What are the main reasons to make cartonnage fabric boxes?
First of all, what is Cartonnage? It’s a traditional technique of making boxes and other projects out of cardboard and covered with fabric (or paper) using glue. This amazing “art of box making” is very popular in many countries around the world including France (where it was originated in 1844), then Brazil, Japan, Taiwan and many other ones.
I'm Claudia Squio, cartonnage designer and teacher from ColorWay Arts. Since I started sharing this technique here in US in 2014, I have taught thousands of fabric lovers in local and online classes and I hear many common things about the technique from my students, so I decided to list the top 5 reasons they enjoy cartonnage and making fabric boxes!
Recently I had a great opportunity of guiding around 2000 fabric lovers in the process of making a wonderful box in my FREE online workshop (this is an annual event). The boxes they made were fantastic! Most of them first time making a box, and all the pictures and comments in the workshop also reinforced the 5 top reasons you should try making a box if you didn’t yet!
Ok, so let’s see:
1) MAKING A BOX IS FUN AND RELAXING
Well, I hear this ALL the time! And that’s always my goal number 01 when I’m sharing how to make cartonnage. You may don’t know but in the past, I had a dark time in my life with depression, and crafting was my way out of the dark!! I’m so grateful I started gluing and allowing myself to have so much fun, so much so that today I live a wonderful life and I’m so happy to say that tears and darkness are in my past. So yes, making boxes and other cartonnage projects, it’s SO fun and relaxing and I will keep sharing this technique that has been allowing so many others to have fun and enjoy a wonderful creative time! We should remember to use our time with something that make us happy, that bring joy and purpose to our lives, and for me, that’s the Joy of Cartonnage.
2) QUITE EASY and NO SPECIAL MACHINES NEEDED (and no sewing required)
Cartonnage is a great method where we follow a few basic steps to have a good finishing and make our box in quite an easy way without a need of expensive machines and also with no sewing required. I love fabric, but I was never able to sew straight and neat..(LOL)… that was always frustrating to me, so, when I first discovered that I could be able to have so much fun using my favorite fabrics without sewing - I was in Heaven… and best thing, if you do like sewing, you can add fun and incorporate quilts or embroideries to the boxes and make them even more unique!
It also means that you can carry a small tote with supplies and have fun making a box when you go visit family, camping, etc.
In my recent workshop the majority of participants made the box for the first time and let me tell you, they did an awesome job, so, to me, it definitely proves that cartonnage is easy to do when following the right method and directions.
3) INSTANT GRATIFICATION (quick to make)
How about making a wonderful unique fabric box in about 2h or less?? Well, in this time you can make a beautiful box to be proud of…. Many of my students love to take a break from other crafts and make a box…. Depending on the project, it can be done even in less than one hour… not kidding…. And if you know how long it takes to make a quilt or embroidery you should agree with me that making a box is quick! If you need a beautiful and unique with easy personalization handmade gift… well… cartonnage is a great option!
4) GREAT WAY TO USE UP STASH OF FABRICS, EVEN SMALL SCRAPS
If you are a fabric lover like me you probably have a beautiful stash of fabrics at home right? How about those small scraps that aren’t enough to make a quilt or other sewing project? Well, with 2 coordinating fat quarters you can choose the perfect box from a variety of wonderful cartonnage projects. And using the method that I share, you can use even the small scraps not only in boxes, but also making functional sewing kits, covers for journals, notepads, etc. Cartonnage is very versatile and allow you to have so much fun choosing the fabrics and using them in a different and unique way!
5) WONDERFUL HANDMADE GIFTS TO BE PROUD OF MAKING AND REMEMBERED FOR
On top of all other reasons, all cartonnage boxes and other projects are wonderful unique handmade gifts, that are easy to personalize. So, making that special jewelry box or art box for your granddaughter, or a desk organizer or journal cover for your son or grandson, a cook book with your favorite recipes for your daughter. The sewing kit for your friend, well… you got it…. the list and the possibilities are endless… When we give a handmade gift, we tell the person (without a need or words), that we care for them, we love them, we looked for the best materials and we had fun time thinking on them while creating that special gift, that in some cases, can last generations and be a reminder for your coming family that grandma (or mom or friend) cares, that grandma was special, that grandma was the best! My grandma passed away a few years ago, and I have many beautiful pieces she made for me, they are so special and she was so sweet!
So, at the end, I don’t know what is greater…. the pleasure of having a wonderful personal time crafting – the joy of finding the perfect materials for a special project – the satisfaction of seeing shine eyes of loved ones receiving such a special and personal gift, or, the privilege of being remembered for a long time for being that mom, that grandma, that friend who cares…. who makes special things, who is sweet and adorable!
With that say, hopefully you are interested in making your first box, or making more! Then, I invite you to learn cartonnage, to start making those boxes and other projects that are making so many fabric lovers happy, excited and ready for more.
How can you start?
I have been teaching cartonnage for a while, and I have created many online courses, published a book and also some eBooks that can help you in the process. Start by checking my website to be inspired! There is a FREE eBook you can click here to find and get started.
And if you feel ready to have lots of fun you can be part of one amazing Community of cartonnage lovers - the Cartonnage Club!
The club is certainly the best place for you to make amazing boxes, be connected with lots of other fellow crafters around the world (in a private community and with virtual meetings), learn how to design your own boxes, receive discounts and gifts from the shop, be part of special challenges and retreats and more. That’s lots of fun!!
Doors of the Club open only a few times in a year, and now is open until April 01, 2021 (10pm EST). After that, doors will be closed for several months so I can go help this amazing community of members in the journey of creating their unique cartonnage projects. So, click here for more details about the Club, and I hope you join us and start making the most amazing fabric boxes ever and feeling the Joy of Cartonnage!!
And if you are already having fun making boxes, do you agree with the 5 top reasons? Do you have any other reason to share with us? I will love hearing from you!
Keep in touch!
April 13, 2021
I have quite the fabric stash, and with the lock down and staying home most of the time, I accomplished finishing my unfinished projects. Cartonnage was the best craft I have gotten into ever. The boxes have both brightened and organized my sewing supplies and office area. So much better to look at a pretty box than a lot of containers used to organize sewing supplies. I made an organizer to corral my pens. Instead of a lot of pen holders, I have all of them in one container box.
I am thrilled that Claudia is such a warm and caring educator of this craft. I told people about cartonnage this past week while at a quilt shop retreat, and took two of my boxes with me to share with others how I use them. I shared the Colorway Arts website and where to get the chipboard. Two ladies were very interested and visited Claudia’s website already. I may take my supplies with me when I return to the quilt store retreat center again soon, and make a box or two. I bought fabric especially for boxes.