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This Asian Treasure Box is an easy fabric box craft. It begins with a discarded cardboard cigar box. With some rich fabric, bangles, glue - and expert measuring skills - you can create a true keepsake.

Fabric box craft final photo(click for a larger Fabric Box Craft image)
We openly admit: this fabric box craft idea was inspired by a 1995 Martha Stewart project. But frankly, we think we did it a little better and certainly easier. We began with an empty cardboard cigar box. Then, we found a really exquisite vintage image from an antique Japanese postcard. We bought half a yard of gold-flecked red cotton, some black velvet, and two gold tassels. This craft requires good sewing scissors and pinking shears, and a big bottle of tacky fabric glue.


Materials

  1. Fabric box materialsVintage image, (Free Adobe PDF download) printed on fabric (see Tips).
  2. Cardboard cigar box (ours was 9 3/8" X 5 3/8" X 2 7/8").
  3. Chipboard (lightweight cardboard).
  4. Cover fabric: Patterned cotton, satin or silk to compliment the image colors (about half a yard) (We used red cotton with a metallic gold speckle pattern).
  5. Lining fabric: Velvet or other plush fabric in a complimentary color for the lining (about half a yard) (We used black velvet).
  6. Lightweight cotton batting (about 20" X 20").
  7. Ribbon, 1/4", to match lining fabric (about 12").
  8. Crafts & Supplies at joann.com!Two small gold fabric tassels.
  9. Tacky craft glue for fabric (like Aleen's).
  10. Spray glue (see Tips).
  11. Wide painter's masking tape (typically blue).
  12. Scissors.
  13. Fabric scissors.
  14. Pinking shears.
  15. Bone burnisher.

Instructions for Fabric Box Craft

  1. Fabric box, step 1, cover the top of the box with fabric.Create a paper pattern to cut the fabric for the top of the box. Add 1/2" allowance on all sides. Cut the corners diagonally, leaving 1/16" allowance for the fabric to cover the corners of the box. Transfer the pattern to the back of the cover fabric and cut it out with pinking shears.

  2. Fabric box, step 2. Glue fabric to box top.Using a light application of tacky craft glue, adhere the fabric to the box lid. Glue the fabric allowance tightly to the inside of the lid on three sides, and to the back of the box on the fourth side. (Close the lid when you glue the fabric to the back of the box, so the fabric isn't adhered too tight which will prevent the box from closing).

  3. Fabric box, step 3. Make pattern for front and sides of box.Create a paper pattern to cut a single piece of fabric to cover the left side, front and right side of the box. Add a 1/2" allowance at the top, bottom and the two ends. Cut the corners diagonally, leaving a 1/16" allowance to cover the corners of the box. Transfer the pattern to the back of the cover fabric and cut it out with pinking shears.

  4. Fabric box cart, step 5. Glue fabric to the sides and front of the box.Glue the fabric to the sides and front of the box. Glue the allowance to the bottom and back of the box.

  5. Fabric box craft, step 5.Fold the fabric allowance tautly inside the top of the box,and glue.

  6. Fabric box craft, step 6. Create fabric panels for the back and bottom of the box.In the center of a large piece of plain paper (Kraft or even printer paper), draw a single paper pattern for the combined back and bottom of the box, 1/16" smaller than the actual measurements. Add at least 1" allowance on all four sides and trim it (this will be trimmed to 1/2" allowance later). Cut a piece of fabric the same size as the paper and lay it face down on a flat surface. Spray glue on the back of the paper pattern and adhere it to the fabric, smoothing out all the wrinkles. Trim the paper-backed fabric around the drawn pattern, leaving a 1/2" allowance on all sides. Fold the paper-backed fabric along the pattern lines, trim the corners diagonally, and glue down the allowance. Burnish the folded edges flat with a bone burnisher (see Tips).

  7. Fabric box craft, step 7. Adhere the fabric-backed paper to the back and bottom of the box.Glue the paper-backed fabric to the back and bottom of the box. Leave about 1/6" clearance along the hinged lid edge, so it doesn't interfere with opening the box.

  8. Repeat this process for the inside of the lid (with one difference). In the center of a large piece of plain paper, draw a paper pattern for the inside of the lid, 1/16" smaller than the actual lid measurements. Trim the paper exTrim the paper and fabric around the drawn pattern, leaving a 1/2" allowance on all sides. Fold the paper-backed fabric along the pattern lines, trim the corners diagonally, and glue down the allowance. Burnish the folded edges flat with a bone burnisher (see Tips).actly on the pattern line on one long side. On the other three sides, leave at least a 1" allowance beyond the pattern. Cut a piece of cover fabric with a 1" allowance on ALL sides of the pattern, and lay it face down on a flat surface (Avoid using the velvet lining fabric inside the lid, because heavy or stiff fabric over the hinge may cause the lid not to close properly). Spray glue on the back of the paper pattern and adhere it to the fabric, leaving a 1" fabric allowance unglued on one side (This 1" flap of fabric with no paper backing will cover the inside of the lid hinge, since the paper makes the fabric too stiff to bend easily). Trim the paper-backed fabric on three sides of the drawn pattern, leaving a 1/2" allowance. Leave the 1" allowance of fabric on the fourth side untrimmed. Fold the paper-backed fabric along the pattern lines, trim the corners diagonally, and glue down the allowance. Burnish the folded edges flat with a bone burnisher (see Tips).
  9. Cut a panel of chipboard the same size as the lid of the box. Glue on a piece of cotton batting with a 1/4" allowance on all sides. Miter the corners of the batting and glue the allowance to the back of the chipboard.
  10. Trim the fabric-printed image, leaving a 1" allowance. Cover the batting with the fabric-printed image, pulling it taut and gluing the allowance to the back. Secure with tape until it dries
  11. Fabric box craft, step 9. Glue ribbon straps inside lid.Cut two pieces of ribbon, about 6" each. Place the box on its back with a pen under the lid hinge seam (this will allow the lid to lean back a little when open). Glue a piece of ribbon inside each side, diagonally from the side to the lid. Tape the ends of the ribbon with masking tape to assure that you have the angles you want.
  12. Glue the lining inside the lid, leaving the 1" fabric allowance unglued over the lid hinge.
  13. Glue the two gold tassels to the center of the top front edge of the lid.
  14. Glue the padded image panel to the lid of the box.
  15. Fabric box craft, step 8. Cover the inside panels with velvet.Cut cardboard panels to fit the sides, front, back and bottom of the inside of the box, trimming them about 1/8" smaller than the inside measurements. Cut velvet lining fabric for each piece, leaving a 1/2" allowance, and glue the allowance to the backs (this photo shows the four stages). Cover the bottom panel with cotton batting before gluing on the velvet lining. Glue the side panels into the box, then the bottom panel. Test the closing of the box and trim the lining panels if necessary.

  16. Fabric box craft shwoing the inside lining.Ta-da! Your Asian Treasure Box is ready to fill with, uh, Asian treasures.

Tips

  • There are several ways of printing images onto fabric. We chose the easy method: We bought paper-backed fabric sheets designed for inkjet printers. Joann's has a good satin version called Electric Quilt Printables - Inkjet Cotton Satin Fabric Sheets. You can also make your own fabric sheets for your inkjet printer, if you are so inclined!
  • If your cover fabric is not opaque, you may be able to see the printing on the cigar box showing through. If you think this may be a problem, paint the box a solid color first (spray or brush).
  • Before you start cutting and gluing, iron your fabric to eliminate all wrinkles.
  • It is important with this fabric box craft to let glue dry before continuing. When it looks necessary, place weights on it while it dries.
  • You know of our worship/phobia for spray glue. Remember to protect all surfaces, skin, eyes and glasses from spray glue, and work outdoors.
  • This "paper-backed fabric" trick is one of the techniques that makes this craft look so professional. One person can do it, but an extra set of hands is very helpful:
    • Iron the fabric. Lay it face down on a flat surface.
    • Spray the glue on the back of the paper pattern. Hold the sticky paper in a U shape over the fabric.
    • While one person slowly lowers the glued side of the paper onto the fabric, the other person presses it to the fabric from the center to the outer edges to prevent wrinkles. Press it flat, turn it over and press the fabric side, and let it dry a few minutes.
    • When you are folding the paper-backed fabric along the pattern lines, fold and burnish on the paper side first, then fold it backward and burnish on the fabric side. Then glue the allowances down. You'll get clean, sharp edges on your fabric folds.
  • We chose a latchless lid, with tassels as decoration. You may want to substitute an elastic cord loop on the lid to hook around a wired-on button on the front of the box. Or a fabric flap with Velcro closures. 
This fabric box craft was so easy to make, and came out so beautiful, that I found myself blurting, "Gee! We could make hundreds of these and sell them!" Well, yes we could, but that isn't going to happen for us - but it might for you. Just say you found it at VintageImageCraft.

And think of the possible variations! A soft Christmas keepsake. A shimmering silk jewelry box. Or a plush Valentine letter box to compete with our decoupaged Love-letter Box. This fabric box craft is versatile as well as impressive!


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