Introducing the Fab-brick (a Sew Useful Contest Project)




Introduction: Introducing the Fab-brick (a Sew Useful Contest Project)

A multipurpose, hand-sewn, upholstered brick form. Multiples can be configured and reconfigured to furnish the changing needs of day-to-day living. Like Lego but a domestic rather than a universal system.

Wherever I go, I cannot resist picking discarded bricks out of skips. I always do it very casually, not only to do a mental check that I'm bending my knees and not my back, but also to convince those passersby who watch you out of the corners of their eyes that you are in fact doing the opposite of fly-tipping.

The oldest shaped bricks ever found (on the site of a Neolithic settlement in Turkey) have been dated to 7,500 BC; poor students and other technically advanced peoples have been building brick structures ever since.

I stumbled across the Instructables / Etsy SewUseful contest at the latest possible moment and in a desperate bid to win a much coveted Singer sewing machine I wracked my brains and remembered the catalogue of useful things I've made using bricks - draught excluders, wine racks, desks and book cases, candle holders etc, etc So, I knew at once that I would have to sew a honest, utilitarian brick.
See the Fab-brick listing on Etsy

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Step 1: Checklist

You will need:
Materials for one brick:
1.40mm (or thereabouts) diameter cardboard tube; a double-walled corrugated cardboard box with two side panels measuring at least 42cm x 29.7cm to make a robust, brick-shaped hollow cardboard form
2. wood glue
3. screw cap spout from a fruit juice carton
4. a pack of yellow dusters, or fabric of your choice
5. recycled textile to pad the hard cardboard form
6. thread
7. heat-fusible hemming web
8. Silver sand and/or sawdust to weight the brick

1. scalpel or utility knife, scissors
2. steel edged ruler
3. circle cutter
4.cutting mat
5. pencil & disappearing fabric marker
6. various elastic bands to use as you see fit to hold the cardboard panels in position whilst the glue hardens

Step 2: Measure Twice Cut Once

Though a HUGE fan of Claes Oldenburg's 'Soft Toilet' , I didn't want my fab-brick to turn out like the Muir Glacier (melted) so, I decided to build a thick-walled cardboard form that would be strong enough to be weighted and be able to withstand everyday wear-and-tear. I decided on building a reinforced, panelled construction in which the panels overlap and interlock, further strengthening the form.
Following the dimensioned drawing cut out the panels for the outer shell; then calculating the thickness / guage of the cardboard you are using, measure and cut the panels of the inner shell.

At all times be mindful of where your scalpel / utility knife blade is in relation to your fingers and thumbs - need it be repeated that scalpels are made for the express purpose of incising flesh with the least possible effort.

Step 3: Assembly of the Cardboard Form: Step 1

Assemble the side panels as per the photo: on the vertical axis align each inner panel and corresponding outer panel centrally; on the horizontal axis align a side edge of the panels together.

Step 4: Assembly of the Cardboard Form: Step2

Glue the inner and outer panels of the top and bottom of the the brick together as per the photo: the panels are aligned centrally on both the horizontal and the vertical axis.

Step 5: Assembly of the Cardboard Form: Step3

Glue the three sections of cardboard tube in position as per photo.

Step 6: Assembly of Cardboard Form: Step4

Glue the first two side panels to the base panel as per the photo. The panels interlock at the joint.

Step 7: Assembly of the Cardboard Form: Screwcap Inlet / Outlet for Filling the Hollow Fab-brick

It occurred to me that since the criteria of the contest called for the project to be listed on Etsy and I only had time to make a single brick, I would have to market it as a doorstop or a paperweight or something. If it was purchased it would't be economical nor environmentally sound to ship it weighted with sand. So I salvaged a screwcap spout from a fruit juice container to incorporate as an easy to use inlet / outlet for filling the brick.

Step 8: Assembly of Screwcap Inlet / Outlet: Step1

I discovered that after recessing the spout in the side panel there would not be much clearance to screw the cap on and off. So, I used the spring of a clothes peg as a retractable grip with which to twist the cap.

I threaded the bent ends of the spring through two holes pierced in the cap. I thought that the brick could then be filled with dried pulses or aquarium gravel to weight it, as sand might escape from the holes in the cap. However the thickness of the side panel meant that there would be very little clearance in the cavity between the back of the spout and the cardbord tube wall of the first "hole-
through-the-brick" and that only sand or sawdust would be fine enough to be poured through this gap. I then cut a washer out of a thin sheet of plastic and threaded it onto the bent ends of the peg spring on the inside of the cap - this acts as a barrier to prevent sand from leaking out.

Step 9: Assembly of Screwcap Inlet / Outlet: Step2

Stick the three pices of double-walled corregated cardboard together and line the ragged hole with a section of cardboard tube as per the photo. This provides the depth in the side panel to recess the screwcap spout.

Step 10: Assembly of Screwcap Inlet / Outlet: Step3

Glue the screwcap spout positioned centrally in the hole in the side panel (as per image "front"). Sandwich the final piece of board on the back of the assembly (as per image "back").

Step 11: Assembly of the Cardboard Form: Step 4

Glue in the final two side panels as per the photo.

Step 12: Assembly of the Cardboard Form:final Step

Glue on the top panel as per the photo.

Step 13: Underlay: Step1

Cut out the underlay panels from recycled textile (I used a piece of an old wool blanket and some yellow felt to cover the inlet/outlet panel which will be exposed until the brick is filled and the covering flap sewn or bonded over).

Step 14: Underlay: Step2

Glue on the underlay.

Step 15: Sewing the Fab-brick Cover: Step1

Cut the side panels from the covering fabric. To find the dimensions, measure the final dimensions of the cardboard form AND THEN ADD A SEAM ALLOWANCE OF 1cm TO EACH EDGE.

For the flap to hide the recessed inlet/ outlet I doubled the piece of fabric, hemmed and stiched it's edges and then sewed it into the strip (as per the photo) that will cover the side panels. I turned over and pressed the long edges of the strip.

Step 16: Sewing the Fab-brick Cover Step2

I turned over and pressed the edges of the top and bottom panel covers. I snipped cuts into the seam allowance of the holes and then pressed pack the edges as per the photo.

Step 17: Sewing the Fab-brick Cover: Step3

To find the length of the fabric strip used to line the holes in the brick (the perimeter ) times the diameter of the hole, in millimeters, by pi (3.14), then add a generous 1cm seam allowance to EACH edge. Seam as per the photo.

Step 18: Sewing the Fab-brick Cover: Step4

Position the strip of seamed sides panels over the corresponding panels of the form and bond the cover to the form using an iron and heat fusible hemming strip. Now that the panels are held in position, tack the cover to the form at various places. Stitch all along the "hinge" of the flap down onto the corner edge of the form to attach the cover strip securely at this point. Hem the raw end opposite the flap. Stitch all along this hemmed edge down onto the other corner edge of the form (as per the photo).
Insert the linings of the holes.

Step 19: Sewing the Fab-brick Cover: Final Step

Stitch on the top and bottom panels of the cover. And there you have it, YOU'VE made it another SewUseful Instructable.

Once the brick has been filled with sand the flap can be stiched or bonded or glued over permanently to hide the recessed spout.

You need at least three bricks to make a draught excluder, now you see why a Singer QUANTUM(r) 9940 computerized sewing machine would be more than just appreciated!!!!! Hmm now I've got to figure out how to add this to the Etsy group. Tah Rah. Here's that link to my Etsy listing again

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    6 Discussions


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea and the concepts listed in the first sentence of your Instructable [A multipurpose, hand-sewn, upholstered brick form. Multiples can be configured and reconfigured to furnish the changing needs of day-to-day living.] However, I like upholstered things to be cleanable (washable if possible - at least removable covers). With the use of cardboard in the construction, this brick will not permit using water to clean it and the cover is not something you can remove. Other issue is that if someone crushed it, the creases will continue to show throughout the remainder of the brick's life. These issues need to addressed for a really usable item.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi ChipUser Thanks for your comments I guess this is really what Instructables is all about: bouncing ideas off one another. I really appreciate your feedback. If you want to ensure that your upholstered brick is washable/cleanable this would influence the type of material you choose to upholster the form with; you can get some really funky oilcloth these days for instance. I wouldn't recommend wasting brainpower trying to devise a removable cover for this form as the "holes" in the brick make it tricky. Re your points about the brick being crushed - if you read my materials list you will see that this brick's walls are made from double-walled corrugated cardboard which is a heavy duty material. Each wall panel is made of a double layer of this cardboard. The walls are constructed in such a way that the joins overlap and interlock. So even at this stage the form is built like a brick. It is further made solid and near-on impossible to crush once it is filled, as it is designed to be filled, with sand and sawdust. Personally I like the way things get scuffed and knocked taking on the patina of everyday life.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi folks, One other filling may be pet bottle scraps - this way you may "get rid" of something that is usually hard to recycle and get a more rigid brick


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Fake_faux, I saw how the bricks are constructed. Filling them with sand or saw dust may protect from major crushing. If you drop one though, with sand, corners may get damaged. But this was not what I was thinking about when I made the comment about crushing. I was thinking of bigger but light weight things put together by tying together multiple units with matching/contrasting fabric belts - through the holes - or on the outside. For these one may have to leave the bricks empty to keep them light. Making these empty bricks crush resistant was what I was thinking about. Simple furniture shapes come to mind. For single weighted bricks another application could be as bookends. May be I should build one to check out the strength. I have never really sewed anything though :-( . May be hot-glue wll have to do.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi ChipUser, Unfortunately I can't drop this protype on it's corner until after its Etsy listing expires - its listed for 40 days. But yes a protype should be put through rigorous testing. I am fairly confident that the damage will be minimal. I will post a picture. If you are looking for a light brick I would hold on the sand and just fill it up with sawdust. Here in supermarkets in England they sell small vacuum packed packs of sawdust for pet bedding. The packs aren't much bigger than, I guess, 30cm X 21cm X 10cm which you can pick up with your little finger. That's more than three times the internal volume of the brick and vacuum packed at that. In the past I have built bookshelves and wine racks from actual bricks, pegged with broom handle dowel and incorporating planks where needed, I built a barbecue unit (without cement) and the weight and configuration of the bricks gave stability to the structres. Hmmm do I detect a fellow Lego fan at heart? We only ever had basic blocks but built all sorts of things, for some reason there was only one blue brick which made it special. Alot of the bricks had teeth marks on them because sometimes they would jam together and you'd have to use your teeth to grip one brick whilst pulling to seperate them .


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Heya, on second thoughts if you need multiples of a light-weight brick, I wouldn't make a hollow construction at all, I would just cut out a number of top/bottom panels required to get a thickness of 70mm and laminate them altogether to get something that looks like a Malaysian Kuih lapis layer cake. Job done!