101brett baraDIYsewing 101

sewing 101: sew a terrarium

by Brett

I’m totally smitten with the terrarium trend — a tiny, private world occupied by lush greens and adorable figurines? Who could resist? So in thinking about what would be fun to sew this spring, and with greenery sprouting up all around me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could somehow sew a terrarium. It turns out that all it takes is some clear vinyl and a few nips and tucks in the right places — and voila, instant mini-universe! So grab your favorite little figurines and a handful of moss, and get ready to sew yourself a terrarium! — Brett Bara

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


  • heavy-weight clear vinyl (I used 20-gauge) — this is available at fabric stores
  • tissue paper (you can use the tissue that comes with the vinyl or regular gift-wrapping tissue)
  • small paperclips
  • scissors
  • cutting mat, straight edge and rotary cutter (optional)
  • glue gun (optional)


1. Cut the vinyl.

Note: Since this project is made with clear vinyl, which is nearly invisible in photographs, I’m demonstrating these steps using paper.

To begin, we’ll look at how to make the rectangular terrarium. Cut a piece of vinyl that’s the desired width of your finished container plus two times your desired height, by your desired length plus two times your desired height. Add 1/2″ to each side for seam allowance.

Next, measure a square section on each corner that is the size of your planned height for the container. So, if you planned a height of 3″, measure a 3″ square from each corner. (Note: You can draw guide lines on the vinyl with marker; they will easily wipe off. Of course, you should test this on your vinyl first. Also of note: A gridded cutting mat makes it really easy to measure your vinyl accurately.)

Cut out the corner sections.

2. Prepare the tissue.

Because vinyl is difficult to sew on a machine (its stickiness won’t allow it to feed through the machine properly), the solution is to sandwich the vinyl between strips of tissue paper. Cut several 1″ strips of tissue and set aside.

3. Sew the corners.

Fold the vinyl at each corner so that the edges of the cut-out section meet. Place the folded vinyl between two strips of tissue paper, and secure all layers with paperclips.

Sew the corner seam, using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Tear away the tissue paper. (If it gets stuck under the thread in any spots, pull it out with tweezers.)

Sew all four corner sections, and your finished container will look like this!

4. Waterproof the seams.

Not surprisingly, a sewn seam will not be waterproof. This is not a major concern for this project, since terrariums are meant to be only slightly damp, not soaked with water — so leaking shouldn’t become a big issue. I recommend keeping your finished terrarium on a plate or platter at all times to catch any possible dribbles, but if you like, you can make the seams a bit more water-resistant by running a bead of hot glue along the inside of each seam. The glue will be somewhat visible, so it becomes an aesthetic choice as to whether you want to include this step.

And that’s it; your container is done! Place it on a platter, and fill it as you wish! I’m not an expert on planting, but here’s how I make my simple terrariums: a layer of pebbles, a layer of activated charcoal (this is really only needed in a closed or mostly-closed terrarium), a layer of potting soil and a piece of moss. I find that moss is easy to grow compared to some other plants and has a wonderfully lush texture that looks great. Then, just mist the terrarium whenever it looks dry. For my terrariums with lids, I never have to water them; but styles like these with an open top will need to be watered occasionally.

Variation 1: Slanted sides

To make the container with slanted sides, cut the corner sections at an angle greater than 90 degrees. Wider angles will create a steeper slant. Then sew each corner as described above.

Variation 2: Round, fluted container

To make the round container, cut a circle with a diameter equal to your desired base size, plus two times your desired height. (The circle doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect.)

Make small folds along the edge of the circle, sewing each in place. (My dotted line in this photo indicates where you would sew the seam.) Repeat all around the circle, and don’t worry about making each fold to an exact measurement — an abstract result works just fine here!

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