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sewing 101: fabric boxes

by Brett

It seems no matter what I do, I can never get a handle on all the tiny odds and ends that accumulate around my house. From craft materials to hair ties, the bits and bobs are constantly trying to take over, so in the never-ending quest to corral them, these little fabric bins were born. You can make one of these soft boxes in almost no time, and in almost any size, so you can customize them to perfectly fit whatever you need to hold. Top each one off with a label holder (also customizable in any shade of the rainbow, thanks to nail polish), and you’ll have a leg up on clutter . . . for a little while, at least. — Brett Bara

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • a sturdy fabric, such as canvas
  • thread to match
  • sewing machine, iron and basic sewing supplies
  • label holders
  • nail polish (optional)


1. Paint the label holders.

I couldn’t find label holders in a color I liked, so I decided to customize my own by painting them with neon pink nail polish. It works like a dream! Just as if you’re painting your nails, cover the metal pieces in several coats of polish until you achieve full coverage, then finish with a clear top coat.

2. Cut the fabric.

Begin with any size square or rectangle fabric you like. (Mine was 12″ square.) Draw a line of equal distance from each edge; this will determine the height of your sides. (Mine were 3.75″ from each edge). After drawing your lines, the fabric will be divided into a grid of nine sections.

Cut away the four corner sections to create a cross shape. Repeat to make a second, identical piece.

3. Sew the fabric.

Pin the two pieces together with the right sides of the fabric facing and all of the edges aligned.

Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew around the perimeter of the cross shape, leaving an opening along the top edge of one of the cross arms.

(Detail of the opening left on the top of one of the arms.)

4. Trim the corners.

Trim away the excess fabric from the point of each corner as well as from each interior corner. (Removing the excess fabric from the corners will help to achieve neat edges when you turn the piece right-side out.)

5. Turn and press.

Turn the whole thing right-side out, carefully working the fabric through the opening left in the stitching. Use a pointy object to poke out each corner. Smooth all the seams flat, then press the piece with a steam iron. Iron under the raw edges of the fabric at the opening so it blends in with the seamed edges.

6. Add top stitching.

Top stitch all around the perimeter of the piece. (This will finish the edges as well as close the seam opening.)

7. Sew the corners.

Fold the piece so that any two of the arms meet each other.

Sew the two edges of the arms together along the top stitching line you made in the previous step. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of this seam to secure it.

Repeat this step for all four corners, and you have a box!

8. Attach the label holder.

All that’s left is to sew on the label holder with a needle and thread. And start organizing your odds and ends!

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  • I love this! How come I never thought of it before?!?! I think I have some sewing coming up . . .

  • While this is totally brilliant, I think what I like the most is the use of the word “corral” in context. We ALWAYS say this in my family (a genetic gang of serial corralers) and have never heard anyone else use the term to describe just this: making sure everything has a place. LOVE. and thank you for a great DIY.

  • love it-ho do you tink drop cloth fabric would work? would i need to use some iron on interfacing ??

    • Hi Brenda,

      I think that drop cloth fabric would work fine if: a) it is a mid or heavyweight drop cloth, and b) you use two layers of fabric as shown in the instructions. I don’t think you would need interfacing. However, it’s worth noting that these boxes do have a little bit of softness to them (you can see in the detail shot that they don’t keep a rigid square shape even when filled). We like the softness, but if you prefer a more rigid box, then I think you would want to add interfacing. Good luck!

  • Any project that involves nail polish as one of the materials gets a big thumbs up from me! I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses it for reasons other than nails :)

  • I think this is among the most important information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. I was very pleased to find this web-site. I wanted to thanks for your time for this nice read!! It’s really a great and useful piece of info.

  • To make it even sturdier, you could place a piece of plastic canvas or any pliable plastic piece in the bottom section and even the sides before sewing closed. I suggest plastic over cardboard as you can bend and manipulate it through the fabric and it won’t be ruined if something you’re holding in the cube leaks.

  • These are super cute! You could even try using thread that matches the label holders (or some other bright thread).

  • I have the same problem with odds and ends in my home but no sewing machine. Any decent handheld machines or something super super small and simple you can recommend … for someone who may sew about 4 times the whole year.

  • Just finished making one with and I am addicted. They are fun, cute and simple.
    Thanks for the instructions.

  • Bonjour, j’aime beaucoup l’idée, et les couleurs sontjustes je la pique pour ma maison…..et l’atelier .
    A bientôt

  • Kinda a neat idea… wasn’t going to check it out at first cause I have to watch out/time and not start too many DIYs, then finishing them all is a challege! These look quick & easy and would make great gift ideas or ‘pkgs’ for putting gifts in — a double gift!

  • I do love this idea and mespecially the nail polish, I never would have thought of that! For anyone interested in reinforcing the sides or bottom look into a product called Timtex. It is sturdier than interfacing, can be ironed on and is washable (unlike cardboard). Thanks for a cute, quick and useful project!

  • I need to do this to organize my crAzy life! I love these and the fact that you can go bigger or smaller to experiment with sizes to corral bigger and smaller things alike. Thanks for the project

  • This is one of the easiest patrerns/directions I have seen for fasbric boxes. I really like it, thank you for sharing it.

  • I have a roll of heavy vintage wallpaper- this method would work great! No sewing, and I could make ‘tape’ from the scraps! Thank you!

  • What a great idea! I always have odds and ends that need a place. It’s so much easier to put things away when they get to go into a cute container. :)

  • These are lovely and I do like the one I managed to make. HOWEVER, a warning to the newbies like me, your machine may not be happy after it sews through 4 layers of canvas. According to the repair center, I should never have tried to sew canvas on my Brother 6000 and that is why timing is now messed up. I consider it $90 repair lesson.

  • i have made these in all sizes to help organize my sewing room! small ones for my pins, labels, bobbins, etc, and large ones for my yarn, fat quarters, and fabric scraps! love this idea!

  • Am seriously obsessed with this design for fabric boxes…it is clever, simple and practically indestructible….love love love…I have made 4 of these so far using painter’s drop cloth and then fabric-stamped them….looks great and totally store-bought finish..will post a link to these boxes soon

  • Mirkao, you could cut slits in the middle (height-wise, between the top and bottom) of each side right by the edge (or even reinforce the slit by making a large buttonhole), and make small straps with velcro closures or even a button. Then you could turn the box so the open side is facing out and strap the boxes together, top to bottom. You could make the straps as long or short as you like, and even use a long one in the top box to hang it up! It would be somewhat flimsy (‘box’ loses its shape) with weight in it (unless you do Gin’s plastic idea), but hanging shoe organizers like the one you linked to are usually that way anyway. Hope this helps!

  • This is the easiest instructions I have found on making these fabric boxes, very beautiful & thank you so much for all the great details!!

  • I just made 20″L x 10″ D x 11″H. I did use upholstery fabric. I cut a plastic folder in half and used upholstery spray adhesive to glue it to the 20″ x 11″ sides. For the base, i used upholstery spray adhesive to glue down extra heavy duty vinyl. Of course I did this before sewing. These pieces are not sewed in. The glue worked great!. I guess I was disappointed b/c the sides still did not stand up. I am not sure what to do to get them to stand up nice. This was a trial run for me. I am planning on making approx. 15 – 20 fabric bins to fit a locker system that will be built after I give the builder my homemade bins.

  • I have just made 5 of these brilliant boxes today and they look so impressive. I sewed little owls made from fabric on one side of the box before I sewed it together. They are perfect for Christmas presents if I add something special inside. The one I made for my niece I sewed a name tape on the side that read, ‘Lois’ Treasures’. She loves it!!

  • This is a great packing box idea for my arts and crafts! And really simple too! I think it’s really important to make sure there’s a bit of hard backing in there because you want to make sure that it’s not too flimsy and it’ll stand up straight, especially if you’re going to fill it to the brim. And I love the fact that it’s customizable to whatever size you want it. It’s so difficult to find packing boxes at just the right size so thanks for this tutorial!

  • excelente idea, me encanto ahorras mucho en cajas plásticas o de cartón decoradas, porque estas las haces al tamaño que quieras de los colores que quieras y les das un toque personal, yo en lo personal le agregaría una jaladera de tela.