When I first discovered fabric origami, I wanted to learn everything I could about it. The sad thing is that there are pitifully few places that even discuss it, and of those few places most want to charge an arm and a leg just to get you started. Bleh. Not for me.
Instead, I’ve been playing around with all the different ways that fabric can be used in the same way that paper would. Pure and simple – if you can get the fabric stiff enough, then you can use it the same way you would an origami paper square.
One of my favorite little projects has to be the fabric box. These are super easy to make, use about an 8 1/2″ square of fabric – uses for my scraps! – and require no sewing whatsoever. The boxes in this guide are about 3 1/2 x 3 x 2 inches. They’re just large enough to pad with some pretty silk for a gift of jewelry, or to stuff with treats (maybe an Easter goodie box?). Making them smaller or larger is easy enough by printing the template out at a different size.
So here’s a quick guide to a fun craft that uses up your scrap fabric and about 15 minutes worth of time.
Making No-Sew Fabric Boxes
What You Need: A couple scraps of contrasting fabric, about 8 1/2″ square; scissors; card stock; pencil; heavy starch; craft glue; an iron and an ironing board.
What to Do:
1. Starch! – You will need to use a liberal amount of starch to get your fabric stiff enough. The only thing is that you have to apply it slowly – a little bit of starch at a time – or you’ll end up with white sticky stuff on your fabric. I’ve found that if you spray the wrong side of your fabric down and leave it to sit for a bit the first time, it will stiffen up more quickly without the mess. What you want to end up with is a piece of fabric that has about the same “stiffness” as a piece of computer paper. Allow your fabric – 2 pieces of contrasting color – to cool completely before you continue.
2. Print – The next thing you need is a template to work with. Put your card stock into your printer and hit this URL: http://www.bydonovan.com/InterlockingBoxII.GIF. This will take you to a template created (for free download) by Donovan. Now, here’s the deal … if you leave it at the size on the web page, your box will be really really small. Instead, take it into a graphics editor (even Paint will work) and crop it so that the only thing on the picture is the template. Then, resize the image so that it is about 8 x 8 inches. It’s okay if it looks a bit pixellated – no one has to see the template but you and it will work fine pixellated. When you have it sized right, go ahead and print it out on your card stock.
3. Transfer the Template – Using a pencil, carefully trace around the outside of the template on to the wrong side of your fabric. I use just a regular pencil – if you are using darker fabric, like the green in my illustrations attached to this article, try using a white colored pencil. It beats trying to find a fabric pencil if you’re as disorganized as me.
With the outline made, create the straight and dotted lines that form at each hard corner of the template. The straight lines will be cut, the dotted lines will be folded. You don’t need to do the dotted lines at the center, but you can if you reallllllyyyy feel like it.
4. Cut it Out – Yup … pure and simple, cut it out. Just make sure that you do it with one thing in mind: always stay on one side of the line. If you start cutting just outside the line, always cut just outside the line. Same with cutting just inside the line. It makes very little difference which side you go with, but you’ll have problems if you don’t keep it consistent.
5. Iron it Again – Lightly spray yet more starch on your now-cut fabric and begin to iron it. You’ll want to do it in 3 steps. Start by ironing the square tabs in, towards the wrong side of the fabric (the right side of your fabric should be down). Next, iron your oval tabs in, towards the wrong side of the fabric. They should make a straight line with the square tabs that runs down to the next corner. Finally, using your inside “lines” as a guide, iron everything in the final time, creating a very folded-in square.
6. Glue it Up – Before you start gluing, pop the ironed down fabric back out. Most of the tabs will “show” you where they go by moving – loosely – into position. The square tabs will connect to the tabless side of fabric right beside it. Use a toothpick to make your glue a thin layer over each square tab and carefully wiggle it into place. Use your fingers to make sure the fabric doesn’t fold or wrinkle – if it feels “wet”, you need to use less glue.
After the square tabs are glued, you will need to do the toothpick method to apply glue to each of your oval tabs. These tabs fold down, toward the inside of the box, over the square tabs. This not only provides extra support but creates a smooth line at each corner.
Repeat these steps for the other half of your box. Allow both halves to dry completely, and then … place them together! Either side will work as the “top” or the “bottom” – so if you find that the fabric you originally saw as being the top doesn’t look so hot after all, you can always switch it out and make the other one your focus fabric.
Easy! Now fill it up with something neat and gift it to see eyes sparkle and the inevitible “How did you do that?” questions start.