Painted Sewing Box

If reorganizing and decluttering is on your resolution list, our chalk painted sewing box is a great way to coral all your threads and findings in one pretty sewing kit.

Pinnable image for painted sewing box

Sewing Box Organizer

Is there something you just go giddy over whenever you come across it? For me, that one thing is a J. & P. Coats thread cabinet with hand painted typography (like the one below). I can’t help but want one (who’s with me on that)! But in sad news, we just don’t have space for one!

Thread cabinet is the inspiration for the painted sewing boxSo we’ll paint our own small version using Dixie Belle chalk paint and Gemstone Mousse! Our painted sewing box is a nod to the striking graphics.

Isn’t this original label cool?

J. & P. Coats label; inspiration for painted sewing box

If you’re not into hand painting, you might be interested in this easy DIY thread holder idea instead!

Before we get into the tutorial, don’t forget to get your craft mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe! You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Materials for Chalk Painted Sewing Box

* [If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered (disclosure): Clicking on the affiliate links below means we may receive a commission for qualifying purchases (at no extra charge to you). This allows us to continue to share unique projects and video tutorials with you. Thanks for helping to support our little blog!]

Painting the Sewing Box

Keeping it authentic, I’m going to hand paint most of it with chalk paint but will also use a transfer. Transfers are so fast, easy and instantly satisfying!

I have a simple trick to transfer the centre part of the thread logo onto half the lid!

I’ve never done lettering by hand – or used a transfer before for that matter! If you want to skip the hand painting on top, you can find a reproduction decal here.

I’ll also hand paint some vintage J. & P. Coats thread labels on the front (there are reproduction labels for those too). You may have noticed the sneak peak of our painted sewing box in our washboard decor vignette (I couldn’t wait to finish it).

Painted Sewing Box Video

Painted Sewing Box Before

One of the perks of Hubs’ vintage sewing machine restoration hobby is the junk, er, I mean the vintage accessories that straggle in. This is how the sewing box looks before.

Cantilever box - before of painted sewing box

Although my thread cabinet idea is the focus of this painted sewing box, I have an ulterior motive. Truth be told, I’m using it to experiment with transfers and stencils to build confidence for bigger pieces of furniture. Since chalk paint is still so new to us, I’d rather get the learning curve out of the way on a small piece like this!

Cantilever box on table - before of painted sewing box

Retro sewing box

As a total aside, here’s one of Hubs’ sewing machine restorations in progress. It’s the reason we got an ultrasonic cleaner – he cleans each and every part, down to the tiniest screws! The ultrasonic cleaner will come in handy for this makeover too.

Cantilever Sewing Box

Someone must’ve really loved this wooden cantilever sewing box because of all the storage!

Accordion box open on table

Because it got ‘sew’ much use, it’s missing a knob, carrying handle and a foot! I have a fun idea to replace the knobs on top with sewing bobbins. It’s an idea we first explored in this outside the box DIY Jewelry Display.

To start, remove all the hardware.

The paint is flaking on these metal pieces that help the sewing box cantilever and they’re even a bit rusty.

Disassembled Hardware for painted sewing box

So into the ultrasonic cleaner they go!

Since I want to re-paint again over a fresh clean surface, the ultrasonic cleaner is amazing for stripping finishes (as we first discover with how to clean brass hardware). In this side-by-side before and after comparison, the ultrasonic cleaner strips the paint right off!

After cleaning, we also soak away the rust with Evapo-Rust. This is the only rust remover product Hubs trusts with his sewing machine parts. And it’s non-toxic too! Bottle of Evapo-Rust to clean hardware for painted sewing box

Back to the sewing box, it’s in pieces and ready to sand. In the process, Hubs removes the old knobs and feet.

After a good sanding (and filling of holes), it’s ready to paint. Mahogany isn’t my favourite wood, because the tannins tend to bleed right through light colours of paint. But we have a fix for that.

Dixie Belle chalk paint, paint brush on top of sewing box and mister

Prime Painted Sewing Box

Before we paint, we apply two coats of Dixie Belle BOSS primer to prevent bleed-through. I’m using my mini angle brush to apply it. Because I still want some of the wood to show around the graphics and transfer, I’m using clear BOSS.

However, there’s one thing I didn’t expect.  After applying BOSS and walking away from the project for a week, I stacked the boxes up to get them out of the way. When I came back to work on it, the pieces were ‘glued’ together. It took all my strength to force them apart. If you do your painting right away and then clear coat, it shouldn’t be an issue. I have no idea if this is something particular to only the clear BOSS (it also comes in white and grey). But definitely something to keep in mind.

A lazy Susan and paint pyramids are indispensable tools so I can rotate the work and brush right to the edges without having it stick to the surface.

Dixie Belle mini angle brush on top of BOSS primer with section of painted sewing box

After priming, I move each piece onto paint pyramids.

Priming painted sewing box; section drying on top of paint pyramids

Painting the Hardware

While the wood pieces dry, I paint the clean hardware with a coat of Dixie Bell Fluff chalk paint.

Painting hardware with Dixie Belle chalk paint for painted sewing box

Below, I’m using Hub’s best trick for painting multiple little pieces: sticky side up masking tape on a paint stick. When you stick the metal hardware on, they can’t shift! Watch the video to see how I set this up.

It really is the fastest way to paint multiple small pieces!

Once the chalk paint is dry, I add a coat of Gemstone Mousse in the colour Golden Gem. Be sure to stir the container really well before using to incorporate the metallic. To apply the mousse, you can use a makeup sponge, but I actually find a fingertip even better (as I show on the video).

Painting Gemstone Mousse onto hardware for painted sewing box

Apply Gemstone Mousse

Gemstone Mousse is water based, so it cleans up with soap and water. I love the sparkle it adds to the hardware. I’ll be using this again to paint the J. and P. Coats label and around the edging on the lids. 

Add Thread Cabinet Graphics

Paint the background

Before adding wording to the front of the painted sewing box, cut a mask for the white background behind the letters. At first, I use shelf liner to cut the shape and apply it.

Then I paint with Dixie Belle Fluff, offloading the bulk of the paint in the middle before moving to the edges with a drier brush. Brush from the edge toward the middle. That will prevent bleed through under the mask. If you want to see some of the woodgrain, you can wipe it back with paper towel. On subsequent sections, I just left it opaque.

As mentioned, clear BOSS for some reason remains sticky, even after drying for weeks. So the adhesive from the shelf liner stuck in some places. For that reason, I cut a mask from a piece of acetate for the second section. But acetate tends to be slippery.

By the time I get to the third section, I finally perfect the mask by cutting the ends from leftover transfer backing and bridging the span with painters tape. I guess third time is a charm!

Stencil mask applied to section of painted sewing box

The tackiness of the tape actually releases fine from the BOSS primer. As soon as you seal with a top coat or two (I’ll be using Dixie Belle’s Clear Satin), the stickiness won’t be an issue. There’s ways around every challenge!

Easy Way to Transfer Wording

I designed an outline of the the wording in illustrator and flipped it to create a mirror image.

Then I print it on an acetate sheet and cut to size for each section. At this point, you have to be really careful not to smudge the ink because it stays wet on the acetate.

Centre and tape it to the chalk paint section.

Transferring six cord working onto painted sewing box

Now, take a ball point embossing tool (or substitute a pen or pencil) and trace around the lettering pressing firmly.

Using a stylus to transfer 'six cord' onto painted sewing box

This will transfer the lettering to the chalk paint!

At this point you can fill in the lines with Gemstone Mousse and an artist’s brush. However, because I don’t want the wording to blend in with the Mousse on the hardware, I’m using gold transfer foil from my thrift store stash to add some contrast. I paint on the glue and let it set up. Then I apply the foil and rub over the tacky glue with a paper stump to transfer it.

Applying transfer foil to painted sewing box with paper stump

Peel back the foil.

The foil doesn’t stick to some spots so the background shows through. It looks worn and antique; just the way I want it!

Proceed in this manner for the rest of the boxes, but you’ll have to clamp the next two sets together so the text can span seamlessly.

This time, I’m using frog tape to mask off the area for the stencil. It work the best out of all the other methods I tried.

I really love this technique to transfer designs because you can see exactly where you’re positioning it!

Although I haven’t tried it yet, I wonder if I’m using a whole sheet transfer, if I can erase the ink once done and reuse the acetate to print again? Something to consider for future projects.

How to Use Dixie Belle Transfers

To tie in the thread theme, I’m adding these cotton stems from the Magnolia Garden Transfer. Using a transfer is pretty as well as practical. It will help hide the veneer touch-up after removing the handle if I place it strategically!

Cut the part you want, then remove the backing and place on the wood. Then start rubbing away with the included tool.

As you rub, the transfer will release onto the wood. Then you’ll be able to lift a corner and peel away the clear plastic as you go.

Dixie Belle Magnolia transfer

There’s nothing more satisfying than spending a few minutes to get a painted effect that I could never achieve:

Dixie Belle Magnolia transfer on wooden lid

To finish off this half of the lid, I finger paint Gemstone Mousse around the edges. It looks beautiful with the gold tones in the transfer!

Finger painting Gemstone Mousse onto side of lid

Here’s where that thread label comes into play. I’m hand painting it on the other half of the lid.

How to Transfer a Design to Wood

First I print the ‘bullseye’ portion of the label onto an acetate sheet. Our printer is an Epson WF-3540 with hybrid ink so it stays wet on the acetate.

Being careful not to smudge the wet ink, I place it face down onto the wood. Then I take a stylus and trace around it. That transfers the pattern onto the wood.

With an artist’s brush, I paint midnight sky in the middle and around the perimeter. I outline all the edges first, then fill in the centre portion to get neat edges.

Hand painting lid of painted sewing box

After 1/2 an hour, I fill in the middle with Gemstone Mousse. It’s starting to take shape!

Dixie Belle Gemstone Mousse and Midnight Sky chalk paint on painted sewing box lid

Now, repeat the transfer process with the wording.

Over the midnight sky, I paint in Gemstone Mousse.

In the next section, I paint Midnight Sky over the Mousse.

A steady hand and a little patience and I’m almost done! Watch the video to see my technique for hand painting the lettering.

How to Stencil with Chalk Paint

Stencilling with chalk paint follows the same principles I use with any other paint. First I tape the stencil in place so it doesn’t shift.

Using a small stencil brush, I dip into the paint and offload it onto paper towels so it’s fairly dry. Then pounce the stencil brush up and down across the stencil. Carefully lift the tape and remove the stencil.

Isn’t this Morrocan stencil gorgeous? Next day I seal it with a clear satin topcoat.

For the rest of the piece, I’ll hand it off to Hubs to spray Dixie Belle’s clear satin on everything. Since Gemstone Mousse is a water based product, I prefer to spray it because over brushing can reactivate it and smudge all my hard work.

Assemble and add knobs. Instead of wooden knobs, I substitute bobbins! Apropos for a ‘thread cabinet’!

Of course Hubs happens to have some original J. & P. Coats cotton spools to help fill it!

How pretty is the Morroco stencil on the inside of the lid?

I line the inside with upcycled wallpaper from an old wallpaper book. It will help keep the inside clean; I can swap it out for fresh if need be.

I’m happy with how our painted sewing box turned out; it sure does fulfill my love of vintage thread cabinets!

What a great way to finish out the year! Click here for a look back at the best of the nest – upcycling ideas and more.

Free J. and P. Coats Printable

For anyone who wants a printable of the graphics on the front of the box to play with, we have a pdf for you in our exclusive freebie library at Birdz on the Fly. To gain access to the free pattern for painted sewing box, if you’re not already an e-mail subscriber, you need to become one by filling out the form below. After you confirm your e-mail, you’ll receive a welcome message with the password (sorry but Bloglovin’ / WordPress subscribers won’t have access to the password unless subscribed through this form). We change the password periodically, so check the newsletter often.

Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!

Pinnable image for painted sewing box

* Dixie Belle Paint provided us with complimentary products but all opinions about these fabulous products are our own.

10 thoughts on “Painted Sewing Box

  1. Sara, like everything you touch, you’ve mad a thing of beauty, with a hat-tip to the original design. You make it uniquely your own. Wow!

  2. Love it – anything sewing related hits close to home with me. I had something like this but on legs but got rid of it. Just not a good space. Now I might regret it.

    • Thanks so much Lori; I’ve always been detail oriented – I can’t help myself lol!

    • Thanks Lynne! The Morocco stencil is very pretty; I’ll be using it again soon!

Leave a Reply