fabric covered box tutorial

How (not) to make a Fabric Covered Storage Box – A Hot Glue Hot Mess Story

I wanted to make a small fabric covered storage box for my front hall table to drop keys, sunglasses, and loose change in. I knew you could do this with a cardboard box so I got my son’s small shoe box and decided to use it as the base. I followed a tutorial but the method tripped me up in places. So this is the step by step guide of how I did it and also what I would do differently next time as the end result wasn’t quite what I had intended!

Materials Needed:

how to make a fabric covered box
  • Cardboard Box (you can go much larger than I did, Amazon boxes or Diaper/Nappy boxes would be ideal for this)
  • Fabric (bottom of box measurement + two side measurements + several inches spare x 2 – as you will be using two pieces)
  • Spray on Fabric Glue. (I used a hot glue gun but read below where it says I wouldn’t do that again!)
  • Scissors
  • Sticky back ribbon/trim (optional – I only used it to cover my hot mess!)
  • Iron (I didn’t use one, but I wish I had!)

Step 1: Prepare your Cardboard Box

fabric covered storage box from cardboard box

I used a child’s shoebox for this project. It had an attached lid which I didn’t want in my finished storage box, so I cut the top off and just used the bottom half.

Step 2: Lay out and Cut your Fabric

Next, measure a piece of fabric to be a bit longer than the two sides and bottom of your box put together, probably at least 4-6 inches more than you really need. And you want two pieces this length – one for the inside and one for the outside.

I didn’t actually measure myself to start off with. I just eyeballed a piece of fabric, placed the box on top and wrapped the fabric up over one side to make sure there was enough spare fabric to fold over (to hide the cut fabric edges on the inside of the box. Then I laid it back down flat with the box still on top and measured the distance from the box to the edge of the fabric, then used that measurement to find the measurement to cut for the other side. I had two pieces of fabric on top of each other so that when I trimmed it I had two pieces the same size.

Notes for next time: Next time I do this I will absolutely iron the fabric first. I thought that I would be able to pull the fabric taught enough during the gluing stage that this wasn’t necessary, but you can see from the finished project photos that the wrinkles are really letting it down!

Step 3: Cut out the Corners

So now you should have two square or large rectangular shaped pieces of fabric, depending on the size of your box. What you need to do know is cut out the corners so you don’t have excess bulky fabric when you fold it over your box. But, you also want to leave a bit extra so that you can fold in the cut end of your fabric to create a neat line. So for this bit I actually did measure.

I left 2 inches spare from the edge of the box on each corner. This will kind of leave you with the fabric not quite cut up to your corner so the last step is to cut a single line just enough so that the fabric can be folded up over the sides of your box without a little folded bit of fabric at the bottom.

You should end up with two identical sized cross shaped pieces of fabric.

Notes for next time: I found the box slid around a bit as I was doing this, making it hard to get my little corner cuts exactly where they should have been. Next time I would put something heavy in the box like a book to stop it moving as I worked my way around doing the cutting.

Step 4: Gluing the Fabric to the Inside Bottom

To start attaching the fabric I did the inside first. I put hot glue all over the inner base of the box. All fine, until I stopped to take a photo of the glue, and then went to stick the fabric in only to find the glue was already cold and not sticky, so had to do it again! Must have been awhile since I used hot glue, as I don’t remember it cooling down quite that quickly! This is only issue number one of many why I wouldn’t use a hot glue gun for this project again and instead I would opt for a spray on fabric adhesive.

Anyway once the glue was down, I placed the fabric in the box, pattern side up and pressed down on the bottom to secure the middle section of the fabric. One thing I did do right with the hot glue, that.I would urge you to do if you are using it, is to draw a line with it down the edge of the box, along the seam of the bottom and the sides. This is so you can really press down into the seams to give a crisper inner corner. Of course this would be even easier to achieve with spray adhesive! Hindsight is 20/20!

Notes for next time: Use spray on fabric adhesive, not a hot glue gun!

Step 5: Gluing the Fabric to the Inner Sides

I started gluing to the front and back inner sides first. I put a bit of glue on the inner vertical and a lot of glue along the outer edge of the box. Then I pressed the fabric against the inner side of the box, folded over the fabric to hide the cut edge and pressed down onto the outside of the box – so the fabric goes over the edge of the box.

I had a slightly difficult shape for the front as it had a sort of dipped shape. Next time I would probably choose a box that didn’t have this sort of shape as it did make it more awkward to get the straight line I was looking for and I ended up with the fabric a bit looser than I wanted over that bit.

For the inner sides, the only difference in the process is that you want to fold the fabric in both at the end and on the side so you have a clean edge where it meets the fabric you already glued down on the front and back.

Notes for next time: Pick a box with straight edges all around, or cut my fabric to fit any strange shapes. Also, if I did try this again with hot glue I would wear gloves of some kind, as I burnt my finger a number of times pressing down on the fabric.

Step 6: Gluing the fabric to the Outside of the Box

To glue the fabric to the outside I started by placing the fabric pattern side down and applied the hot glue to the centre middle rectangle of the fabric. Then I pressed the box down on top.

Once the bottom was secure I started one side at a time folding in the outer edges, gluing along the edge of the box to the top.

When I got to the top of the box on each side I folded the fabric over again and pulled it as taught as I could in order to glue it to the inside of the box.

Here is where the hot glue really turned into a hot mess. When I was sticking the fabric to the fabric it sort of tugged at the fabric underneath and of course once I stuck it down I couldn’t readjust so I was kind of stuck with it. Also in a couple of places the hot glue dripped a bit so it was visible.

Step 7: Disguise the Hot Glue Hot Mess

fabric covered storage box

Above is what I was left with after gluing on my fabric. I wasn’t pleased with it so I decided I needed to do something to disguise the messy edges, hot glue and less than tight fabric (especially in the front).

I had some sticky back ribbon of various types in my stash so I decided I would try using that as trim to hide some of my mess! I ran it around the inside of the box where there was got glue visible in places. I also ran a sticky back lace type ribbon/washi tape along the front to try to detract from the loose fit of the fabric and the fact that I hand’t ironed it!

For the lace trim at the front I folded over the edge and stuck it on with another dab of hot glue. I also a put a little dab inside that fold to stick the top of the trim to the tiny bit I had folded over, so it would lay a little flatter.

hot glue hot mess

This photo above probably demonstrates the level of hot mess this project became! You can see all the strings of hot glue getting caught on the cord of the glue gun! Possibly there are better quality glue guns on the market and my main failing was in the one I choose, but I still think hot glue probably was the wrong glue for this project.

Notes for next time: Cut your loses early, if it’s not working with the tools you have consider stopping and coming back to start again. I clearly didn’t do this, I’m very bad for just wanting to get it done – whether its working or not!

The Finished Box

Fabric covered storage box

I hope my hot glue hot mess story will help you create way better fabric covered storage boxes for your own home. I still think it is a great idea and a relatively simple upcycle. I just persisted with the hot glue for far too long!

fabric covered box how to guide

Looking for an easier way to cover your cardboard boxes? Check out our tutorial on upcycling them to trendy gift boxes.

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