Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
My Plates Runneth Over

It should come as no surprise that my love of food, cooking, and eating extends to the accoutrements associated with those interests. Appliances, kitchen gadgets, fancy glassware, colorful placemats, and unusual serving bowls are as exciting to me as the first fresh peaches of the season.

I seem to have developed an immoderate fondness for plates. I just now inventoried my kitchen cabinets and my dish overflow area and counted 18 serving platters and 16 different sets of dinner plates. Not 16 plates, but 16 sets of plates, including two sets of Christmas plates and a complete service for 8 of Chinese rice pattern dishes. You would think sixteen sets of plates are sufficient for any household but I cannot stop buying them.

To exacerbate this affliction of mine, last year I discovered a new way to satisfy my plate cravings. I make my own! Wait, don’t go! These plates are beautiful, really. Here, see for yourself.

You can’t tell by looking, but my homemade designer plates are simply purchased clear glass plates with a beautiful fabric decoupaged on the back. That’s all there is to it. They are so simple to create and such a rewarding way to expand one’s kitchen creativity.

The one pictured above is a serving platter made with fabric cut from an inexpensive scarf I bought in Paris as a souvenir of my trip. Whenever I use this platter, I am reminded of that trip.

I use my custom plates as serving dishes when I bring cookies or other goodies to work. They also make very special hostess gifts. For Christmas I make plates with holiday-themed fabric to give as gifts, loaded with my homemade truffles. But best of all, I have created my own custom and totally unique place settings for my dinner parties.

I am so pleased with the beauty of these plates and the ease with which they are made, that I want to share the instructions with you so you can make your own plates too. My mother originally introduced me to the idea with verbal instructions. I researched it further and found more information. Then I experimented on my own and came up with what I consider the definitive method to make these.

How To Create Your Own Custom Designer Plates

Don’t be alarmed by the lengthy instructions here. I learned a lot during my experimentation so I am including every little detail. You won’t have to make any assumptions. Read through all of it first before you begin to work on your plates.

Fabric (see notes below)
Clear Glass Plates (see notes below)
Mod Podge, matte (available in craft and hardware stores)
Polyurethane (see notes below)
Cleaner for polyurethane
Fine Sandpaper
00 Steel Wool

Fabric scissors
1" Paint brushes and/or 1” Foam brushes
X-acto knife pen and plenty of extra blades
Working pedestals (see notes below)

Fabric Notes

Choose lightweight fabrics. Small patterns look good, as do patterns with large objects that can be centered on the plate. To get a good idea how the fabric will look as a plate, bring a pair of your clear glass plates to the fabric store and place the fabric between them. It already looks like a real plate!

Depending on the fabric width and pattern placement, you can get 2 - 4 dinner size plates from 1/2 yard of fabric. Wash and dry the fabric to remove the sizing as it will interfere with the absorption of the Mod Podge. If the fabric is wrinkled after laundering, iron it.

Clear glass plates notes

Use clear glass plates that are smooth on the back (no texture patterns). A subtle pattern on the front is okay as long as the back of the plate is smooth. The flatter the back of the plate, the easier it is to cover it with fabric. Some sources for inexpensive clear plates are Wal-Mart, dollar stores, Linens ‘n’ Things, and K-Mart. You can also buy them online but shipping costs may make them a bit expensive.

Wash the plates well in warm soapy water and rinse. Be sure to remove all labels and adhesives. Goo Gone works well to get rid of that annoying adhesive residue.

Finally, right before starting the project, clean the back of the plate with glass cleaner and a lint free towel or paper. Do not allow your fingers to touch the back of the plate once it is clean. It will leave invisible marks that may interfere with the glue.

Polyurethane notes

There are two types of polyurethane; oil based and water based. The oil based type makes very noxious fumes and requires good ventilation. It also requires special cleansers to clean the brushes. But it is waterproof and will make your plates hardier.
The water based polyurethane is easier to use and clean up but is not water proof. I like to use the oil based polyurethane for the first two or three coats and then use the water based for subsequent coats.

If your plates will be solely decorative, then you may use the water-based polyurethane. If you plan to use your plates for serving food (and thus will be washing them) then you should use the combination of polyurethanes, as I do.

Working pedestals notes

You will need to place the plate on a small raised pedestal while working on it and while it dries. Plastic deli containers turned upside down work well. You may also use glass custard cups or ramekins turned upside down.

Paint Brushes versus Foam Brushes

Purchase both types and try them to determine which works best for you. I use the regular paint brushes to apply the Mod Podge but prefer the foam brushes for the polyurethane.

Miscellaneous tips

I cover my entire work surface with a large piece of heavy corrugated cardboard. It gets covered with drips and spatters of Mod-Podge and polyurethane, so when I’m all done, I just throw it away.

No matter how careful you are as you follow the directions below, as you apply the Mod Podge and polyurethane, you will get it on your fingers and then get it on the front of the plates. Try to avoid this but if it occurs, don't worry about cleaning it up immediately. Just leave it. Later we will use steel wool to remove extraneous Mod Podge and polyurethane.

It is just as easy to create 8 – 12 plates at a time, assembly line fashion, as it is to do one. So make a bunch.


Cutting the Fabric

Place the fabric between two plates, arranging the pattern in a pleasing way. Use fabric scissors to cut out the fabric, leaving a one inch border around the plate.

Covering the Plate

Place the plate, face down, on a working pedestal. Brush a very thin coat of Mod Podge over the back surface of the plate.

Place the fabric circle face up on a covered surface (heavy cardboard works well) and brush with Mod Podge, almost to the edges. It is easier to do this by painting from the center outwards, starting at 12 o'clock and working around the circle.

Center the plate, face up, over the fabric and press down. Carefully flip the plate over and place it face down on a working pedestal. Move the fabric around to insure it is centered, pulling and smoothing it. If necessary, lift up the fabric around the edges and reposition it. Working from the center out, press the fabric smooth against the glass, working out any wrinkles, bumps, and air bubbles until the fabric is pressed very firmly to the back of plate all the way to the edges of the plate and perfectly smooth.

Your fingers will get a bit sticky during this. After you are satisfied that the fabric placement is just right, go ahead and wash your hands if you feel like you have to. Or keep a bowl of warm water and a small towel nearby.

Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge over the back of the now fabric-covered plate. First do the center, then the rim area. Be sure it is evenly covered beyond the edges of the plate. If the brushing causes any wrinkles or bumps be sure to smooth them out.

If making several plates, as I recommend, do them assembly line fashion. That is, cover all the plates through this step before proceeding to the next step.

Allow to dry. The Mod Podge is a whitish color when wet but it will dry clear. As the plates dry, watch for the appearance of air bubbles. If they occur use a sharp pin to pierce them from the side and then press flat. The plates should be dry in a couple of hours.

Trimming the Plate

Use the Xacto knife to trim the excess fabric from the plate, trimming right to the edge of the plate. The fabric should not cover the plate edge. Here's how I do it:

Sit in a chair at a table. You may wish to place a towel or other covering across your lap to catch the bits of fabric. Rest the edge of the plate on your lap with the eating side facing you. Let the plate lean against the table for support. With a gentle sawing motion, use the Xacto knife to trim the fabric from the edge of the plate. The sawing motion should be towards you in case there is a section of fabric not tightly adhered to the plate so it doesn't loosen. The blade should always be at 12 o'clock and you turn the plate as you go.

After removing the excess fabric, there will still be sections where it isn't flush with the rim. Do the trimming a second time. Don’t worry if the edge isn’t perfectly smooth. Subsequent steps will resolve that.

If you come across gaps between the edge of the plate and the fabric, dampen that section of the fabric a bit, place a few drops of Mod Podge in the gap and press the fabric tightly to the plate. Brush additional Mod Podge on the fabric, press smooth and allow to dry.
Polyurathane the Plate

Place the plate face down on a working pedastal. Brush a thin layer of polyurethane over the fabric. Work from the center out. It should be a very thin coat. After the back is covered, wipe the brush against the paint can to remove excess polyurethane and run the side of the brush around the rim edge of the plate to remove any excess polyurethane. Or use a clean foam brush or rag to do this. Allow to dry for the period of time recommended by the manufacturer of the polyurethane.

If you see drips of polyurethane start to hang from the edge of the plate like stalactites, you’ve used too much. Wipe off those blobs of drops before they harden.

When using oil based polyurethane, rather than cleaning the brushes in between every coat, I leave the brush in a plastic container large enough to hold the brush upright, pour in just enough of the cleanser to cover the bottom of the brush, and place the lid tightly on the container. The large plastic soup containers from the Chinese take-out work perfectly for this. When using foam brushes take care not to submerge them entirely in the cleanser or the glue that holds the foam to the handle will dissolve and you’ll end up with a stick and sponge. When ready for the next coat just shake out the brush, rinse, shake again, and dry with paper towels.

Apply a second coat and allow to dry for the period of time recommended by the manufacturer of the polyurethane.

When the second coat of polyurethane has dried, use 00 steel wool to smooth the back of the plates. Wipe away the dust with a damp sponge and paper towel and apply another coat of polyurethane. Continue this process until the backs of the plates are as smooth and shiny as the front. Use very thin coats of polyurethane. I usually apply 1 – 2 coats per day, over the course of several days, spending only 5 – 10 minutes a day on the project. Having a work area dedicated to this process is important.

Finishing Touches

Trim the edges of the plates once again, using the exacto knife as previously described. This time you will be removing excess dried polyurethane along with any excess fabric. Go around the plate a second time the same way.

Using fine sand paper wrapped around a small piece of wood, sand the edges of the plates. Then do the same with the 00 steel wool.

Finally, use the steel wool to remove any extraneous Mod Podge and polyurathane from the front of the plate. Run your fingertips over the surface of the plate to identify any specs and use the steel wool in a circular motion to remove them.

Wash gently and dry.

Care instructions:
These plates must NOT be washed in the dishwasher. Wash quickly in warm soapy water, rinse and dry. Do not soak.

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Anonymous cherrie said...
I really appreciate you going to the trouble and time posting this site for us. I have been having problems using just the Mod Podge and you have solved my dilemma.
You have made some very beautiful plates; I hope mine are half as nice.
Thanks again,

Anonymous Pat said...
I am putting a very thin layer of mod podge on the plate and fabric but when the drying process is done I have a blotchy cloudy background. Some areas are very clear and other areas are cloudy. Do you have any suggestions.

Blogger Lydia said...

My first guess as the reason for your blotchy cloudy background after the drying is done is that the drying isn't really done. As it dries, some areas seem to dry sooner than others, temporarily giving a blotched appearance. So I'm hoping by the time you read this, your problem is gone.

It usually takes a couple of hours to dry, but if your fabric is quite thick or the room you are working in is colder than room temperature, it may take much longer for the milkiness to clear up.

Let us know how they look now.


Anonymous Pat said...

No the problem still exist when completely dried. It doesn't matter if I am using a shear nylon fabic with a design or a cotton fabric, I get the small milky blotchy look. I am doing it in my kitchen where the temp is 72 degrees and I am applying a very thin coat of podge and letting dry 24 hrs before working with it again. This should be giving it plenty of time to completely dry. I am out of reasons. I have done about 50 plates now and it still is a problem. Any other ideas????

Blogger Lydia said...
I've been racking my brain to help you figure out why the ModPodge is not drying and remaining milky white in spots on your plates.

The only thing I can think of is that your fabric may be comprised of some plastic-like material that prevents the air from getting through, but you said it even happened with plain cotton fabrics.

Did you launder the fabrics first to remove the sizing that new fabric contains?

I am assuming you are using real glass plates, not plastic or other material that could interact with the Mod Podge and change its properties?

The last thing I can suggest is that you "undo" those plates by soaking them in hot water to remove the fabric and then running them through the dishwasher. Then buy a new fresh bottle of ModPodge and try again. But first just try 1 plate.

I am anxious to hear what happens.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
These look like fantastic instructions. Thanks for taking the time to do such a great job. One question. some of the instructions I have seen call for acrylic paint for the back of the plate. any use for that? Also, I'd prefer not to deal with the fumes of oil based. What would be the downside of using the waterbased polyurethane? Thanks!

Blogger Lydia said...
Hi Anonymous,

I actually use my plates, thus I must wash them with water. Water-based polyurethane would most likey dissolve after a few washings.

If you wish to use your plates for display purposes only, then the water based polyurethane is fine. That is what my mother does.


Blogger lealuis2 said...
I can't believe I found the instructions immediately for how to do the dinner plates with fabric. Yours are absolutely beautiful!! You have totally resolved my problem. THANK YOU so much for sharing your artwork.
Toni in Tonawanda, NY

Blogger Mad said...
Thank you, thank you. Yesterday I went to a craft sale to sell my own crafts. I saw these beautiful plates and was determined to find the recipe on the internet and voila! here was your recipe. I will surely try.
Again, thank you.

Blogger Mary Niedermaier said...
I was so excited to find these directions. I airfresheners that are stuffed animals dipped in scented soy wax. I have a candle and gift shop and typically encourage my customers to put the air fresheners on a doily.

Now that I found these directions I'm going to try making small plates to display the critters and hopefully gain some sales.

Do you have a wholesale source for the clear plates?

Blogger Madre said...
this comment is for Mary N:
I bought clear plates at
Pottery Barn..they have all sizes and shapes if you are lucky!

Blogger Madre said...
this is another P.S. to my last
comment on where to purchase plates.
I just took a trip to our local
THRIFT STORE and purchased 3 clear plates for about 50cents each
they will work great and you cannot beat the also gave me an idea....wouldnt a cup and saucer set look neat like this?

Blogger rt.chiapetta said...
I needed a refresher on how to make theses plates. Wonderful directions. Thank you. I've used an exacto knife to trim the edges, but I found it easier to use a rotary knife to trim off the extra fabric. It's a neat finish to the plate.

Blogger diana said...
Nice Post! I am looking for Cheap kitchen gadgets can you please provide some relevant info regarding it

Blogger susies1955 said...
I love these. I was wondering what the purpose of the polyurethane was?

Blogger bdee said...
These instructions have inspired me! I can hardly wait to start.

Isn't there a polyurethane in a spray can?

Blogger Portia said...
Excellent instructions and thanks so much for taking the time to describe the process in such exact and helpful detail! I have found very nice clear glass plates at the 99c store and plenty of them. Best wishes in all your very creative activities, its a pleasure to hear from someone so inspired and enthusiastic!

Blogger Unknown said...
Do you know where you got the exact fabrics you used! I love the prints and want to use the same ones :)

Blogger Latika sharma said...
Wonderful post dear …………………keep posting!!!!!
Doctor name plates online

Blogger Priya Chaudhary said...