Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Collapsible Box Tutorial

What a great idea for the traveling quilter.

This little fabric box has a zipper in the base. When unzipped, the box folds flat to take up less room in your supply bag.

First, the backstory:

My local guild, the South Sound Modern Quilt Guild, hosted a "crumbs" swap this summer. The idea was to swap a bag of small scraps, make something from the scraps, and present it to the person whose scraps you received. Our "Swap Queen," Dianne Saugier, wrote a quickie set of directions to make this little box, a knock-off from a famous retailer.

When I made my box and posted a photo on social media, I received requests for a pattern. Because I didn't create the idea, I don't want to sell a pattern. But I'm happy to provide this free tutorial!

Here's what you need. Ten 5" squares -- I used charm squares from this Uppercase Volume 2 collection, purchased at a charming shop in Port Gamble, WA, Quilted Strait.

Four squares will be the exterior; four will be the interior; and two will be the base.

You'll need a nylon zipper, 9" or longer.  I used the cut-off from another project and a new zipper pull from Atkinson Designs.

For "stiffening," you can use either Peltex from Pellon, or fusible fleece. I think the Peltex makes the box more stable, but if you have scraps of fusible fleece, that will work fine!

 Cut the Peltex or fleece into 4¼" squares. You'll need four.

Cut the two base squares in half on the diagonal.

Check that your zipper is long enough to extend a bit beyond the corners of your base fabric squares.

If you're nervous about inserting the zipper, use one of these products to baste your zipper in place before stitching. I don't baste, I just pin!

Stitch the right side of the interior base fabric to the right side of the zipper.

So that your box will rest stable, it's important that the zipper pull be inside your box.

After you've sewn one side of the zipper. line up the second half of the interior base half-square and stitch.

Next, stitch the exterior base fabric half-squares to the bottom side of the zipper.

 I'm showing you how I make sure I have the right sides of both base fabrics together.

Here's what the completed base with zipper looks like:

Next, stitch the four exterior fabric squares to each other using a ¼ inch seam.  I like to stitch only three seams, then press down ¼ along one long side before I sew the last seam.

[You'll see why in the last step!]

Stitch the last seam and press it open. I have this nifty seam press tool that makes it possible to press the seam open without pressing a crease in the rest of my box.

Now we're ready to put it all together!

Pin one side of the interior to the interior of the base. 

Flip the seam aside and start stitching right on the vertical seam of the interior square. Back stitch and stitch across to exactly the opposite seam, back stitch again.

Be careful not to catch the other sides of the box when you sew!

Repeat for the remaining three sides.

Here's what your box looks like after all four sides of the interior are stitched to the base.

Next, attach the exterior sides to the exterior of the base. It's a little confusing to decide how to place this, but trust me. Just put the right side of the sides to the right side of the base and it will be fine!

Repeat just as you did for the interior. Be sure NOT to catch the seam allowances, and fold the sides you're not stitching away from the side you are stitching.

Here's what your box looks like so far:

Remember, the zipper pull should be on the inside!

Use a point turner to push out the corners -- if you have a tool like this, it works really well!

We're almost there! 

The only thing left is to insert the Peltex and stitch the top edges closed!

Insert a square of Peltex into each side of the box. Smooth the top edge of the exterior fabric over the top of the Peltex and pin all three layers (exterior-Peltex-interior) together.

Topstitch as close to the edge as possible to catch all three layers (about 1/8").  I've found if I stitch carefully along each vertical seam, the box is a little more stable.

To collapse your box, open the zipper.  Yay!

A final note: this tutorial has not been test-sewn. So if you find a mistake, or have a problem with a step, feel free to email me at AuntMarti at 52Quilts dot com!

If you make a collapsible box, share a photo on Facebook at 52 Quilts!

From the desk of your auntmartisignature


  1. Thanks for the tutorial. I saw your post on FaceBook yesterday and can't wait to try this!!

  2. I hope the directions are clear -- let me know and send me a photo of your box!

  3. Why cannot these tutorials be put in PDF format so we can download them?

    1. Elaine, I don't know how to to that, but I will ask my tech guru if that is possible!

    2. When I find great tutorials like this - I copy all the text & pictures from the post and then paste it into a word document. Sometimes you need to format it a bit but when I've saved it I have it for keeps.

    3. My Little Sailor and co-editor is working to make a PDF, so keep tuned!

  4. Thanks so much for this tutorial. I also saw this on facebook and was hoping you could get permission to post this.

  5. I don't understand this step: "Next, stitch the four exterior fabric squares to each other using a ¼ inch seam. I like to stitch only three seams, then press down ¼ along one long side before I sew the last seam". Are you forming a tube out of the 4 squares? Do you sew the last seam with the 1/4" pressed down, or do you open the pressed down section first, then sew the seam?

    1. I form a tube AFTER I've pressed down the 1/4" -- just because it's easier to press a straight side than it is to press the tube.

  6. Marti - once I had read through it all - it made sense - the only confusing bit was about "Next, stitch the exterior base fabric half-squares to the bottom side of the zipper." - maybe if you say the otherside of the zip (I was thinking "bottom" as in end of the zip - and show a picture of the outside (black) when it's done - too late now of course because yours is made....But a great tutorial...as I said if you read through it all - it is perfectly clear. And of course it can be scaled up or down to suit!
    What a collection of tools you have - love that thing for ironing seams open.
    Thanks - I think I'll be making a few for Christmas presents ...

    1. If My Little Sailor gets to come home this year, I'll get him to video it. Even though I've made several of the boxes, it still requires thought as to how to arrange the outside to attach it to the bottom of the box!

  7. Un grand merci pour ce tuto, ça va être idéal pour mes armoires de vacances ;-)

  8. I'm so glad it will be useful to you! Enjoy your vacation!

  9. I was looking for items to make using my scraps that was different and useful, this i have not seen, I think it is great cant wait to try it.

  10. Many thanks for the tutorial.Can´t wait to try it!


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