Covering a tray with fabric

ImageI mentioned that I enjoy making things.  I saw in the Martha Stewart Magazine for July/August 2013 an idea for using fabrics to recover an old tray. 

I had been debating how to use some very pretty Florence Broadhurst fabric scraps that I had collected, and decided this project would be worth giving a go.  (If you love Florence Broadhurst designs, check out as they have the full range of her gorgeous prints.)


Here’s what I started with:

  • One ugly tray
  • Fabric – this was furnishing fabric but you might get an even better result if you used a finer fabric
  • One cheapie paintbrush, flat edged and about 1.5cm wide
  • Mod Podge – both the gloss finish and the furniture grade finish
  • Good scissors

The Mod Podge is something that Americans seem to use a lot, but can be a bit tricky to find in Australia.  I managed to pick it up at Eckersley’s, but I hear some Spotlight stores also carry it. 

If you haven’t used it before, Mod Podge is a PVC-based product that functions as a glue, sealant and varnish.  It’s pretty hard to go wrong with it.  If you happened to have the satin or matte finish Mod Podge, you could use these as a substitute for the gloss Mod Podge.

First, cut the fabric to just a little larger that the top of your tray.  Paint a thin layer of gloss Mod Podge onto the tray top, and on to the back of your fabric.  Carefully place the two glued surfaces on to each other, so that the pretty side of the fabric faces up.  Working from the middle of the fabric to the edges, smooth it out with your fingers.  It gets a bit tricky to smooth it when you get to the rim of the tray, but I still found it possible to get a nice, even finish. 

Let that dry, with the excess fabric still dangling over the edge of the tray.  It’ll take around 30 minutes to an hour to dry properly.  Then, get your scissors (the sharper the better) and trim off the spare fabric from the edge.  I also found this a bit fiddly, but it can be done.

Then, reapply the gloss Mod Podge three times, allowing it to try fully between coats.  To finish, apply two coats of the furniture grade Mod Podge, to give it a hard finish that will be durable.  The furniture grade should be left to cure overnight between coats.

Wash your brush up in soap and water.  No nasty wash-up chemicals are needed. 

This project is a nice, easy one that can be tucked into a few minutes in a busy day.  The hardest part is getting the fabric smooth, and getting a nice, neat edge when the fabric is trimmed.  With practice, you can do both well. 

I suspect the entire project would be a bit harder if you selected a tray with a hard right-angle or similar at the point where the base of the tray becomes the lip of it.  If you have a choice, choose a tray with a gradual rise up to the lip.  It will make smoothing out the fabric much easier. 

A tray like this makes a really personal gift for a housewarming, or can just be done to update old items to give them a new life. 

Here’s what Martha did with her trays.  She adopted a Fourth of July colour scheme, but you could do them any way you like.




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