Photography: Johnny Miller
Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2008
Despite Pandora's experience to the contrary, lovely little boxes tend to harbor far more treasure than trouble. And there's no reason the containers themselves shouldn't rival their contents in elegance and allure.
An A-list of embellishments -- velvets, ribbons, and blossoms; embossed papers that mimic the textures of shagreen, leather, and lizard skin; glossy spray-on auto touch-up paint contrasted with delicate rice-paper cutouts; and romantic inscription panels inspired by the labels on vintage French pillboxes -- can transform packages that seem pedestrian into true gems. Add a few equally refined elements inside to keep everything from brooches to billets-doux safe, snug, and in place and the final results of your handiwork may feel too pretty to part with. What better way to let someone you love know how very special he or she is?
Elegant millinery flowers and ribbons imprinted with monograms adorn boxes covered in dusty velvets to evoke the delicate, ladylike aesthetics of the Victorian era. Cleverly pierced ephemera -- postcards, snapshots, and vintage playing cards -- keep earrings paired and untangled. To monogram don't use stamps with intricate patterns, which will produce less-than-perfect results. Plan on a test or two with your chosen materials to determine how much heat, time, and pressure produce the best imprints.
Even the loveliest jewelry box can benefit from custom-made accessories that organize and protect precious baubles.
1. A paper mailing tube cut to fit within the box and covered with velvet makes storing link and charm bracelets easy.
2. Cushions of silk taffeta stuffed with cotton batting are ideal for layering small items; a ribbon sewn to one ensures that delicate rings won't get lost.
3. Ribbon scraps too pretty to throw away can be used to hold brooches and stickpins.
4. Lengths of richly colored velvet are rolled to store and display rings.
5. Found objects such as a porcelain watercolor palette, a vintage chess piece, and an abalone shell can be set into boxes to hold tiny items.
6. Buttons from a sewing kit are perfect for holding tiny pairs of earrings so they won't get lost or separated.
Velvet ribbon wide enough to accommodate the stamps (looser, piled silk ribbons and silk-rayon blends work best).
For ribbon trim to conceal the raw ends of the velvet: Cut 2 lengths of ribbon equal to perimeter of box. Apply paste-style glue to backs. Position along edges of box bottom and lid, with ends abutting neatly in the back.
To add store-bought velvet millinery flowers and leaves, compose a pleasing arrangement, twist the attached wires together, and trim wires to a length that can be hidden beneath the petals. Affix with clear-drying fabric glue.
To add a monogrammed ribbon to the box lid, cut a length of ribbon the width of the lid, plus the sides.
With fabric scissors, carefully trim extra fabric so resulting edges abut neatly and completely. Repeat process for lid. Let dry.
Remove hinges from a wooden craft box.
Trace box bottom in the center of the wrong side of a piece of velvet. Measure depth of box, and add that amount to each side of the drawn rectangle. Using fabric scissors, cut out larger rectangle. Repeat for box lid.
Apply a thin coat of paste-style glue to bottom of box, and place it in drawn rectangle. Turn box over, and smooth fabric from center to remove bubbles. Repeat process with lid. Let dry.
Apply glue to all sides of box. Smooth velvet over them, leaving flaps at each corner.
With the steam function off, preheat the iron to the cotton or wool setting. Place the rubber stamp, relief side up, on a sturdy, heatproof surface. Place the ribbon, pile side down, over the stamp, positioning the stamp as desired. Using the portion of the iron's soleplate that has no steam holes, press down evenly on the fabric, covering the stamp. Hold the iron in place without moving for 10 to 30 seconds. Then lift the iron straight up off the ribbon. (If the ribbon sticks to the iron, the heat setting may be too high or the velvet used may contain heat-sensitive synthetics.)
Gently remove the ribbon from the stamp, and check whether the image is clear. Allow ribbon to cool, and affix to box with paste-style glue, such as Yes Paste, or clear-drying fabric glue.