101brett baraDIYdiy projectssewing 101

sewing 101: tissue box cover

by Grace Bonney

[i’m thrilled to welcome brett bara back to d*s as a regular contributor! brett will be joining us every other week with one of her great sewing 101 how-to’s. click here to check out her previous posts. so glad to have you as part of the team, brett!]

Is it weird that I have a thing for tissue box covers? Once maligned as the epitome of crafty-tacky, I say they deserve a little appreciation! Cardboard tissue boxes are an eyesore—light houses and airbrushed flowers? No thanks! But covering them is a great way to bring some crafty décor into your home and beautify an everyday object with your own personal touch.

This project will take you through the steps of making a neat opening on the top of the box, plus it’ll also show the benefits of working with fusible interfacing AND recap the ways of making 3-d corners. So much to learn, in such a little project! Let’s get started. –Brett Bara

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


¼ yard fabric

¼ yard fusible interfacing (buy this at a craft or fabric store)

All-purpose thread to match your fabric

Tape measure

Straight pins

Sharp scissors



Sewing machine

Iron and ironing board

About Fusible Interfacing

This pattern calls for fusible interfacing, which is an extra layer that adds stability and strength by bonding directly to the wrong side of any fabric. It’s especially helpful in a project like this tissue box cover which benefits from added stiffness; otherwise, the finished item would be a little too soft and wouldn’t hold its desired shape.

There are many, many types of interfacing out there in the world. I use a medium-weight fusible type for just about everything I sew. Fusible means that it has a layer of adhesive on one side which bonds to your fabric when heat is applied with an iron. (The adhesive is completely non-sticky and barely noticeable before you activate it with an iron.)

Fusible interfacing is sold by the yard, and it comes with instructions for application. (Check the manufacturer instructions and always test on scrap fabric before beginning on your project.) To attach the interfacing, place your fabric right-side down on the ironing board, and place the interfacing adhesive-side down on top of the fabric. With a hot steam iron, apply pressure in one spot at time until the adhesive is fused (usually about 10 seconds). Don’t glide the iron, just let it rest in one spot. If this doesn’t activate the adhesive, place a press cloth (a thin piece of cotton scrap fabric) over the interfacing, spritz it with water, and iron over that.

As an added bonus, fabrics that have been bonded with fusible interfacing tend to be easier to work with; they’re stiffer and tend to behave themselves very well, rarely stretching, shifting, or otherwise getting out of hand!

Choosing + Preparing Fabric

A smooth, medium weight fabric like quilting cotton or decorator-weight is a good choice here.

Pre-washing the fabric is not absolutely necessary for this project. While it won’t hurt, chances are you won’t be laundering your tissue box cover, so you won’t have to worry too much about the fabric shrinking later. Just remember to iron the fabric well before you begin measuring and cutting.

Measuring + Cutting

There are many different sizes of tissue boxes out there—these instructions will show you how to make a customized cover for any size box.

Measure the height and width of the sides and top of your preferred type of tissue box. For the Top panel, add 1” to the width and height. For the Side panels, add 1” to the total width of each piece, and add 1 ½” to the height of each piece.

Cut 4 pieces of fabric and 4 pieces of interfacing to your Side dimensions. (Hint: I sometimes cut my interfacing just slightly smaller than my fabric so that I don’t have to worry about lining the edges up perfectly when I iron them together. This is optional.)

Cut 2 pieces of fabric and 1 piece of interfacing to your Top dimensions.

Attach Interfacing

Apply a piece of fusible interfacing to each Side piece of fabric and to one of the Top pieces. (The second Top piece will not get interfacing.)

(In case you missed it, see “About Fusible Interfacing” section above for details on how to adhere the interfacing.)

Making the Opening On Top

With a pen and ruler, draw a 2” x 3” rectangle on the wrong side of the Top piece with interfacing. To do this, draw a line through the center point of each side of the top, then measure out from these lines to create a rectangle that’s perfectly centered.

Next, place both Top pieces right sides together and pin them together.

Sew along the lines you drew for the 2” x 3” rectangle.

Carefully cut away the fabric inside the rectangle (cutting through all layers). Cut about 1/8” away from the stitch lines. Make a tiny snip at each corner, being careful not to cut through the stitches.

Next, turn the non-interfaced piece of fabric through the hole to the other side.

Iron it flat, using your fingers to ease it in place as you go. At first it will seem like the fabric doesn’t want to lie flat, but gently spread it into place, using the hot steam iron to coax and set the fabric.

Don’t be too bummed if there are a few ripples or folds in the non-interfaced fabric. This will be the inside of the tissue box cover, so they won’t show anyway! Just try to get it as flat as you can, but don’t sweat the small stuff here.

Once the pieces are ironed as flat as possible, pin the two layers together. Topstitch around the perimeter of the opening.

Next, stitch around the outer perimeter of the fabric, about ¼” from the raw edge. This will keep the two pieces from shifting as you construct the rest of the piece.

Iron the entire piece once again. Ironing after sewing seams, even on a flat piece, helps to relax the stitches and lend a more professional finish.


Sew all 4 Side pieces together with right sides facing each other, using a ½” seam allowance, and leaving a ½” space unsewn at the top of each seam.

Press all seams open.

Attaching the Top

It’s time to attach the Top to the Sides. Remember to keep the non-interfaced side of the Top as the WRONG SIDE.

With right sides together, pin one edge of Top piece to the top edge of one Side panel. Sew this seam with a ½” seam allowance, stopping and starting the seam ½” from the corner edges. (Leaving ½” unsewn at the point where the corners meet will help create sharp 3-d corners. You can read more about this in the Ottoman Slip Cover tutorial; the corner construction here is the same as the corners in the ottoman.)

Attach the Top to all 4 Sides in the same manner, sewing each seam separately. Turn the piece right-side out and try it on your tissue box to be sure everything is on track.

Turn inside-out again and trim away the seam allowance on all 3 seams at the corners, clipping to within about 1/8” of the seams.

Hem + Finishing

Turn up the bottom edge ½” and press. Turn up another ½” and press again. Try the cover on your box to be sure the hem is the correct length; make any adjustments if necessary.

Topstitch the hem, sewing close to the interior folded edge.

Turn the piece right-side out. Working on one seam at a time, fold each seam closed flat and press; this will help to create sharp right angles on your cover.

And you’re done! Gesundheit and enjoy!

Check back in two weeks, when I’ll show you how to sew your own shower curtain!

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  • This is something that has been on my list of things to do for a long time. Thank you for the tutorial now I don’t have to take the time to figure it out, that’s all been done for me.

  • Hello!!!
    Just found your amazing homepage!
    What a lovely box, must try to do one myself :)
    And I think that the glass-jar with threads in it was an IKEA one?? (Swedish as I am I love IKEA…)

  • thank you so much for this series! I have basic sewing skills, but it’s so helpful to see some of these techniques. I may have to try this one.

  • Love this! Usually the only thing worse than a tissue box is the tissue box cover, but this is a super stylish idea. Whether I can pull this diy off is the real question, no sewing machine but I think I could do it by hand.

  • Thanks for the tutorials, Brett! Would you mind sharing the source for this particular fabric? Thanks!

  • Thanks all! :)

    Em – you could definitely do this by hand, there really isn’t all that much sewing.

    Brenna – the fabric is Dena Designs Snow Flower in DF30Black for Free Spirit Fabrics. Sorry, I forgot to put that in the materials section!

    • Brett, I did the yellow skirt from your book Sewing a Straight Line. The calculations for the back were wrong and I ended up with an 18 inch piece. I decided to fold the fabric and only then cut the back; it worked. But now my sister wants one and, as she lives in Brazil, I can’t do it and try it on her until I get the right width. Is there an errata for the book?

  • I actually really thought this morning – I hate that bloody tissue box – it never even occured to me to make a holder! Thankyou!

  • I love how this cover just slips over the box and is so easy to change up. I really want to try this for our bedroom makeover!
    P.S. I have some of that same aqua-flowered fabric in the background of the first pic, which I am planning to use in the bedroom, and perhaps in this very project!

  • I’m LOVING this new sewing series. Please keep them coming; they’re very inspiring. Very soon, I’m going to be making pillow covers, and will definitely be using your tutorial.

  • This is exactly what I’ve been wanting to sew. I have one pretty tissue box I purchased for it’s beauty. Once the tissues were gone, I just bought a new box, removed the tissues, and stuffed them into the pretty box that I’ve now saved and reused for more than a year. Although it kept it’s shape, it’s getting a little tattered, and one can’t fret over a tissue box in the midst of a cold. Time for a more durable option.

  • thank you so much for this post!! <3 i tried this once without the above instructions and well lets just say it was more like a tissue cozy!! teehee

  • Brilliant! Also the I need a new use for my ikea container, those things do not keep out bugs.

  • I am officially making this! I love the step-by-step, visual directions. Now I just need to get to a store and get everything (including a tissue box – I just ran out :D).

  • I have been wanting to make one cover since a long time and have now got the necessary push to go for it. Thanks for sharing. Simple it is… but uh so laid back we are!

  • great tutorial…but I beg to differ in that a tissue cover is something that I think you would want to
    be able to wash – so I will be
    pre-washing my fabric!

  • I love these sewing tutorials. Keep them coming! I’m much more eager to read Design Sponge when there are how-to entries. Thanks for such helpful instructions.

  • I love this idea! i’m going to go make one, but just a warning i’m not going to read the directions. it could be my full time job making all of this stuff, love it!

  • I made one… And then I couldn’t stop. They are modern and beautiful – and once I saw what a lovely bit of color and graphic it introduced to the room, I had to have them everywhere! Thank you for the excellent instructions… I made mine for rectangular boxes (had to be careful, because different brands are unfortunately different sizes).

  • I enjoyed your post about sewing a tissue box covers. I think there could be a lot of people out there who care about the presentation of their tissue boxes and will find this useful. Thanks.

  • Just started in my Christmas sewing! I have been purchasing holiday fabrics all year (Valentines, St. Pat’s, etc). Now to sew all the fabrics to tissue box covers and give to friends for Christmas. They can change covers for each holiday!

    Thank you for a great post!

  • Tissue box covers are a nice way to decorate your tissue boxes. They are a great way of keeping the design consistent as you go through the boxes. Making your own tissue box will ensure that it matches the decor of your home. Tissue boxes come in many different shapes and and sizes, and making your own will ensure that the cover fits it perfectly.