Sunday, February 26, 2012


Today's little "how to" are these trinket/jewellery or sewing boxes.  They are not difficult to make so don't be put off by the amount of photo's it took to cover all the elements. 

But what will I need?, I hear you ask: 

Some fabric  (naturally) - You will need a strip of fabric - the width of the fabric (42 - 44 inches) x 8 1/2 inches wide, plus enough to cut two circles for the lid and the base.
Lining Fabric - width of fabric x 6 1/2 inches plus enough for two circles for the lid lining and base lining. 
An embroidery hoop - the boxes above have been made with a set of hoops 6 inches in diameter.  Use the cheap hoop that is made from lightweight wood or balsa wood.  They are usually only a couple of dollars each.
Cardboard - cut 4 circles using the embroidery hoop as a template.

I used a dress making fabric for the first two boxes - both were a little wider than cotton patchwork fabric.  The box with the separate lid is lined with a velour fabric.   Don't think this is the only size you can make, the hoops come in many sizes and there are even some that are an oval shape.   If using other sizes, just make sure that the amount of fabric is adjusted to give a full and voluptuous (for want of a better word) look.  You can also make the boxes as deep or shallow as you like.

With right sides together, sew the main fabric and the lining fabric together  lengthwise.    Press the seam allowance towards the lining side.     Top stitch close to the seam on the lining side - This helps keep everything in place.
Now we are going to sew this fabric piece into a tube.   Place a pin at the seam.  
From the outside edge of the lining, sew a seam about two inches long.     Repeat on the main fabric.  Carefully press the seam open, keeping the seam allowance straight in the area you haven't stitched.

Now fold the tube in half - there should be some of the main fabric in the half with the lining fabric.   Measure the thickness of the embroidery hoop.   Top stitch  on the folded edge (not right on the edge) leaving enough room for the embroidery hoop to fit through comfortably.
 Pin the bottom edge so the lining and the main fabric a together.   Make sure there are no twists.   Run two rows of gathering stitches around the bottom edge.

Before drawing up, place pins at either 4 points or 8 points along the bottom to use as markers when the bases are attached.    Prepare the embroidery hoop.

Cheaper hoops are usually made from some type of balsa wood and are therefore easy to cut.   I was able to use both parts of the hoop for the purpose of making these boxes.   The hoop with the hardware on, I used a screwdriver to prise the metal pieces off.   (This is the one I used in this demo)   The other hoop could be easily cut with a craft knife or shears.

 Thread the fabric on to the embroidery hoop.
To join the hoop, I used a craft glue and some duct tape (not terribly antiquey but perfect for the job!).  Cut a narrow piece of duct tape.   Apply glue to the two edges of the hoop.  Use the first piece of tape to join the two hoop edges.   Cut another piece of duct tape and wrap this area of the hoop.   Don't make it too thick.

Distribute the fabric evenly around the hoop.   You can slip stitch this seam together now if you wish.

Make the base pieces.   There are two pieces for the base - one is covered with the lining fabric and one will be covered with the main fabric.

I covered both pieces of cardboard with some batting/wadding.   The lining circle also had an extra layer of wadding cut to the size of the cardboard.    The main layer of wadding was cut larger than the cardboard circle and prepared as per the photo's.

Once the wadding has been put into place, each circle will now be covered by the chosen fabric.   Use either glue to hold the fabric in place or stitch with a running stitch around the edge and draw up the fabric around the cardboard.  Eliminate any wrinkles around the edges of both pieces. 

Now start gathering the fabric attached to the hoop.  You are going to sew the lining base piece in first.  
 Once the fabric is gathered, I used pins pushed into the cardboard base to hold the pieces together. 

 When you are happy with how the base looks,  check how the sides look and adjust the fabric folds.  I stood a jar in the centre and lifted the box base up  and fiddled until I was happy with the distribution of fabric.

 Thread a needle with the lining colour and using a ladder stitch, go around the base and stitch the base to the "walls".  I went around twice,  the second time just neatened the look of the base and took care of any gaps where the contents of the box could hide!

Here is the base all sewn in.
Now you are going to attach the outside base.   Again this is sewn into place with ladder stitch  and again I went around the base twice.  The first round making sure all the folds were evenly placed and the second time to pull the sides and base together.

Now you need to make the lid.   This particular box has the lid attached with a hinge.   I had a nice lace that suited the task so used that.   If you wish to use fabric for the hinge, make a tube of fabric and use.

One piece of cardboard will be the top of the lid, the second piece is for the inside of the lid.  Cover both pieces in the selected fabric as for the bases.   This time you are going to stitch these two fabric covered pieces of cardboard together.  
The box lid has been decorated with a piece of lace and some Swarovski crystals.   The edge of the lid will need to be covered with a suitable trim.   I used  black Maribou.   Use whatever suits the theme.

If you can't find a suitable button to close the box with, you may be able to see on the box below, that I made a covered button and then attached some crystals to add a bit more sparkle!   I do like a bit of sparkle! 
To make the loop for the button, I used the some embroidery threads (25 strands) I simple pulled them off the reel about 20 inches long and then twisted them together, tie a knot and cut the tails and hey presto, a button carrier with a tassel.
This is the top of the box with the loose lid.   To keep the lid in place I covered a third piece of cardboard with a few layers of wadding in different sizes.   This piece of cardboard was smaller.  The extra padding keeps the lid in place.

So there you have it.   Antique style with a modern twist.    Any questions, feel free to contact me.
Sue xxx

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Take a  cane basket, some fabric, glue and padding, and hey presto, a very snazzy sewing box.  Lots of photo's show the process of putting this together.   You may not be able to find an exact match for this particular basket, but I have included  as many tips as possible, to enable you to transform any basket or box that takes your fancy!

To weave in and out of the sides of the basket, I made tubes of fabric.   I was aiming for a slight "scrunch" so the finished sizes of the tubes needed to be greater than the size of the holes to be filled in.
These "spaces" measured at  2 1/2 inches so I cut the strips of fabric into strips  3 1/2 inches wide.   These strips were then sewn with a 1/4 inch seam.  The seam are pressed open.   I have a set of "Tube Turners" that I purchased at a craft show a long time ago, and they have been a great investment over the years.

 Once the tubes had been turned, I pressed them again, this time centering the seam in the middle of tube - this is then technically the back of the tube.  I made four of this size and wove them through the basket.  I then folded these strips  to the back and glued into position for a neat finish.    The skinny purple strip was pressed into thirds and then glued - this too was then woven to fill in the gaps.  
Next the basket needed some padding.  I padded the basket itself with one layer of wadding/batting - take the inside measurement and cut to size - the padding should just fit the basket without any overlap  - this will stop any thick bits (technical term).  Use a good tacky craft glue - it makes this type of work so much easier.
Now to make the liner.  I found a lovely shot taffeta type fabric that perfectly matched the purple in the butterfly fabric. 

Measure the depth of the inside of the basket.  Add  an 1 1/2 inches  or more - you can always trim, but it is  impossible to add (well it isn't impossible, you will just have to get creative).   I kept the lining simple with no gathers, because I would be adding pockets.    Measure the inside top rim of the basket and add a generous seam allowance.    Cut another piece of wadding/padding.   On the lining fabric, turn a seam allowance on the top edge and press to the back - make this fold a generous 1/2 inch .    Place the wadding onto the lining fabric,  level with the fold line.   If you have a glue stick handy - dab some glue on the 1/2 inch fold - this will keep your edge neat whilst you sew.   Feel free to press the glue dry - It is on the back so not visible.  

Top Stitch close to the edge.
Next,  set your sewing  machine as follows - straight stitch -  stitch length of 4  drop tension  down a couple of full notches from its normal sewing setting (eg. If normal stitching tension is 4, set the machine to 2).      Stitch the lining fabric into a tube and test that it is a perfect fit.   Too small, simply pull the bottom thread and the stitching should pull out quickly and easily.   Move the seam over a little and sew again.  Test the fit again, when it is right, you can now take the opportunity  to measure up for the pocket piece.  Decide how deep you need to make the pockets.  Remember you have to be able to reach to the bottom, for small items.  Place a pin where the top of the pocket will be.    When you are happy with the fit - no gaps - reset the machine to its normal stitching.    Mark the stitching line and remove stitching.   You now need to add the pocket! 
Cut a piece of the lining fabric (or use a contrast) twice the depth of the pocket plus a little to take the pocket under the base for a neat finish.    This piece will need to be the same width as the lining you have just prepared. 

 Fold in half length ways and press.   If the design is a one way design, make sure you lay the pocket piece on to the lining the right way up!    The open edges should be at the bottom.  Lay the liner out flat and using a tape measure or ruler, carefully pin the pocket piece into position.    Check it is straight!! 
Stitch to the liner at the bottom edge.    You will possibly need to run another line of stitching, when it comes to the final fit.     Now you need to place dividers into place.    The fabric I used was very hard to mark, so I used tape instead.    You can either sew through the tape, or just use it as a guideline. 

 As you can see in the picture, I used my quilting ruler to make sure the pocket mark was straight by lining up the ruler with the edge of the pocket and then I placed the tape next to the rulers edge.    I used painters tape for demonstration purposes (it is easier to see on this fabric), but any sticky tape or low tack tape will do - "whatever is to hand"  I say!    Make sure you put the machine back to "normal" sewing and stitch the dividers.   Remember the edges - these will make their own pockets when the side seam is sewn up.

 As an afterthought, I added a row of decorative stitching just above the pocket.   I often do this on the internal pockets of tote bags, but actually stitch on the pocket before its final placement and use a contrasting thread.  If the lining is dark, it makes the pocket easier to see.  

 This photo shows the back - use tearaway stabilizer to ensure your decorative stitches look their best!

 Now sew the side seam.    To keep everything flat, trim back the wadding after the seam has been sewn.

 Test the fit again before gluing.   Check the bottom row of stitching, is this level with the bottom of the basket or will it go under the base.   If it goes under the base line, run another row of stitching, because if you put anything in the pockets that can work its way under the base, you can bet that it will.  

When you are happy with the fit, glue to the edge of the basket.   I used pins to keep everything in place until the glue dried.     Don't glue the bottom just yet. 

Cut some sturdy cardboard for the base.   Make it a little smaller than needed because there is padding and a frill to fit into the space.     To give a nice padded look to the base, I cut circles of wadding in a few sizes and glued them smallest to largest on to the cardboard.   Place the circle padded side down on to the back of a circle of the lining fabric.   This circle has been cut at least an inch or more bigger, all the way around.  Cut notches around the outside of the fabric.   Place dabs of glue, on to the back of the cardboard and starting at opposite sides, glue the fabric into position, pulling to keep nice tension on the front.  If you look at the circle like a clock, glue at 12, 3, 6 and 9.

 Continue gluing opposite tabs, until all have been glued into position.   To achieve  the padded look, you will need to pierce two holes into the cardboard.   I used a covered button as my centre piece.   I also used a flat button on the back to tie off with.    Thread a needle - I cut a long piece of thread and folded twice so I now had 4 threads.  You are now going to thread up through the backing button, leaving a tail, then through one of the holes in the cardboard, then through the decorative button, back through the second hole (and all the layers) and then back through the flat button.   You should have nice long tails to  tie off with.   Put a generous dob of glue on the cardboard and then tie off over the flat button.   Slap another dob of glue on the knot and there is not a chance that it will come undo!!

If you wish to add a frill as further decoration, cut a piece of fabric, twice the length of the outside edge of the circle by twice the width of the proposed frill.   I cut my piece of fabric the width of the fabric x 2 inches and the stitched the two short ends together.    Press in half - you now have a tube of fabric 1 inch wide by the chosen width.   Set your sewing machine up as follows - Straight stitch - stitch length 4, stitch tension - at least 2 full notches below normal sewing position.   (eg if the machine is normally set at tension 4, go down to 2 or lower).   Sew two rows of stitching, taking care that you keep the tails of thread out of the way as you start each row.   DO NOT BACK STITCH OR TIE OFF!    Sew the rows with a space of at least 1/2 an inch.    Gently pull on the bottom thread and start your gathers.   Ease up the gathers until you reach the desired size.  Tie off the ends and distribute the gathers evenly.   Glue to the back of the cardboard circle evenly around the edge.  Have as little or as much showing as you like.     When the glue is dry enough that it won't end up on the basket lining, you are ready to test the fit.    Do this when the glue on the liner is firmly set (overnight). 

Check the length of the liner, does it need any trimmed off the bottom edge - too much fabric in the base won't sit well.    The liner really only needs to fit into the base of the basket by about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.    Make sure the sides are straight and then glue the bottom of the liner onto the bottom of the basket.

 Place some glue on top of the fabric as shown in the photo and then gently slide the base into position.    I put a weight on top to make sure it all stuck evenly.  

   You may not want to have a lid on this basket, but if you do, here is how I did mine.

                                                           Place mat blank and teapot blank.
I found a place mat blank at my local craft shop, it is made of craft wood.   I also found a teapot stand blank.  A nice solid cardboard would also do the trick if you can't find the right side circles.     Mark the centre of both circles.  The will both be screwed together, so make sure the smaller circle is centred evenly.   Drill holes through both pieces.    I am using a small cupboard door knob as the handle.  Cut the screw that came with the door knob to the required depth - through both pieces of wood  and into the knob itself.  

For the top of the lid, I drew around the place mat, adding an extra 2 inches all around. 

                                                                  Press the fabric circle.
Cover the place mat with Modpodge or other suitable glue and centre of the fabric circle.   Use just enough to glue these two together, so that the glue doesn't come through to the front of the fabric.   Turn the piece over and make sure it is smooth with no air bubbles.   Turn over again and clip around the circle, not quite up to the edge of the place mat. 
 Glue the tabs into position.  

I then applied modpodge over the fabric right up to but not over the edge.   Let this dry.   If you get a good finish you may wish to apply a couple more coats of modpodge. 
 Next I made the under lid which I wanted to be a pin cushion.  
Put the screw into position.   You cannot add this at the end.    Cover the lid with wadding, as you did the base.   Make it as padded as you like.   Cover with fabric as you did the base.  

 Make sure the edges are as smooth as possible and when you are happy with the finish, apply a generous amount of glue to the back of the inner lid and push the two layers together, by screwing the handle into place.   If you have a couple of clamps handy, clamp away, otherwise place on a flat surface and stand a couple of weights on top until dry. I also added some glue to the top of the screw, so the handle didn't come undone.
    I added a frill to the underside of the lid.... 
 and a bit of trim.....
....and a couple more butterflies.     If you wanted to add a button to give a quilted look like the base, make sure you drill a couple of holes into the smaller base piece before applying wadding and fabric.   Omit the button, just tie off and glue.

As you can see in the photo's I added another frill and a couple of butterflies to finish - the final look is up to you.    AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS,  this one will be for sale in my Etsy Shop.

To finish, here is O'Reilly - kinda like  - "Oh my grandma, what a big tongue you have" said Little Red Riding Hood.   "All the better to taste you with" said the wolf   (well that is in my version)....

Sue xxx