O has always been really interested in my sewing machine. The minute I turn the light on it’s mesmerizing to him. I mean, when you think about it, it totally makes sense, a sewing machine is totally made of things little boys love–lots of buttons, moving parts, sharp things… Of course we have lots of talks about how he can’t touch it because it’s sharp and dangerous, but a couple weeks ago when I had it out, for the first time he asked me when he could use it. I don’t think he’s quite ready to do it even with complete supervision, but hopefully we can try soon. (Although I think I said he could do it when he turns 5 because I didn’t want him to think when I said, “maybe when you’re older” that I meant tomorrow and then have him ask me five million times…)
Anyway, of course the next thought was that he needed his own sewing machine! And if you’ve been reading for any length of time, you might know that the ultimate holy grail of crafting for me, is to make something awesome for as cheap as humanly possible. In fact, this one ended up costing me a whopping $0! (Admission: I do have a kind of embarrassingly large craft stash though…but if you don’t, you could probably do the whole thing for under $10.)
I don’t know if you read my Crafter’s Guilt Post, but this is one of those projects I sometimes hesitate to share because I do fully realize that this is not something everyone would want to do. But hopefully you’ll be interested in how I did it and think it’s cute? Maybe it will inspire other ideas? I am so into the idea of making things out of cardboard boxes these days (It helps that we live in a condo building where I can constantly access a gazillion in the recycling room). I personally like the raw corrugated edges but if you don’t, you could use matte board or foam board or something with more finished edge.
I also want to add, because this is a question that I get a lot, this took me about half a day to make. But I spent almost 4 years building architectural models so I’m probably speedier than most at building 3D volumes and working with cardboard. If you’ve never done something like this before, budget a more time.
DIY Carboard Box Play Sewing Machine
One carboard box
little wooden dowels and beads that fit over the ends
Makedo connecting pieces or regular brads from the office supply store
Instructions: I’m going for kind of a play by play here, rather than super specific instructions with measurements because no two cardboard boxes are quite the same! Here’s my box:
First I drew a little sketch of how I was going to cut the box so I could visualize it before I started. I wanted to cut as few pieces as possible. The thick line is where I cut.
Then I transferred those marks to the box and cut them.
The last picture is of it opened up. I flipped it over after that so that all the markings would be on the inside. Then I folded up the side flaps first and secured them with hot glue on the inside. Don’t worry if your seams don’t look great, it will all be on the inside.
After that I folded up the tops and bottom flaps and glued those as well.
Next I needed to build the walls on the inside where I’ve drawn the red line below. My sewing machine was 4 inches thick so I cut strips of cardboard 4 inches wide and used them to build the insides here:
I started with the piece where the needle would be–I used a little 2 inch wooden dowel for the “needle”
I partly sharpened it with a pencil sharpener so it would look more like a needle, but not all the way so it wouldn’t be pointy or dangerous. Then I poked a hole in the cardboard and inserted the dowel. I secured it on the inside with a big blob of hot glue.
I added the rest of the inside pieces:
Before I closed it up, I added the flywheel and the spool pin. I cut several circles out of cardboard and glued them together to make the flywheel. Like I said before, I like the raw corrugated edges of cardboard, but if you don’t, that’s cool, just cover them with paper or washi tape or something.
That little blue post and clip are Makedo connecting pieces (affiliate link). I bought these myself when they were on sale on zulily and no one at Makedo knows me at all but I think these are the coolest things EVER. They make all kinds of connectors and hinges and things that you can use to transform carboard and other found objects into really cool projects. Ten year old me was soooooo excited to learn these existed! If you don’t have them, a regular old brad from the office supply store would work just fine.
I poked a hole in the center of the flywheel with the included hole poking tool (technical term, I’m sure). Then I inserted the post piece from one side and then put it through a corresponding hole in the side of the sewing machine that I had poked with a screwdriver so it was a little bigger than the makedo post piece. This allowed the flywheel to spin.
The little blue clip snaps on from the back side (it’s adjustable) to secure it. Now the flywheel turns just like a real sewing machine!
Then I used another little dowel to make a spool pin. Same method as the “needle’, poke a hole, put in the dowel, secure from the back with a blob of hot glue.
I also happened to have a little wooden spool that fit perfectly which is when I had the following funny conversation with Aa:
Me: Should I leave it so O can take the spool on and off the post?
Aa: If by take it on and off you mean lose it immediately, then no…
Ha! He had a good point, so I needed to secure it. I sharpened the end of my dowel a little bit with a pencil sharpener again and glued a little bead to the top to keep the spool on. If you had a bigger bead that fit, you could skip the sharpening step. The spool still spins around so it’s plenty fun.
Now it just needed a front. I flipped the sewing machine over onto another piece of cardboard and just traced around it with a pencil and then cut it out:
Before I attached the front to the machine, it was time to add some details. I made some square buttons and another dial for the front using the same method that I used for the flywheel.
I also wanted to add some moving levers like a real sewing machine might have for stitch length or width. First I cut two slits across the front.
Then I used a little piece of dowel that would fit through the slot. I put a blob of hot glue on the back side so it wouldn’t fall out. Then I put it through the slot and attached a bead to the other end. Now the beads slide back and forth across the slots!
Then when all those pieces were added it was time to attach the front to the body of the machine carefully with glue.
When that was done I just added a few more details with a white paint pen and put some cute washi tape around the bottom and I was done.
O really liked playing with it, although I had to laugh when I set it down and he immediately said, “Where’s my fabric??” A quick trip to my scrap bin and he was all set!