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Stylish Baby Nursery: Collapsible Storage Baskets

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These clever storage baskets are not only cute and handy, they're also a secret recycling project. The sides and bottoms of each basket are stiffened with recycled cardboard! But wait ... they have another hidden talent: they collapse and fold flat to store.

In the nursery, use them for creams, diapers, wash cloths and other diaper changing accessories. You could fill a whole shelf set with bright and beautiful baskets. And yet, why let the nursery have all the fun? We bet you have a lot of cardboard just waiting to be recycled. I see bread baskets and mail baskets and gift baskets ... oh my!

Our sample was made for a baby girl's nursery, using the stunning Patty Young Andalucia collection. For information on where to buy, read Stylish Baby Nursery: Designing with Bold Colors & Patterns. This article also includes suggestions for creating an alternate fabric palette that would work well for a boy's nursery.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Fabric for outer box covering (Fabric A) - ½ yard of 45" wide fabric PER BOX: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Petal Flora (box 1) and Earth Mod Blooms (box 2)
  • Fabric for inside lining (Fabric B) - ¼ yard of 45" wide fabric PER BOX: we used Patty Young's Andalucia in Petal Jester (box 1) and Kiwi Jester (box 2)
  • Scraps for binding – you will need two strips per box, each strip is 1¾" x WOF (width of fabric). You can use either a contrasting fabric or a matching fabric: we used Patty Young's Anadalucia in Petal Jester (box 1) and Petal Floral (box 2)
  • Chipboard, cardboard, or any heavy weight card stock (for box sides)
  • All purpose thread in colors to match fabrics
  • Leather machine needle (in addition to your regular needle)
  • See-through ruler
  • Chalk pencil
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins

We're going to use a leather machine needle in this project - even though our supplies don't call for leather. A leather needle is a super sharp, heavy-duty needle for sewing through difficult materials. Leather is one example; we're using it for this project to sew through the cardboard that makes the sides of the boxes.

Getting Started

  1. Using your see-through ruler and chalk pencil, cut a 7½" x 9½" piece of fabric from Fabric A. Then, cut a strip from Fabric A that measures 6½" x 33". These pieces will form the bottom and outside walls of the box.
  2. Cut two strips from the binding scraps that each measure 1¾" x WOF (width of fabric). We'll use this for the binding of the box – the fabric around the top and bottom edges of the box.
  3. From Fabric B, cut one 7½" x 9½" piece and one 6½" x 33" strip. These will cover bottom cardboard insert and the inside walls.
  4. From the cardboard, cut pieces as follows:
    Four pieces that measure 6" x 3¼"
    Two pieces that measure 6" x 8¾"
    One piece that measures, 6½" x 8½"

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Creating the 'walls'

  1. Fold the 6½" x 33" piece of Fabric A (outer fabric) in half, with right sides together, and stitch up the 6½" side, using a ½" seam allowance. Turn right side out and press seam open.
  2. Using the 6½" x 33" piece of Fabric B (inner fabric), repeat step one.
  3. Place the sewn Fabric B piece inside the sewn Fabric A piece, placing them WRONG sides together and matching up the seam lines.
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  4. Pin the bottoms of the two pieces together, and stitch around the bottom, using a ½" seam.
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  5. Stitch down the existing vertical seam line created by the inner and outer fabrics. (This is the seam that was created when you sewed the fabrics into the 'box' - you should have lined these seam lines up in step 3.)
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  6. This vertical seam will create a starting point to measure the other vertical seams around the box. With your chalk pencil, mark additional seam lines at the following intervals: 9", 3½", 3½", 9", and 3½". (In other words, you mark 9" from the first seam line, then 3½" from that newly drawn mark, then 3½" from that new one, etc, until you end up back at the starting line.)
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  7. Stitch a vertical seam along each drawn mark. You should now have a total of six sewn vertical seam lines that join the outer fabric and the inner fabric with the wrong sides together. These vertical seam lines have created 'capsules' where we will insert the cardboard to make the box stand up. Quite smart, no?

Creating and attaching the bottom of the box

  1. With the wrong side facing up and the edges of the fabric inside the box, pin the 7½" x 9½" piece of Fabric A to the 'walls' you just made. This creates the box bottom.
  2. Align the corners of this bottom piece with the vertical seams on the wall, line up your raw edges, and match long sides to long sides and short sides to short sides. The raw edges of the fabric should extend to the outside of the box, and when you look into the box you should see the wrong side of the bottom fabric.
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  3. Stitch all around, using a ½" seam. After attaching, carefully trim the seam allowance to ¼" – we will be absorbing this raw edge into the binding in the steps below, so we want to reduce the bulk as much as possible.

Creating binding and attaching to bottom

  1. Next we will create the binding for the bottom of the box. Find on of your 1¾" x WOF strips and trim to 1¾" x 34" (this is the perimeter of the box plus 2" for a tail we'll use to finish our binding neatly). Fold the strip in half lengthwise and press. Now fold the raw edges in toward the middle lengthwise seam line, and fold together. Press. (Your raw edges are now inside the binding strip.
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  2. Repeat to create your second binding strip for the top. Set this top piece aside. Remember, you can choose to use either matching or contrasting fabric for the binding; you could even make the top and bottom bindings out of different fabrics.
  3. Pin bottom binding strip to the bottom of the box, encasing the raw seam allowance inside the fold of your bias tape. Carefully pin.
  4. Stitch binding in place, keeping your seam line a "scant" (very small) ¼" in from the bottom folded edges, but still being sure to catch both sides of the bias tape in the seam. Stitch all the way around the perimeter of the bottom, but stop about 1" from the end for finishing.
  5. We cut our original binding piece about 2" longer than the perimeter (step #1 above), so you should have a slight tail at the end of your binding. Trim this to about 1-1½" (enough to overlap the start of your binding by about ½"). Fold under the end of the tail to create a clean edge and wrap around the start of the binding. Overlap about ½" and stitch in place, matching your seam line. Be sure to backstitch at the end of the binding to secure it in place.
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Stiffening the walls with cardboard and attaching top binding

  1. Insert the cardboard pieces between the vertical seam lines to stiffen the walls of the box.
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  2. Switch the regular sewing needle currently in the machine to the leather needle.
  3. Pin the other binding strip to the top of the box, encasing the raw edges and the top of the cardboard inside the binding.
  4. Stitch a 'scant' (very small) ¼" in from the edge of the binding.We are using the leather needle for this step because it is extra sharp and heavy duty for sewing through the cardboard. Attach the binding, following steps 4 and 5 above. Stitch slowly - your machine is working very hard to get through the thick cardboard - sort of like running uphill. You may find it helpful to lengthen your stitch length a bit at this point, so your machine can get the job done in less stitches.
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Making the bottom insert

  1. Lay the 6½" x 8½" cardboard piece on the wrong side of the 7½" x 9½" piece of fabric B. Fold the edges of the fabric over the cardboard, being careful to keep the fabric tight on the corners. Press in place and stitch (you're stitching through fabric and cardboard again so you should still be using the leather needle in your machine) around all sides to secure the fabric to the cardboard. Stitch close to the raw edge of the fabric so it will lay nice and flat. Press again after stitching.
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  2. Insert the fabric covered cardboard into the bottom of the box, with the fabric side facing up.
  3. To collapse the box, simply remove this bottom insert; the short sides will fold in between the cardboard panels, and the whole thing will fold flat for storage.
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Hints and Tips

Alternate box sizes

You can adapt the instructions above to any size box.

  1. First, determine the size you want the finished box to be, and cut the fabric to: the perimeter of the box plus 1/2" all around (for the seam allowances) x the height you want the finished 'walls' to be. Cut one piece of fabric for the outside and one piece of fabric for the inside.
  2. Determine where you want the corners of your box, and stitch four vertical seam lines in those locations.
  3. Divide the seams on the SHORT sides in half, and stitch another seam line in this location (this allows the box to 'collapse' when you take out the bottom insert).
  4. Once you know where the corners of the box will be, you can cut your bottom fabrics to the appropriate size. You'll need two pieces: one for the box bottom (add ½" all around for the seam allowance) and one for the cardboard bottom insert (add ¾" all around to give you enough fabric for folding over the cardboard).
  5. Then cut two pieces of binding long enough to fit the perimeter of the box plus about 2" for finishing.
  6. Cut cardboard for sides to size to fit in the 'capsules,' and sew everything together. Just remember, the bigger the box you hope to create, the stiffer the cardboard will need to be to support the sides and the contents.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation: Aimee McGaffey

Other machines suitable for this project include the White 2200 Multi-Tasker and the Singer 8673 Curvy.



Comments (66)

Heidi said:
Heidi's picture
Love this! I need to make some. What are the dimensions of the basket in your tutorial?
rh leather goods said:
rh leather goods's picture
this kind of box is so beautiful that i like it very much
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi hiasun -- what a wonderful idea and use for this tutorial. Sounds perfect!
hiasun said:
hiasun's picture
I love this idea. I need to make something similar with a cover for "Operation Christmas Child". We start our boxes in July, and add things to them over the next few months. I would like to make them using a Christmas print so that the box is already decorated and just needs to be filled with goodies. Would probably use this for all my gift giving. Thanks for the tutorial.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Angela Nicole, I'm sorry your basket isn't turning out how you'd like. It's hard to "diagnose" the issues you might be having from afar. My best general hint would be to use lots of pins to hold the binding in place. Sometimes it helps to pin horizontally... just make sure you insert them with the head of the pin facing you as you sew so you can easily pull them out as you go. If you're still worried the binding will slip, you could hand baste it place. Other than securing the binding, the other thing to keep in mind is to sew slowly, stopping as needed (with your needle in the down position) to adjust the position of your fabric, making sure the layers are staying flat. The only other thing I can think of to try is to use a 1/4" foot if you have one - it might be helpful keeping your stitch line straight if you feel you're struggling finding a clear mark to follow on your regular presser foot and/or needle plate. I hope try #2 works better for you. Don't give up!!
Angela Nicole said:
Angela Nicole's picture
I am using this amazing tutorial to make a baby shower present for a friend. It's been a long time seen I dusted off my sewing machine; and I find I am having some difficulties. After sewing my bottom border on the box, I realized that it no longer looks like something I would like to give as a present. The border looks terrible--and this is the easy border without the cardboard! I hope to start over tomorrow and was hoping you could give me a few helpful hints.

Thanks. c:
Jenjen said:
Jenjen's picture
For keeping the binding in place while you sew use Fabric Tac. Love that stuff!! It dries almost instantly, and holds well. I use it for everything I need to pin or baste.
Liz Johnson, Editor, Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson, Editor, Sew4Home's picture
Hi Susan10 -- I'm sorry you're having some struggles with the top of the box. You said sewing through the cardboard is no problem, so that means your needle and stitch length are good. I'm guessing that maybe you're having trouble keeping the binding in place? It can be a challenge to get enough pins in there to keep everything stable, because of the cardboard. You might try some fusible seam tape to hold the bias tape in place (like Steam-a-Seam or Stitch Witchery). That would keep the binding from slipping. Also, there isn't any cardboard in the actual corners. So, you could also try stitching into each corner and back-tacking. Then pull the basket out from under the needle, rotate it to the next side, replace the basket under the needle (lining up your stitch line as perfectly as possible, then continue stitching to the next corner. Do this in each corner. Hope that helps. Here's a link to some fusible tape available online at fabric.com:

Susan10 said:
Susan10's picture
I am having a time putting on the binding on the top - it is not going smoothly - any suggestions would be very helpful. Mind you I have made mine bigger. All the card board pieces are in - I can't the think to bend around the sewing machine? I have no problem sewing through the cardboard?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Erin -- rectangle into square, huh? That takes a few more brain cells than I have late on a Saturday night smilies/cheesy.gif. In general, the height is increasing by 4" from 6" to 10". So all the height measurements need to increase by 4". The long side of ours is currently nine, so that only needs an 1" extra, our short side is 7" so that side's measurements need to increase by 3". I would suggest starting with these simple increases. And then, because I haven't tested this myself and so can't guarantee it, I'd recommend making a prototype out of some scrap fabric to make sure it all works out. To be 100% sure of how it would all change, that's what I'd have to do. And... due to my earlier comment about late on Saturday night... that's not in the cards. I hope this helps. Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.
Erin Wright said:
Erin Wright's picture
I just found this project, and would love to make some for my kids rooms. I need to scale up the size to a 10"x10" cube. What is the best way to resize this pattern to that size?

DeesDesigns said:
DeesDesigns's picture
These are so cute! Just found out that I'm going to be a Grandma and that our daughter would like me to make these for the babies room smilies/smiley.gif
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
What a great idea, CalicoCaliDsgns! These boxes are so versatile ... you can use them for just about anything smilies/grin.gif
CalicoCaliDsgns said:
CalicoCaliDsgns's picture
Thanks for such a great, detailed tutorial! I can't wait to make these! I'm gonna make one to hold all of my reusable tote bags!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
What a great idea! Thanks for passing it along and for letting us know you enjoyed the project. These boxes are super fun.
bettina763 said:
bettina763's picture
I made this & so totally LOVE IT!!!! 'Cept mine is a "car stuff box", between the seats to hold all my stuff that was previously rolling around my car....smilies/grin.gif