Vintage Suitcase as China Storage

After examining the china storage options at The Container Store yesterday with my mom and sister, I came to three conclusions:

  1. These are fairly poor quality.
  2. These are really expensive.
  3. These would be a piece of cake to make (my mother’s observation).

“I can do better than that,” I said. I had bought two matching leather suitcases — lovely pieces, really, but quite musty — at an estate sale a couple months ago.  Because of the stinky factor, I had aired them out, put baking soda in them, and then absentmindedly left them sitting under my couch. Because the musty smell has proven impossible to totally remove, I wouldn’t want to store fabric in them. But china can’t absorb icky smells, so I determined that they’d be perfect for my extra Blue Willow. So, while out shopping with my friend Alyse today, we brainstormed and came up with a design for my china storage.

Items Needed:

  • Suitcase
  • 2 sheets of foamboard (found in the craft section of most stores)
  • Felt (enough to cover the bottom of the suitcase, plus enough to cut circles as plate separators for as many plates as you have. I bought three yards, and ended up using just one yard for 12 saucers, 12 plates, and two suitcase liners)
  • X-Acto knife
  • Pen or pencil for marking felt and foamboard
  • Ruler or yardstick
  • Scissors

We’ll start with the pesky teacups that are so difficult to store.  Begin by cutting a rectangle of felt as padding for the bottom of the suitcase.  (You could do this with foamboard, or you might be okay with nothing at all.)

Then, with your trusty X-Acto knife, cut strips of foamboard both the length and width of your suitcase, in proportions that work for the number of cups you’re working with.  Mine were 3 1/4″ tall.  Cut slots 1/4″ wide, halfway up each strip as shown, in locations suitable for your teacups.  My compartments were about 3 1/2″ by 4″.  As you can see, with slots cut halfway up each piece of foamboard, they’ll lock together and come out all the same height.

After cutting all the slots, I determined that I only needed twelve teacup slots, so I cut off two of my three divider strips to form compartments for the saucers.

I then traced around a saucer to make a template for felt pads to go between the saucers.

They don’t have to be perfect. I wanted to get it done in a timely fashion, so they aren’t perfectly round. You can always tidy up the edges later.  Pinking shears would have been a nice touch, too, but that didn’t occur to me at the time.

(You may need to remove eager furry assistants from your felt as you proceed.)

Howie-cat helps cut out felt.

Here’s the (nearly) finished product!

I ended up cutting the piece on the far right to the same height as the others so I could make a cover to keep everything in place if (perish the thought) someone were careless enough to pick up the suitcase by its handle.

The ties on the inside served quite well to keep the cover in place.

The matching larger suitcase (not pictured) worked quite well for my plates. I only had enough foam board left to put very simple dividers between the plates; eventually I’ll make more sophisticated arrangement that should allow for storage of a few extra wayward Wexford glasses.  For now, though, the Blue Willow is all corralled and out of the giant box that’s been in my closet since I got married.  And I call that a productive day!

Costs for teacup storage:

  • Suitcase. $5.00
  • 1 yd. felt, on sale at Joann Fabrics. $2.99
  • 2 pieces foam board, reduced 75% because of crumpled edges. $1.50
  • Total. $9.49

About Charity

I have an inexcusable number of cookbooks (and like to experiment with them), have worked in architectural antiques, and have been sewing most of my life. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Apparel, Merchandising, & Design from Iowa State University. Doing household things (except for cleaning!) and hunting for antiques are my favorite pastimes.
This entry was posted in Antiquing Adventures, Mrs. Armstead's Household Guide, Organization. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vintage Suitcase as China Storage

  1. Catherine says:

    What a great idea! And much cuter than the stuff at Container Store (in my humble opinion).

  2. Charity says:

    Thanks, Catherine! 🙂

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