DIY Plaid Tray and Keeping it Real

>> 9.16.2015

It's only the middle of September and it's still in the mid 90's here in Dallas, but at our house we've already gotten out the mulled cider candles, made pumpkin bread, and decorated our mantle for Fall. I've got the fall itch early this year, so I decided to start decorating now and experiment with some things that are a little out of my comfort zone, like plaid, for example.

I was given an old christmas tray, and my vision was to paint it and add a fall-ish plaid to the bottom. So I searched for craft paper, wrapping paper, ANYTHING paper but came up with nothing that I liked. Apparently fall-like plaid paper is not a thing. So I turned to fabric and found three options that I thought would work.

Two were from the fabric store at about $3 each, and the last was actually a button down shirt that I purchased from a thrift store. And paid $6 for it. In hindsight, I can't believe I paid that much for a thrift store shirt. If I could go back in time, I would have looked at the prices on the shirts, gasped for air, and climbed on top of the cashier's table, gotten on the loud speaker and told the crowd of Monday morning shoppers that we were all being DUPED and that most of these clothes sat in plastic bags in the back of someone's closet for ten years and they were worth PENNIES and we all needed to stick it to the man and boycott all thrift stores until the owners came begging to us and met all of our demands, which in turn would spark a world-wide thrift store revolution where they stopped overcharging for men's shirts, brass figurines and furniture. But no. I bought a $6 shirt from the thrift store. I'm so ashamed. 

But on to the tray!

First I prepped the tray by sanding, painting and priming.  (I hope you didn't need to see that because I didn't take pictures.)

Then I added mod podge to the bottom of the tray and spread it around. I cut the fabric to fit, on the bias so that the plaid laid diagonally, and put it carefully on the tray and then painted mod podge over the top to seal it in.

I then went over it with a metal spatula to smooth out the wrinkles and bubbles.

p.s., Do you notice that the fabric is different in this photo? um, yeah.........

So here's where it gets real. There's two things wrong with using fabric. First, I didn't take into consideration that when you put mod podge on fabric, it darkens the fibers, and it doesn't ever go back, which for some fabric completely changes the desired look you want. Secondly, I cut on the bias, which causes fabric to stretch, which meant that the fabric suddenly became too big for the bottom of the tray, which was kind of a mess. 

The first fabric I started with was a mustardy yellow. I liked it the best out of three options by far, but I was pretty disappointed after I had finished putting on the glue and went back to look a couple hours later and realized the fabric was now brown and not ever going to turn back. Isn't that a crazy difference? Sad moment.

So I ditched the fabric and tried the orange/brown/gray fabric from the $6 shirt. AGAIN, the color was just too saturated after I got the glue on and it dried into a dark gray and almost red color.

So by this time it was midnight and I was a little frustrated because I wanted this to work, and I had already wasted two fabrics and $9 on this ridiculous tray idea. So although the fabric wasn't my favorite, I used my last option, a orange and navy plaid. The fabric still stretched, and it was a mess, but I got it on, and the next day I came back and trimmed it up with an x-acto knife, so it ended up looking okay. Here it is finished and styled. What do you think?

So if you want to tackle this project at home here are a couple of pointers.

1. It's crucial that you prime your piece first. Otherwise the paint will not hold up and could potentially bubble and cause problems.
2. Paper is best.
3. If you want to use fabric, stick with a thin cotton, cotton-blend fabric. Thick, textured and porous materials are not right for this. As you can see what happened with my first fabric.
4. Test the fabric first. Get a small area of it wet to see what it looks like, because that color when wet is likely what it will look like once the mod podge is dry.
5. Don't spend a lot of money on fabric. I should have been able to do this project for almost free.
6. Cut your fabric to size but don't worry about getting it perfect. Once the fabric dry you can clean it up with an x-acto knife if the fabric you are using is thin.

This fabric option is a little safe, and probably a little too preppy for me, but that's okay. I learned a lot of lessons during this DIY and I am okay with a less-than-ideal finished project if I know I've learned something worthwhile in the process.

And if you are still reading this, you are a dedicated soul and I love you.


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