Tutorial: Fabric Postcard Box

Friend Rosaland came over yesterday to help me figure out how to make a fabric postcard box. I know how to make fabric postcards, but a box–sure, I can figure it out, but Rosaland knows sewing tips that are vital for a sewing machine newbie like me. We are both practicers–we make things to figure out how to do it, and figure that ripping stitches, making mistakes, and starting over is part of a successful project. I admire (but don’t understand) people who think that the first time they try something, it better be good enough to give as a gift or display. I don’t think that has ever happened to me.

Rosaland had done the part I’m weak in–measured out the box pieces. She started by ironing muslin onto Peltex (a sturdy double-sided fusible interfacing. This is the stiff stuff.

Tip: Ten minutes of planning saves an hour of frustration. Then she outlined the box piecesРfour pieces that are 4 x 6 inches  (two of them will need to be trimmed, but this was about laying out an easy-to-cut pattern) and one 1.5 inch and two 1.5 x 4 inch pieces. these pieces will make the part that makes the lid a fitted lid.

In this close up, you can see that she not only outlined the pieces, but labeled them for use. This is great when you are in box construction mode, and many pieces look alike. The writing also helps you figure out which side goes on the inside, if you are not decorating the box until after construction.

Tip–while you are learning construction, keep your bobbin thread a different color from your top thread. This helps you know which side is which, and it helps you troubleshoot tension issues. Loops on the yellow side would mean bobbin trouble. Luckily, tension was not a problem, but had we used decorative thread, it would have been. In this sample, you can see that the side attachment is sewn on in yellow thread–which means I attached it backwards. Good to know early, for convenient ripping open.

We had originally made all the pieces show here the same size, for easy pattern cutting–best done with a rotary cutter in long, smooth cuts. The sides, however, are not 6 inches tall, they are 4 inches tall, so a rotary cutter trimmed them smoothly to the right size.

Once the sides were trimmed, you can see the basic box shape. Next step: add the lid flap, then sew the sides together. I thought this would be art hell, but fabric (and Peltex) is wonderfully flexible, and you can bend and fold for easy attachment.

Tip: Use a starter scrap for sewing. I didn’t understand this till this box. If there is anyplace where the stitching will be uneven, it’s at the beginning. The bobbin thread may bunch just a bit, you may adjust the fabric, causing a slight swerve. All that happens on the scrap, which is about two inches long. When you get to the edge of the scrap, stop. Put the project fabric under the foot, leaving a slight gap between the scrap and your piece. Remember to put the foot down (it’s my favorite dumb move). Continue sewing. All your pieces will be sewn right to the corner, and with an even stitch. You can tell the corners that I didn’t use this tip by the messy stitching.

The completed box. Trim the back portion of the flaps at an angle to make the lid open and close smoothly. You can still surface decorate the box, if you want. I will use these practice pieces to practice surface decoration.

Tip: If you are making a box, you would also finish all the edges of the box that will not be sewn together.

Tip: You can sew the front edges together with matching thread, then use embroidery floss to “lace up” stitch decoratively across the front.

Tip: You can add a fancy closure if you like.

–Quinn McDonaldis a journaling freak who will make this box out of themed postcards and fill it with small journals on that theme. It would be a great travel-journal box, with colorful cloth postcards made after you come back from your trip with ephemera from the trip, filled with printed out photos.

-Rosaland Hannibal is a generous art quilter who never laughs at my mistakes.