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my very first tutorial: fabric bins

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I have been on the hunt for baskets for my desk forever! No… actually for about 2 weeks. Because that’s where I found this wreck of a desk at a thrift store.

I had a friend put bottoms on the sides where the drawers should have been. Other than that, I’m going to leave it shabby-looking. And I added fabric bins in place of the drawers, of course.

After I decided to give up the hunt for the baskets, I began the hunt for a fabric bin tutorial. The tutorial I used had to be easy to follow and customizable. I also wanted to be able to wash the container if necessary.

(Does anyone else think it’s goofy that I’m going from washable sofa/chair slipcovers to dry-clean only ones, yet I want a washable fabric bin or two? Oh wait… you don’t know about that yet. I’ll save that — Ikea featured! — story for another time.)

Fortunately or unfortunately, I found tutorials that fit some of my characteristics, but not all. You know what that means, right? Yup. I’m writing my own tutorial. Guess what, all! I am no longer a tutorial virgin!

First, the cast of characters. (Measurements are for my baskets: 18″ long x 9″ wide x 3.5″ tall. Notes to customize are included below. The end of this post makes suggestions for next time. I highly recommend reading them before beginning.)

  • fabric (3/8 yard of main fabric and 3/8 yard of lining will be more than enough for my needs.)
  • ribbon to fit perimeter of bin (I used 1 5/8 yards of 7/8 inch.)
  • cardboard pieces for all sides and bottom cut a bit smaller than the basket itself
  • usual suspects: thread, scissors, sewing machine, cutting board and rotary cutter, etc. (What? You don’t see a rotary cutter in that picture? Me neither. Mine is MIA, and I had to use a “regular” scissor.)

Cut pieces to size. Based on my measurements of 18″ long x 9″ wide x 3.5″ tall and adding 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around for each piece, I cut the following from the main (outside) fabric AND duplicated the cuts for the lining (inside) fabric:

  • 1 – 9.5″ x 18.5″
  • 2 – 4″ x 18.5″ (for future versions, I would cut 2 – 5.5″ x 18.5″)
  • 2 – 4″ x 9.5″ (for future versions, I would cut 2 – 5.5″ x 18.5″)

If you want to make a different size bin, you’ll need one piece for the bottom, two for each width, and two for each length of your basket. Don’t forget to add your 1/4″ seam allowance all around. (Edit: Also 1.5″ to the height of the basket.)

This might also be a good time to cut the cardboard pieces. I used cardboard that began life as a paper box. I wanted the heavier feel of the corrugated stuff. You could also use a recycled cereal box. You need the same number of pieces as the fabric, but cut it a little smaller than the finished sizes to make it easier to slip the cardboard into the fabric later. You also don’t need seam allowances on the cardboard. I cut my cardboard pieces in the following sizes:

  • 1 – 8.75″ x 17.75″
  • 2 – 3.25″ x 17.75″
  • 2 – 3.25″ x 8.75″

(Edit: I taped my side pieces together at the ends. You could also make 2 larger pieces, one for each width and length. But taping the individual lengths worked fine.) Big surprise! The life of a cardboard cutter is much easier with a new razor in the blade. Ahem.

To make the outer part of the bin, pin and sew the short ends of the pieces together. Finish the seams if you wish. Press the seams open or press to one side, like I did. When you’re finished, all four sides of the bin should be sewn and pressed.

Repeat for the lining of the bin, but use a larger seam allowance. I used 3/8″ for the lining. I’m doing this to make the lining fit more easily into the outside of the basket without puckers or squishing.

Pin and sew the bottoms of the bin to the outer fabric strip. I preferred to pin/sew from the strip side rather than the bottom side. It gave me more control over the corners. I wanted them to be as crisp as possible. Finish the seam. Repeat these last two steps with the lining. Remember to use a larger seam allowance on the lining again.

Finish or make a scant hem around the top of the outer piece of the bin. I chose to finish with a zig-zag stitch all the way around. (No one is going to see this part of the outside of the bin.) Press the outer piece with the wrong sides folding inward.

Press the lining piece with the right sides folding inward. Pin the ribbon to the right side of the lining piece, overlapping the ends about 1/2″. Sew with a scant 1/8″ seam allowance. Finish the seam. Press the ribbon towards the inside.

(In an edited version, the outer piece would fold over the inside of the box by 1.5″ or so.)

Place the bottom cardboard piece inside the bottom of the outside piece. Tape the ends of the sides together, then put the sides in place. Insert the lining, right side out, over the cardboard. Fold the ribbon over the outside piece of the bin, and you’re done! (In the edited version, the ribbon would be further down the side, and about 1.5″ of the lining would also show.)

The edits in the text above show that next time I will make the sides of the outer piece taller, so they fold over the cardboard before placing the lining inside. I will also make the outer part wider, so you see some of the lining from the outside.

**If you have any comments or suggestions, please share them below.

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