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DIY: Custom Storage Boxes (help wanted)


Hello, I’m back with yesterday’s do-over project. At time of posting, it’s still not quite 100% completed, but it’s MUCH closer than yesterday. But I need some advice. At the end of this blog, I’ll show you where I need help. Thanks in advance!


So, storage boxes. I’ve been wanting to make some toy storage boxes for our little downstairs bookshelf for a long time. Now, I know you can buy fabric-covered storage boxes, but I’ve never found just the right size for this bottom shelf.

Several months back, I realized that 12-pack beer boxes are a pretty close fit, so I attempted some decoupage on them but they turned out looking a little subpar. (Like, I-went-to-summer-camp-and-made-this-decoupaged-beer-box-for-my-Mom kind of subpar. Yeah, not quite the look I’m going for in our home.)

I’ve seen those diaper-boxes-made-over-into-storage-boxes on Pinterest, but that wasn’t quite it either. And I didn’t want to paint anything.


So after months of letting the idea “percolate” in my head, this is what I came up with – well, this is what I came up with today after the first version went bust yesterday, but you know what I mean.

These storage boxes are “custom”, meaning I used my specific shelf measurements to create them to fit just right. I will provide all the measurements I used, but you will want to make them custom to your shelf (or for whatever space you are using them).

I started by measuring the bookshelf opening, length, height, and depth. I want to make three boxes, so I divided the length of the shelf into thirds and subtracted a little to make sure the boxes would be easy to slide on and off the shelf. These will house kid toys; no need to add frustration to the cleaning up process. (My shelf’s measurements are 37 3/4″ long x 10 1/2″ high x 9 3/4″ deep.)


I took my measurements to my sketchbook to figure out what size my materials need to be. I want each box to be approximately 12″ x 10″ x 9 1/2″.

I needed 5 pieces of cardboard (4 sides and 1 bottom) that will fit between two pieces of sandwiched felt. In order to make the box the proper size, I wanted the cardboard pieces to be about 1/4″ shorter on each side to allow for sewing and a little wiggle room. The measurements for the cardboard pieces are as follows:

2 pieces – 11 1/2″ x 9 1/2″

2 pieces – 9″ x 9 1/2″

1 piece – 11 1/2″ x 9″


I was going to cut these out with box cutters, but I’m unsteady with box cutters. When I was in the garage breaking down old shipping boxes, I saw my rotary cutter. I have an extra blade just for paper, so I changed it out and used that. MUCH easier. (It wore the blade down really quickly, but it was totally worth it. I’m going to stock up on more blades, so when I order them from Amazon, they will arrive in another cardboard box I can use for future projects! Win-win!) (Full Disclosure: The rotary cutter is what sliced my finger open yesterday; however, I was in a hurry, and I used the rotary cutter again on the cardboard today with nary a scratch. DON’T TRY TO HURRY WITH SHARP INSTRUMENTS. You’re welcome for that original bit of crafting advice.)


Next I cut out the felt pieces that will cover the cardboard. I needed 2 pieces of felt for each piece of cardboard, and these should be about 1/4″ larger than the cardboard pieces for a seam allowance. The measurements for the felt pieces are as follows:

4 pieces – 12″ x 10″

4 pieces – 9 1/2″ x 10″

2 pieces – 12″ x 9 1/2″

OK, I honestly think the figuring and measuring and cutting are the hardest parts for this project. Once you have your pieces, assembling them is fairly easy.


I started with the base. Lay the two pieces of felt for the base on top of each other and, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew around 3 sides, creating a pocket.


Insert the correct piece of cardboard into the pocket, and sew up the remaining side.


I chose to have the seams on the outside – not only do I like the way it looks, I think it makes construction easier. And it’s felt, so it won’t fray. I set the base aside to work on the sides.

Next, I pieced all the sides together. (Don’t worry about the cardboard pieces – that will come later. For now, you are just sewing the felt.) I started with one of the long sides of the box. I matched up the felt pieces and sewed a straight line down one side.


Next I took the felt pieces for the shorter side of the box, lined them up with the pair of felt pieces I just sewed, and sewed that edge. (You will be sewing through 4 layers of felt here.)


I repeated this process, sewing long to short to long to short.


At this point, I had all 4 sides sewn together in a square.


Next was time to attach the sides to the bottom piece. I thought this would be difficult, but it was fairly simple. Match up the bottom edge of a long side of the box to the long edge of the bottom of the box and sew, using 1/4″ seam allowance.


Here is a different view of the base of the box laying inside the sides before I sewed it.


I continued matching up sides to the bottom and sewing them down until all four bottom edges were complete.


Looking good so far. At this point, I have a felt-enclosed cardboard base attached to floppy felt sides in the shape of a box.


Next I slid the cardboard pieces into their corresponding “pockets” of felt. I found that it was a bit of a tight fit on a few of the pieces; I just shaved a little off the edges of the cardboard until it fit well.


OK, here’s where we get to the HELP WANTED portion of this project.


Using my sewing machine, I started closing up the top edges of the sides of the box. I knew I would need to remove that removable part of the machine’s to get in really close to sew it up. (Don’t know the technical term. Will go google it shortly.)


It started out fine, but the adjacent side of the box kept the machine from being able to stitch all the way to the corner. I did as much as I could on all four sides.


Most of each side is stitched closed, and it looks really good.


But, there is a gap at the both corners of each side where cardboard shows. And, the kids will be using this box DAILY, so it needs to be completely closed to prevent complete destruction of the box. (During lunch today, the Boy was looking at my box, talking about the gap “Why is there a gap? What are you going to do with the gap? What if there’s a little gap, and then I put my toys in it, and there’s an even BIGGER gap? Would you be sad?” Yes, I would be very sad.)

So, once again, I have an unfinished project. Here are my thoughts on how to finish it:

  1. I can hand-stitch it closed. My hand-stitching is terrible and very uneven, but I know how to do it.
  2. Use embroidery thread (or yarn) to create a blanket stitch around the top of the entire box, keeping it closed and adding a little decorative element.
  3. Your Brilliant Idea! I don’t love either of my choices. What am I not thinking of? Seriously, give me your thoughts in the comments.


And, because I want the bottom shelf to just be storage boxes, when I FINALLY figure out how to finish this box, I get to do it TWO MORE TIMES!

Because there’s nothing PURPOSEFUL about starting a project (that I’ve been thinking about for 6 months) and not finishing it.



This post is part of a 31 Day series about improving my days by being more PURPOSEFUL.

You can read more about it here. You can find all the posts in this series here.


9 thoughts on “DIY: Custom Storage Boxes (help wanted)

  1. Could you finish it off with wide bias-tape or blanket binding in a contrasting color? Iron on that fusing stuff that makes one side sticky. It would also make the very edge a little stronger.

  2. I had a similar idea as Nina C (except I did nott know it was called ‘bias tape.’) Use it to put a border on all four tops (maybe Alene glue the heck out of it too); then maybe with heavy ribbon/thin rope/thick-ish metal chain or some such, of the same or complimentary color and/or texture as your border, perhaps create a handle on the front of the box-maybe by punching two ends through two holes and knotting them on the inside of the box. Maybe I not making sense!!

  3. Hi Nicole! Just started reading your blog after our dinner tonight. Love these boxes! To finish the last few inches of each top seam, try sewing on the inside of the box instead of the outside. Then the unfinished portion will be at the beginning of each seam instead of the end. Should work as long as bobbin and top thread match. And “free arm” is the term you are looking for ;).

    1. Ah, “free arm”, thank you! I will definitely try your technique out. The first time I tried this box, sewing on the inside wasn’t working, but that was for other reasons. Will let you know how it goes.

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