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
00 Steel Wool
1" Paint brushes and/or 1” Foam brushes
X-acto knife pen and plenty of extra blades
Working pedestals (see notes below)
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.
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.
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.
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.
These plates must NOT be washed in the dishwasher. Wash quickly in warm soapy water, rinse and dry. Do not soak.
Tags: decoupage plates, instructions, fabric