This isn’t exactly alchemy, but it feels that way. When Rose’s box-making habit began in earnest this summer, she was making origami masu boxes using paper—any kind of paper of any size. But as a textile artist, her mind quickly went to fabric. Was there a way to fold fabric into boxes strong enough to hold their shape?
Turns out the answer lies in a simple cornstarch paste. What feels magical is actually fairly straightforward— starching fabric to such a degree that it turns, for all intents and purposes, into paper. These stiffened sheets of fabric can be creased and folded and shaped into boxes, or anything else your imagination might send you.
For this project, I used a 12-inch square of linen from a Fog Linen Assorted Color Remnant Set: Large Format While you’d want whatever fabric you use to be in fairly good condition, this is an opportunity to keep all sorts of fabric in use from torn bedsheets to vintage bandanas to baby swaddles needing a second life.
Simple instructions from Rose below:
+ fabric (lightweight to medium weight material & natural fibers like cotton or linen work best)
+ 1 tablespoon cornstarch
+ ½ cup water
+ small mixing bowl or jar
+ spoon or small whisk
+ small chip brush or pastry brush
+ Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with ¼ cup of cold water.
+ Separately boil another ¼ cup of water in a small saucepan.
+ When the water boils, pour the cornstarch water into the boiling water, lower the heat and stir.
+ The mixture should thicken up quickly, turning into a viscous paste.
+ Spread the paste (with a brush or cool mixture and slather with hands) onto both sides of the fabric.
+ Hang the fabric to dry.
+ The fabric should take a few hours to overnight to stiffen up and achieve a paper-like texture.
+ Once dry, press with a hot iron (without steam). This will help to flatten and remove any wrinkles in the fabric.
+ Use your fabric paper in whatever way you wish, but we especially recommend making an origami masu box and wrangling the essentials in your kitchen drawer.
Thanks to Rose Pearlman for preparing this tutorial. Rose is an artist, teacher, and textile designer. With a background in fine arts and a love of well designed functional objects, her creations blur the lines between art and craft and pushes the boundaries with non-traditional techniques and materials. Rose teaches monthly rug hooking workshops in and around her home in NYC, and also welcomes commissions for one of a kind constructions in decor and home furnishings. Her work has been featured in fiber magazines, galleries, and numerous online design sites. Her book Modern Rug Hooking is available wherever books are sold. Follow along with her functional craft projects at @art_objects_ She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
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