Updated: Fabric Covered Storage Box With Custom Dimensions

Introduction: Updated: Fabric Covered Storage Box With Custom Dimensions

Update:  I realized a much easier way to make this work:  please go see this version instead:  https://www.instructables.com/id/fabric-storage-box-with-no-hand-stitching/

All my life I have been obsessed with storage, having grown up with a parent who was a hoarder/clutterer.  And despite my determination to be different, it seems, to a letter, I have it the same problem - even down to many of the same interests and pursuits.  Getting interested in Instructables (or I11s as I like to write it) has only intensified the problem because now *any* avenue of creativity is fair game, meaning that interesting tool, or this wonderful remnant, or that beautifully sculpted plastic bottle suddenly has much more potential than it ever did or has a right to.

As a result, now more than ever, I am ever looking for the right place to put things...   On my shopping list, I have things like:  3 foot tall box or basket with 10" maximum width.  I look around at Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul and never find these things quite the way I want them to be.  So, it seems it really is up to me to create my own storage to the precise dimensions I'm looking for.

Here is a way I discovered to make a fabric covered box.  The original idea for this box came from this website:  http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/09/fabric-storage-boxes-per-your-request.html  However, I wanted to keep the initial investment down, rather than purchase anything other than the small cost for remnants.  I chose to use cardboard for the walls.  Also possible would be any other sort of structurally useful material that tends to wind up in the bin, like plastic, though it's harder to find that in larger flat sizes.

The problem I've found generally with making a fabric box is that everything will be going great until you are almost done and find that you cannot topologically insert your sewing machine anywhere near the finish line and are left to either finish it by hand or start over with a different design.

I encountered that problem a bit here, and so I had to finish the top of the box by hand by lashing a binding down with thread and a thimble.  Regardless I think the result is pretty cool.  I'm going to meditate on refactoring the design so that the amount of hand sewing is minimized.

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Step 1: Materials

sewing machine
seam ripper (aka the "undo button")
remnants of a suitable size to cover the inside and outside surfaces of the box.
enough cardboard or soft sheet plastic for 4 walls and the bottom
wide binding tape (optional)
scissor sharpener (recommended)
sewing needle
tape measure
box cutter

Step 2: Determine Sizes

Using the desired dimensions of your box, you'll need to do a small bit of calculation.

You'll need an expanse of fabric to cover the area:   ( length + seam allowance ) by ( height + seam allowance )
And an additional rectangle to be the bottom of the box:  ( width * 2 ) by ( height )


If you're doing a rectangular box:

length =  (2 * longest side) + (2 * shorter side) + (4 * seam allowance)

If you're doing a square box:

length =  (4 * side) + (4 * seam allowance)


height = height of box + 1/2 the length of the shortest side + (2 * seam allowance)

In my example, my seam allowance is 1/4".

The square box in this I11s is 10"x10"x14", so the fabric calculation is

length: (10" * 4)  + (1/4" * 4) = 41"
height   14" + 5" + (1/4" * 2) = 19.5"

Step 3: Cut the Cloth

One thing I've discovered with sewing is that cutting the pattern pieces out correctly is 95% of achieving the best possible result.  Once the pieces are cut, the edges of the pieces and your chalk lines become your only guides while assembling it.

Using your calculated dimensions, cut out two large rectangles of cloth.  One to be the exterior and one to be the lining.

Be careful to keep the cutting lines straight and the corners as square as can be.

Step 4: Mark the Sides

After the rectangles are cut, using the chalk, mark three lines along the middle indicating the start/end of each side of the walls.

Actually, it makes sense to do this step later, because after you've done the next step, these marks could get off depending on your seam allowance....

Step 5: Two Concentric Tubes

Having marked the wall corners, with right sides together, sew the exterior into a large tube.  Do the same for the lining.

At this point, some people would press the seam flat, but since my fabric is synthetic, I decided not to risk melting it.

Turn the exterior right side out, leave the interior wrong sides out.

Insert the lining tube inside the exterior tube so you have two concentric tubes of fabric, the outside has it's right side out and the inside has its right side out.

If the tubes will not fit together concentrically, you may have to increase the seam allowance on the lining tube.  If they still will not agree to be concentric, you may have to force it and that would be non-concentric.  Non-concentric tube insertion is illegal in most continents. 

Step 6: Mark the Corners of the Walls

Flatten out the tube and measure it across its width.

Mark the exact center with chalk.

Flatten the edges and mark those with chalk.

Turn it over and find the center of the other side and mark that.

Check to see that all the walls are going to be the same width.

Step 7: Sew Wall Guides

Using your chalk marks as guides, sew a straight line along them.  These will be guides for inserting the cardboard/plastic between the fabric.

Be careful to sew only one wall at a time, in other words, don't sew through the whole tube (4 layers), just the wall (2 layers: exterior + lining)

Depending on the dimensions of your box, you likely won't be able to get your sewing machine all the way through to the other end of the fabric.  If so, sew as far as you can and then stop.

Step 8: Cut Out Cardboard Walls

Using your original dimensions, cut out your four walls to be the sides of the box.

In this, case each wall is 10" x 14". 

Cut four pieces.

Try inserting them in into the sewn guides.  If they are too wide, trim them down till they fit snugly. 

Step 9: Fix It or Fudge It?

Hopefully, if you've been careful in your measurements, all four walls will come out to the same dimensions.  If not, there is no shame in using the undo button now.  When given the choice between back up and "fix it" now or continue and "fudge it", choose "fix it".

Step 10: Line Up Bottom Seam

With all four walls inserted into their guides, turn the box over and fold the bottom seam down as indicated in the photo, lining up the wall guides carefully as shown.

mark the corners of the seam with chalk

Step 11: Sew Bottom Seam

Remove the cardboard guides, and pull the seam shut as shown.

Keep wall guide seams lined up as shown in the second photo.

Sew the bottom seam shut.

If you are braining more than I did, you would have thought to turn the tube inside out so that the lining was facing out. 
But I neglected to do so and still obtained a nice result.

Step 12: Mark Excess Bottom Triangles

Reinsert the cardboard walls and flatten the bottom seam so that you wind up with two triangles of excess fabric sticking out on either side as shown.

Pin the triangles together and mark their edge where they meet the box wall with chalk. 

Step 13: Sew and Remove Excess Bottom Triangles

Remove the walls from the box again and sew along the triangle edge where you marked it in the previous step.

Cut away the excess triangle after sewing them.

Step 14: Finish Top Edge

Attach seam binding around the top of the box edge to conceal the rough selvages.

Now if I could do this over, I would come up with a different design as I ran into one of those topologically impossible situations for a sewing machine to fit into.  If you chose to use flexible plastic walls, then you could probably sew this part with a machine relatively easily.

But since I used cardboard, I could not flex the box at all.  Rather than chuck it, I went ahead and sewed this part by hand, though it required a thimble and needle and thread and was rather like sewing very tough leather.

Wanting to avoid hand sewing, I did try various glues, however, the result was messy.  I removed all that and then basted down the rough edges by lashing them with thread as shown in the third photo.

If your edges line up neatly, you can get away with narrower seam binding, however mine didn't and I didn't have wide enough seam binding to go around so, I used a long strip of exterior fabric as the seam binding which worked out fine.

Step 15: Create Bottom Insert

At this point the box is nearly done, however the bottom needs reinforcement.

Cut a square of cardboard to fit inside the bottom.  In my case, because the fabric was thick, I had to trim the edges of the square by a half inch. 

Layout your cardboard bottom on some fabric and leave enough seam allowance around the outside edge.  Flip the cardboard bottom over along one edge and mark the fabric along the other edges so that you have enough material to create an envelope for it.

In my case, I wound up with a rectangle of fabric approximately 20" x 10".

Fold this fabric right sides together and sew two sides shut, leaving one side open.

Turn the envelope inside out and insert the cardboard.

Finish the remaining open seam

Step 16: Enjoy Your New Custom Box

Yes, this was more laborious than I expected, but I really like it.

My goal this year is to become good enough at making things that I wouldn't be fired from a Chinese factory.  But that's an essay for another day.

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