The extracellular matrix is constructed beyond the plasma membrane, challenging mechanisms for its control by the cell. In plants, the cell wall is highly ordered, with cellulose microfibrils aligned coherently over a scale spanning hundreds of cells. To a considerable extent, deploying aligned microfibrils determines mechanical properties of the cell wall, including strength and compliance. Cellulose microfibrils have long been seen to be aligned in parallel with an array of microtubules in the cell cortex. How do these cortical microtubules affect the cellulose synthase complex? This question has stood for as many years as the parallelism between the elements has been observed, but now an answer is emerging. Here, we review recent work establishing that the link between microtubules and microfibrils is mediated by a protein named cellulose synthase-interacting protein 1 (CSI1). The protein binds both microtubules and components of the cellulose synthase complex. In the absence of CSI1, microfibrils are synthesized but their alignment becomes uncoupled from the microtubules, an effect that is phenocopied in the wild type by depolymerizing the microtubules. The characterization of CSI1 significantly enhances knowledge of how cellulose is aligned, a process that serves as a paradigmatic example of how cells dictate the construction of their extracellular environment.