Friday, August 24, 2007

DIY Jewelry Box Modification

I don't have time to do crafts anymore. It doesn't rank too far up there on my priority list. Work, veg with husband/cats and sleep come first (wait, reverse those). Then cooking, yard, volunteer stuff, etc.

I do have a running list of craft/sewing projects that has been growing for about 5 years. Last weekend, I suddenly got the bug to customize my jewelry box. I bought it 4 or 5 years ago to replace my old one that I'd outgrown. I've been using both all this time.

I looked at readymade jewelry inserts and other things that could be modified to serve the purpose and couldn't find anything customizable that wasn't made of flocked plastic (tacky!). I came to the realization that I'd have to start from scratch.

As a bonus, doing this project has forced me to clean out the junk I no longer wear. There's a few consignable pieces I've been meaning to pull out for months now so it's even a money-making opportunity.

This project can be done with any jewelry box, apothecary style chest, old library card catalog, etc. Anywhere you need smaller compartments to keep pieces of jewelry separated.

Here's what I needed for the project:
  • Exacto knife
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Rotary fabric cutter and mat
  • Straight-edge and/or fabric ruler
  • Liquid adhesive
  • Spray adhesive
  • Paper to create a masked area for spraying adhesive
  • Tweezers
  • 1" foam from a fabric store
  • Wood BBQ skewer
  • Strips of 1/16" balsa wood from a hobby store
  • 1/2 yard of ultrasuede or short-nap velvet
  • Goo Gone
And these were the steps:

  1. The jewelry box has a hinged lid compartment. It's the easiest compartment to access so that's where my daily and favorite pieces will live. Several rings fall into these categories so I made a section for them. I marked 1-inch thick foam, every 3/4 of an inch with a ballpoint pen. This spacing is adequate to hold chunky cocktail rings comfortably.

  2. Next, I used an Exacto blade to cut along my lines, being careful to cut deeply but not all the way through the foam. Note: Please disregard the unfresh manicure (the project was going to ruin it anyway).

  3. After cutting a strip of black ultrasuede wider and longer than I would need to fit the foam, I put glue in each crevice, one at a time, and "walked" the foam along the fabric...

  4. ...using the skewer to make sure the fabric was pushed all the way into the crevices.

  5. Next, I made "walls" to divide up the space inside each drawer using 1/16-inch thick balsa wood. Score with the Exacto and snap along the edge of the table. The height of your walls will vary depending on the depth of your drawer and whether you want to create multiple layers within a drawer. Jewelry compartments don't need to be very deep. One inch is adequate for all but your bulkiest necklaces. Determine the length of your wall by holding the balsa strip just over the drawer and marking the balsa with the Exacto--this is more accurate than using a ruler to measure the drawer and mark the balsa. And, it's better to go long and end up trimming because the walls are held in place mostly by friction--a snug fit is essential.

  6. Hold the balsa wood with tweezers while coating both sides with spray adhesive. Use the spray over an area of the table masked off with paper or plastic. Then place the wood on your fabric strip.

  7. Fold the fabric, making a balsa sandwich. Trim the excess fabric around the edges of the balsa with your rotary cutter. Try gently wiggling the wall into place in the drawer. If the fit is too tight to create 90-degree angles with your wall without bowing the wall, trim off tiny slivers with your rotary cutter. I was amazed to learn that my rotary cutter would cut through two layers of fabric and thin balsa like butter.

  8. Place your walls in the drawer. You may want to put a line of glue along the bottom edge but the friction holding the pieces in place is probably enough. You can place more walls at a 90-degree angle to your first wall--just make sure there is friction to hold them in place--this means putting walls on both sides of your first wall so it isn't pushed out of place. A "+" configuration, made of one long wall and two shorter walls at a 90-degree angle works the best.

  9. Because I obsessed about using every cubic inch of space I made trays from 1/16" and 1/8"-thick balsa wood that allowed me to have two layers of compartments in a drawer. These are also covered in fabric. The details of how to make these inserts are complex. If you have questions about making them let me know.

  10. I placed the foam ring section against the wall of the top compartment, folding the excess fabric on the sides down. Then, I placed a wall next to it that holds it in place using friction.

Voila! A jewelry box that holds all my jewelry. Unfortunately there isn't much room to grow, even though I've maximized my space.

Oh, and be sure to clean all your tools and any glue overspray by using the Goo Gone and a paper towel.

In the process, I found jewelry I'd forgotten about, was able to place all coordinating pieces together, and have protected everything from scratches and tangling. The satisfaction of having my jewelry organized is the reward for the 8 hours and $20 I spent on supplies.


Lisa W. said...

Wow, that looks amazing! And now I really want a rotary cutter - but I don't have a use for one. But if I come up with a use, it'll be fair game!

Anonymous said...

that's a cool and clear tutorial and the finished product looks great. Congratulations.