean edge on the inside.
5. Fold the remaining binding over the whole seam, ending slightly below your original stitch line.
6. Turn the box over to the right side and stitch in the ditch. Clip all remaining threads. Press if necessary.
Step 10: Fill Box With Pieces of You
Here's the best part. Fill The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made with things that you like, or things that need to be stored in a fabric box.
Books, including Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. I've attached one of my favorite readings from that book to this Instructable.
I think these items and all the stories associated with this project encompass my life story to this point pretty well. And so a box is not just a box.
Congratulate yourself for completing The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made!
Step 11: Thanks!
Thanks for reading and I hope you liked making The Most Interesting Fabric Box Ever Made!
Remember to love and enjoy life.