simple sewn box

(Makes one box)


Minimal or Fancy.  It's up to you.
Sewn boxes bring a warmth and softness to any room of the house and can be made in many different sizes and materials.  Once you sew one, you will want to make more.  Using basic sewing skills, not many rules and a very simple pattern, you can unleash your creativity with embellishments.

stiff fabric such as denim, heavy canvas or cotton duck (see below for dimensions)
matching thread
paper and fabric scissors (or rotary cutter) ruler
triangle or right angle tool
pencil or erasable fabric pen
straight pins
sewing machine
iron/ironing board

leather draw cord, fabric ribbon, contrasting thread, hand embroidery needle and floss, etc.

• decide box length (L), width (W) and height (H), measured in inches.
• fabric length is L + [H x 2] + 1”
• fabric width is W + [H x 2] + 1”
• you will need 2 pieces measuring this size (outer fabric and lining); they can be the same or different fabrics
• if using interfacing, cut piece in same size

Although these boxes are meant to be a bit soft and slouchy, we recommend making your box out of a stiff fabric so that it will hold a nice shape (see “Thoughts” below for more tips).  It is also preferable to use a fabric that can be creased with an iron.  We love working with stiff canvas.

To begin, decide the overall size of your box.  Then, use the formula at left to determine the fabric dimensions to cut.  After doing that little bit of basic math, you can use a straight edge and a right angle to measure and mark the dimensions onto your fabric.  Cut your two square (or rectangular) pieces, one for the outer and the other for box lining.

For example, if you want a box that is 8” L x 5” W x 6” H, you would have a fabric length of 21” (8” + 12” + 1”) and a fabric width of 18” (5” + 12” + 1”)


Next, cut a piece of paper into a square, using the finished height of your box to determine size.  In the above example, our desired box height is 6”, so we need a 6” paper square.  This becomes your pattern piece to cut the corners out of your outer and lining fabrics.  




Stack the two fabric pieces on top of each other, right sides together.  Place the paper square in one corner, trace and cut out square (through both layers of fabric).  Do the same for the other three corners.






To stitch the flat pieces into box shapes, take one of the fabric pieces (outer or lining) and putting the right sides of fabric together, match up and pin the corner cuts.  After matching all four corners together,
your pinned fabric should look like a 3D box shape.





Stitch each pinned corner, starting at cut edges and stopping at the folded diagonal, using 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Repeat with second fabric piece.






Clip corners and press seams open.  Turn one box right side out and press all corners.






Then, insert the right-side-out box into
the wrong-side-out box, lining up the corners and pinning the raw top edges together. Stitch, leaving an opening large enough to turn the box right side out. Since corners can get bulky, trim them before turning the box right-side-out.


After turning the box out, tuck the lining into the box and press all of the seams to give it a crisp shape.  Also, press seam allowances in at un-sewn edge.  To finish box, topstitch entire circumference at 1/8” from edge, starting and ending at a corner seam.  This will capture the un-sewn section and will make the top edge crisp.


At this point, you have a simple sewn box.  From here, you can stitch a piece of ribbon trim to the top edge, add some small buttonholes to weave a drawstring or ribbon through, topstitch a design, or whatever you can imagine.

Square boxes hold their shape the best.  If you are making a box larger than 12” square, you might need to use a stiff interfacing between the layers to give your box more body.  If so, cut a piece of interfacing at the same time (and size) as you cut the other fabric pieces.  Baste it at the edges to the wrong side of your outer fabric, then proceed as directed.

Also, if you add a couple inches to the overall box height, you can fold over the top edge, which looks great and also creates more stiffness.  If you use a contrasting fabric for the lining, make sure it is a similar weight and type to the outer fabric.  This will make sewing much easier.

Advanced tip:  If you are going to do any decorative topstitching on your box outer or lining, consider doing it before stitching the pieces into box shapes.

view related blog post: a tidy box of joy