Wednesday, August 6, 2014

nesting cubes: an Alternate Construction

My friend and I are making slow, but steady progress on our Nesting Cubes project from Anna Maria Horner's book, Handmade Beginnings.  Slow, since assembling each cube takes about an hour each, but not as slow as it could be...

Nesting Boxes progress

The directions instruct us to make a fabric tube (4 sides) and then add the top (last side) to assemble each box.  4 sides of interfacing are added after the cube becomes three-dimensional, requiring some iron olympics to get those set in firmly and straight.  This method for making a three-dimensional shape is not what I've encountered elsewhere, but I was game to try.  Well.... my box came out pretty funky that way with multiple tucks on 3 out of 4 corners. 

Today I'll share an alternative construction method that's likely familiar to those who've made other box-like shapes.  In this method, you sew 3 sides of the box together, creating a straight row with the box top/base in the center.  Then you add the remaining 2 sides one at a time, each attached with a U-shape seam that forces the box to become three-dimensional.  It's all straight seams.  Just turn at the corners.  The best thing about this method with this project is that you can attach all fusible interfacings BEFORE the box takes shape.

Note:  The method in the book does actually work.  I offer this alternative construction with complete respect to the author.

Step 1:  Follow Directions

Follow the book instructions through and including step 6.  Also read through the rest of the written instructions to make sure you understand your options.  I will assemble the box with 1/2" seam allowances, just as recommended. 

Step 2:  Join 3 Sides

Begin with your cube top and two cube sides.  Interfacing is already fused on the wrong side of the cube top (see step 6).  None of the sides have interfacing yet.


Attach the sides to the cube top.  Sew with the cube top facing up.  Start sewing at the corner of the interfacing (not at the raw edges), backstitching at the start and finish of each seam line.  Sew right up along interfacing edge.  


Note: Stitch lines already visible in the above photo are basting stitches from attaching the ribbons.

Now press seams open.  Here's what you should have:


I'll refer to this group of 3 sides as your "box string".

Step 3:  Add Interfacing

Fuse interfacing squares to the wrong side of all remaining box sides.  When attaching them to the box string, be sure that interfacing forms a continuous line with even edges.


Make sure that interfacing ares fully fused.  This is your best chance!

Step 4:  Sew U-shaped Seams

This part is hard to photograph and follow, but if you actually try it, I think you'll be able to find your way! 

Here's where we're going.  The long string of 3 box sides is going to bend into a u-shape as one of the remaining sides joins in. 


First lay a new side out beside your box string. If your fabrics are directional, both fabrics should be arranged the same.


Flip the new side right sides together with your box string, lining up the raw edge along bottom and right sides. 


Take the pieces to the sewing machine.  With the box string facing up, begin sewing at the corner of the interfacing, not at the raw edge.  Backstitch to lock your threads.  Sew along one side of the box string, right up along the interfacing edge as before.


Stop sewing at the center of your first pressed-open seam.  This is a corner of the finished cube.  Stop with your needle down.


Lift the presser foot and rotate the pieces in order to line up the next raw edge of the new side (underneath) with the next side of your box string (which is the top of the box with the ribbons).  The box-in-progress and interfacings must flex in order for these two sides to line up, but it can happen!


Align the center raw edge of the box string so that it is centered over the underneath raw edge.  Make sure that the center of the next pressed-open seam is about 1/2" from the raw edge.  I used a pin to stabilize that point, which helps the box to join more evenly.


Sew this side, stopping as before when you reach the center of the next pressed-open seam.  Stop with the needle down and rotate the work again, to line up your next two raw edges.


Now the bottom raw edges of the box string and the new side should line up.  Sew along this last leg of the U-shape.  Stop sewing at the bottom corner of the interfacing.  Backstitch to lock threads.


Tada!  You've made part of a cube.


In the same way add the last side of the cube with a U-shaped seam.  Start by placing the new side right sides together with the box string.


Because the box is already somewhat dimensional, you do have to crush/flex the interfacing even more this time to sew your way around.


When you've finished that second U-shaped seam, turn the box right side out.  Smoosh and turn!  I hope your corners turn out nice and sharp without any tucks.

Nesting Boxes

You can make the box lining in the same way, forming a box string and then adding the remaining sides with U-shaped seams.  The lining does not require any interfacing, so it's easier to manipulate under the machine.  In fact, if you've never done a three-dimensional shape before, you might want to start with a lining cube to make things a bit easier as you learn.

Step 5:  Finish

Finish your cubes by following the book instructions from step 15 on.  You'll turn both the outer box and inner box edges under by 1/2" and nest them together.  At the end of the day, I think it's going to be a very sweet, handmade baby toy. Good luck with yours!


  1. In regards to patterns, sometimes I wonder if they are made in such an odd fashion because the technique needs to be different in terms of publishing. Surely there are not copyrights on how to make a cube, yes? I had a similar issue with a small bag in a book once. Very simple to make but made harder with the pattern.

  2. Aha! I think this will help with making my scrap boxes!!! Thank you!


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