Field Notes

Project 1: Storage Box

July 14, 2015 | In Making

Project 1: Storage Box


Create storage for the magazines, books, and cat toys that live on the coffee table.


My pattern is based on the Make It, Love It fabric storage box. An accumulation of small changes turned it into a different pattern.

My box is for larger objects. At 12" wide x 18" long x 12" deep, it's about 50% bigger on each dimension than the original pattern. I skipped the handles and label, since it won't be pulled off a shelf (static assets, not dynamic), and replaced the bias tape edging with a generous hem with the overflow fabric.

The box design is a lot like wrapping a present. A rectangle of fabric is wrapped around a box shape, sealed on the bottom, and left open at the top. A rectangular insert is added to the bottom for extra support.

It was hard to see the overall design with my modifications. Here are supplemental sketches, starting from about halfway through. I made a prototype with a grocery bag before cutting anything.

My wrapping paper is 60" long and 18" high, plus a little extra for seams.

box fabric layout

I drew seam guidelines with a disappearing ink marker. Important tip: ink from old markers disappears quickly. There was a slapstick moment when I sat down to sew and found them gone.

The box is assembled inside out. Following the tutorial, slip the outer fabric tube into the inner lining tube, "wrong" sides together and nice sides visible. Add seams at the four corners to create slots for the reinforcements.

box tube

Sew the bottom edge to make a pocket.

As the sides of the pocket are pulled open, the bottom flattens and the corners turn into points.

box open pocket

Fold the points down, like you're wrapping a present. Now you have a box shape.

box fold

Turn the box inside-out so the points are flat along the bottom. The bottom insert will cover them.

The recommended plastic reinforcements were too flimsy for a box this size holding magazines. I used corrugated cardboard in the side pockets, and a double layer on the bottom. There was a generous margin left on top, which I folded over into a deep hem.


Storage box Finished storage box, side view Storage box - top down


Project post-mortems are a formal opportunity to reflect on what went well and what might be done differently next time. This seems in keeping with the Maker spirit.

  • The paper prototype cleared up a lot of confusion with the directions.
  • Sketch and prototype before buying material. I got away with it this time, but had barely enough scraps to cover the bottom insert.
  • Geometric patterns make it easy to line things up.
  • For a non-sewer, I've got a great arsenal of sewing tools.
  • I listened to a Sandi Metz interview while I worked. A beginner asked how long it would take to get good so she didn't code so slowly. Serendipitously, I was in the midst of lamenting how slowly this project was going. Sandi remarked that the writer was comparing herself to everyone else's speed. I realized that I've never been around another beginner sewer. I've picked up everything from watching my mom, who has been sewing since age 5. I don't have any sense of where I am on the learning curve, beside Not Expert.
  • Sandi also remarked that programmers make mistakes for a living. Once we fix a thing, we move on to break the next. Truth. I worked around all my mistakes, and am happy with the outcome.

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