Here is a step-by-step to make a box from scratch, covered in your own embroidery. It may look long-winded, but is really very easy, and you will end up with something truly personal. The stitching on this box is based on Jean Hilton’s Puzzle Purse, which I really loved stitching.
Decide on the dimensions of your box, and stitch a band to go right around the outside. This box was to be 8.5inch long, 5inch deep and 3.5inch high, so my stitched band was 8.5 + 5 + 8.5 + 5 = 27 x 3.5 inches.
Stitch the band on congress cloth, but leave about 1 inch unstitched at both short ends. Remove the stitched from the stretcher bars, and trim to a border of approx 1 inch all around. Remember that you have not stitched right to the short ends, so there will actually be a 2inch border there.
Now overlap the short ends by one inch, so that you are creating a circle, the size of which equals the measurement right around the box you want. In my case, the circle measured 27 inches, now finish the stitching. In the overlapped section you will be stitching through 2 layers of congress cloth. Doing it like this will create a seamless outside band.
Now you need to cut the cardboard to make the box. I used cardboard about 1/8 inch thick. Cut 2 side pieces 2 ends pieces and one base. So I had:
2 pieces 8.5 x 3.5 inches
2 pieces 5 x 3.5 inches
1 piece 8.5 x 3.5 inches
Take care not to make the pieces too big, or the stitched band will not fit onto the box. If you are using thick fabric to line the box, make each cardboard piece fractionally smaller. You are going to assemble the box, then slide the stitched band onto it, so you want it to fit! You may want to temporarily tape the box together and slide the stitching on, before covering the cardboard, so you can make sure your box will be the right size.
Next, cut the fabric which will line your box. Nearly any fabric will be good. My embroidered box had cotton, my blue needlepoint box had a satiny fabric, and this one has some sort of polyester. Cut a piece of fabric for each piece of cardboard, about ¾ inch bigger all round. You don’t need to be too fussy.
Now, cover each piece of board. Lie a piece of fabric right side down, and place the cardboard on top. Run a strip of double-sided sticky tape along each edge of the cardboard. Now fold all 4 corners of the fabric over the board, and then fold up the edges, keeping the tension nice and tight. Folding the corners in first, keeps them neat. Parts of the fabric will not be stuck down, and the whole thing may not look tidy – that’s ok!
Time to stitch the pieces together, to make your box! Take a side and an end piece of your covered cardboard, and butt them together as they will be when finished. Remember that the finished lined side will be the inside! Holding them like this in one hand, whip stitch them together. Keep adding on the next piece until you have all 4 sides stitched together.
At this point, it will feel very flimsy and unstable, but do not be concerned – it will come right. Trust me!
Attach the base in exactly the same way. Now the whole thing will be sturdy and stable. It will look beautiful on the inside, and a complete mess on the outside. Don’t worry, the outside will be completely covered by the stitched band.
Fold in the top and bottom unstitched borders of the outside band, and slide it onto the box. It may be a very snug fit, depending on how accurately you cut your cardboard, and will take a bit of easing into place. It completely covers all the messy ends of fabric and looks gorgeous!
Now to finish the bottom of the box – because it still looks a mess! Cut a piece of fabric for the base, about 3/5 inch bigger all around. If you want to have feet on your box, now is the time to attach them. I have shown how I made the feet, at the end of this tutorial.
Fold under ¾ inch on one end of the fabric. Whip stitch it to the stitched band, going through the bottom row of the congress cloth, and the very edge of the folded piece of cloth. Take small stitches, in a matching thread, and you will hardly see them. Just do the middle section of the edge, not right to the corners, then go to the opposite edge of the box – fold under the ¾ inch border and whip stitch it into place. Continue until all four edges are done, keeping a nice taut tension, and the corners are still free.
Now stitch down the corners. Doing it like this means you can keep the tension tight all the way around, and end up with a nice smooth base, and neat corners.
Now turn the box right side up, and whip stitch the top of the stitched band to the lining fabric. Use small stitches in thread that matches the lining, going over one row of the congress cloth, and they will just melt into the fabric and you will hardly see them.
Stitch the canvas for the lid, using the measurements of the box to determine the size.
You need 2 pieces of cardboard for the lid – one cut to the size required for the lid, and one ‘inside lid’ a bit smaller all round which will go inside to keep the lid steady.
You may like to use some batting on the lid, to give it a nice soft, slightly rounded shape.
Cut 3 pieces of batting, the biggest will be a bit smaller than your lid size, then another a bit smaller again, and the third a bit smaller still.
Place your stitching right side down. Then centre the biggest piece of batting on it, then the middle size batting, and then the smallest piece of batting. Finally, centre the piece of cardboard, cut to the finished lid size.
Put some double-sided sticky tape around the edges of the cardboard, and fold over the unstitched borders of the congress cloth. The batting will be inside, and only the congress cloth will wrap around to the other side.
Now add the lining fabric, in exactly the same was as you did the base of the box.
Cover one side of the 2nd, smaller, piece of cardboard with lining fabric. Then glue this to the inside of the lid. This inside lid piece will fit into the box and stop the lid sliding off.
I didn’t need that inner section on the lid of my brown box, as I wanted a hinged lid, not a removable one. I simply whip-stitched one edge of the lid to the box.
Making the feet.
Here is a neat way to make feet for your box.
Find 4 buttons, with 4 holes in them. They should be the same size, but don’t have to match because you are going to cover them completely. Don’t have them too big or it will take forever to cover them.
Mark the positions of the feet on your piece of fabric. Using a long length of DMC 5 cotton, and a number 22 tapestry needle, attach the first button by coming up through one of the holes, then down over the edge of the button. Repeat with the other 3 holes so you end up with button held in place by four evenly spaced threads like spokes, going right over the edge of the button. Now come up at the edge of the button, between 2 threads already there, and go right across the top and down the other side. Repeat for the other side of the button so that it makes a cross. Now come back up through one of the holes.
You now have 8 “spokes” of thread. Carry the thread over spokes 1 and 2, then go back under spoke 2 so the thread is now coming up between 1 and 2.Now go over 2 and 3, and back under number 3. Then go over 3 and 4, and back under number 4. Over 4 and 5, and back under 5. In effect, you are doing a stem stitch, using the spokes of thread.
Continue doing this, going round and round in a spiral, getting nearer and nearer the fabric. Keep going until you reach the fabric. Squeeze in a couple more rounds of stitching, so that you cannot see any of the button showing, then take your thread to the back, and fasten off.