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How to Sew An X Box to Secure Straps & More

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You can't play Sonic Generations with this type of "X Box," but you can use it in your sewing projects to secure all types of straps and narrow panels. It's simply a stitched box with an "X" through the middle. This stitching pattern provides a high level of strength and stability, and when done with precision, it also adds a pretty detail. Try it with a contrasting thread color for extra emphasis. In the industrial world of strapping, the X Box is often at the heart of rigging, where it's meant to hold extreme loads, such as in a parachute harness. You'd want to research online to learn how to create this unique specialty stitch. Here at Sew4Home, we're using it in a decorative fashion to help hold an apron strap in place or a handle on a bag. So while a tight bond is certainly achieved, the most demanding function of the home sewing X Box is to look smooth and even. 

You first need to determine the size of X Box you want to create, which includes how close to the edge you want the stitching. For our sample, we created a 2" box with ¼" spacing from the sides and bottom of our prototype strap. This allowed us to use our Quarter Inch Seam foot for extra precision. 

You can make your box any size you'd like, although the technique starts to lose some of its inherent stability at about 3" tall. 

You can also choose how close to the edge of the strap, or other element, you want to run your stitching. From ⅛" - ¼" is standard. Much closer, and you risk the edge of strap pulling out from the stitching. Much farther away, and you'll create a "lip" of fabric that can flip up or otherwise look bulky and unprofessional. 

Gather your materials. 

A box with hand-tied thread tails to secure

  1. Using a clear ruler and a fabric pen or pencil, measure for the height of the box plus your seam spacing. For our sample we used a 2" box plus a ¼" seam spacing. We measured 2¼" up from the end of the strap and drew a horizontal line. 
  2. In addition to this main line, you may want to make an additional crosshair starting point in one bottom corner. Many people simply use their presser foot and/or the markings on their needle plate to determine this, but you can also use your seam spacing amount (¼" in our sample) to measure from the bottom up and the side in to create a crosshair for your starting point. 
  3. Of course, if you are just starting out, you can certainly draw out the entire box and the "X" with your fabric pen or pencil. 
  4. Following your project directions, place your strap or panel into position as directed, such as centered over a seam or parallel with a pocket.
  5. Pin the strap/panel onto the base fabric. You don't need a lot of pins, one or two at the bottom edge and one or two at the horizontal marked line are plenty.
  6. Thread your machine with either matching or contrasting thread as indicated for your project. We used contrasting thread in two different colors (brown in the top and pink in the bobbin) so you could easily tell which thread was which when we hand-tied the tails. 
  7. Depending on your fabric weights and the finished look you wish to achieve, you may want to consider lengthening your stitch. We like the look of a lengthened stitch for most topstitching. 
  8. Starting in a bottom corner, drop your needle at the exact point of the corner. As mentioned above, use your presser foot and needle plate guidelines to determine the starting point or your own marked crosshair. Make sure your thread tails are 4-5" long.
  9. Do not lock your stitch to start. Simply start stitching from the bottom corner, continuing up one side. Stop, with the needle in the down position, at the drawn horizontal line. 
  10. Lift up the presser foot and pivot 90˚.
  11. Stitch across to form the top of the box, following your drawn line and removing the pins as you go. Stop, with the needle in the down position, at your determined stitch width from the opposite side – ¼" from the opposite side in our sample. 
  12. Lift up the presser foot again, and again pivot 90˚.
  13. Stitch down the opposite side, stopping with the needle in the down position in the bottom corner. 
  14. Lift up the presser foot again, and again pivot 90˚.
  15. Stitch across the bottom of the box, completing the box and arriving back where you started. Stop at this original corner with the needle in the down position. 
  16. Lift up the presser foot, and pivot 45˚ so the presser foot is now aligned on the diagonal. 
  17. Stitch across the box on the diagonal, stopping at the opposite corner. Do not lock your stitch.
  18. Remove the project from the machine, cut the tails to a long length, about 4-5".
  19. Replace the project under the presser foot, dropping your needle in at the opposite corner and positioning the foot to create the intersecting diagonal line. Make sure your starting thread tails are long – again about 4-5" is good. 
  20. Stitch across the box on the diagonal, stopping at the opposite corner. Do not lock your stitch.
  21. Remove the project from the machine, again cut the tails to a 4-5" length.
  22. You now have a finished box with four sets of long thread tails.
  23. To secure these starting and stopping points, you will tie off the tails at the back and trim away the excess thread.
  24. Flip over the project so you are looking at the back of the X Box. Remember, we used two colors of thread so you could easily see the two strands: brown in the top (for the front) and pink in the bobbin (for the back).
  25. Pull on the back thread tail until you see a front thread loop pop through. We are pulling on the pink thread tail, looking for a brown loop.  
  26. Insert a pin into the front loop (the brown loop in our sample) and pull that thread all the way through to the back side.
  27. Tie together the tails with two-three simple knots, pulling the thread tight against the fabric. 
  28. Trim away the excess thread.
  29. Repeat for the other two sets of thread tails. Flip back over to admire your pretty X Box. 

Using a lock stitch to secure 

  1. The hand-tied method shown above gives you the cleanest finished box, but is more time consuming. 
  2. We do not recommend using a traditional backstitch/backtack to secure your stitching; it will look too messy. But, if your machine has a lock stitch function, this is another option. All the steps are the same as above, simply adding off a lock stitch at the very beginning, and ending with a lock stitch at the completion of the first diagonal line. 
  3. Then start and end the final diagonal line with a lock stitch. 
  4. Trim away the thread tails as close as possible to the stitching on both the front and back. 
  5. In the photo below, the hand-tied box is on the right and the lock-stitched box is on the left. You can see the heavier thread coverage at the corners of the lock-stitched box. This lock-stitch method would be best for a box stitched with matching rather than contrasting thread so these heavier corners are less visible.


Comments (22)

Tam said:
Tam's picture

The real way is: Imagine your box is a rectangle, with the long side parallel to the edge of your strap.  You start in a corner, and sew all the way around the box, and then to the diagonal opposite corner.  You then sew along a short side, which will be doubled.  Now back across the diagonal, and you finish by sewing across the remaining short side.  No stops, and a double end that will backtack your start and finish.

JG said:
JG's picture

 I would only use this method on woven materials with matching thread to blend. If I were sewing on vinyl or leather like materials I would use your tutorial. My method, stitch top line using lock stitch,  start another stitch line at the bottom edge of the strap, sew up the edge to the top stitch line, pivot, sew across diagonally to the opposite bottom corner, pivot, sew up the opposite edge to the top stitch line, pivot, sew across diagonally to your starting point, pivot, sew across the bottom, lock your stitch and you are done!  This method is much easier today with the variety of presser feet we have available and those magical disappearing markers! If a novice I would draw the complete square with diagonal lines included with that magical marker and/or practicing a few times with scrap strapping pieces and material remnants. After doing this a few times it is very easy.

Tiffany said:
Tiffany 's picture

Perfect illistration and explanation! Thank you. I have a lazy question, is there any of these new computerized sewing machines that will do this for you? I'm looking for the easy button as I'm a new sewer here! Thank you! 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Tiffany - There isn't a "Auto Box Stitch" that we've ever heard of -- mostly because the size varies so dramatically from project to project. But many of the higher-end Janome models have an awesome auto pivot function. Press this "easy button" and the machine stops with the needle in the down position and raises the presser foot so all you have to do is turn. Check it out on the new Skyline models 

Guylaine said:
Guylaine's picture

Thank you for these explanations. My problem is being able to stop exactly where I want before pivoting. Using short length stitching is easier, but with longer length I have more difficulties to stop on my line. Do you have tricks?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Guylaine - Sometimes if helps to take your foot off the pedal and use the handcrank for the last few stitches.

nagpalthreads said:
nagpalthreads's picture

Perfect stitching! You have describe this post with pictures. Thanks

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ nagpalthreads -You're welcome! Pictures do always help show the true process.

dharrisc said:
dharrisc's picture

i'm thinking you can put the feeddogs down and do a stitch in place at the corners where you quit ... it's easy enough and doesn't look sloppy ... i would do that ....

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

dharrisc - sounds interesting - if you do a project using that method anytime soon, send a picture so we see the results. You can email to info@sew4home.com

Anne P said:
Anne P's picture

Since your starting twice and stopping twice surely you have 4 sets of long tails (not 3) - one set at each corner?

Dianna Loftis said:
Dianna Loftis's picture

Thanks for this tutorial. My "x-in-the-box" always look so sloppy. Now they won't. 

Elaine N said:
Elaine N's picture

This is great info but I would have liked to see how you maneuver around D-rings on straps that are attacted to a purse or bag.  I can never get them right.  Try so many different feet but can't get them to look good.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Elaine - Glad this was helpful for you. Stitching around a D-ring is really a function of the bag's design. The D-ring's loop should be positioned to allow the presser foot to get around the ring. In most instances, we prefer a Zipper foot to get as close as possible.