dsc_0792While I was shopping for some bookcases at Target last week I noticed that the back to school section had a bunch of color coordinating office organizing supplies. If you bought a whole set it would cost an arm and a leg. You would have a very nice looking office though.

When I came home I opened my bookcase boxes to discover a bunch of cardboard packing material that would be easily transformed into an in box/out box tray if you just cut it in half. The problem is brown cardboard with tape scars is not nearly as attractive as the beautiful ones I saw on the shelves in Target. But if you cover them with fabric, then you have instant custom office supplies, with just a half hour of work. Here’s how I made mine:

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This craft has a small materials list, just a piece of cardboard cut into the shape needed to fold into a tray, enough woven fabric to cover it, Mod Podge or other gel medium and a paint brush.

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First you lay your piece of cardboard flat so that you can cover it evenly with fabric. Cut the woven fabric to fit your tray on one side with about a 1 or two inch overhang. I used some beautiful fabric that was an awful texture and I knew would never be used to make clothing.

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Cover the whole front side of the cardboard with Mod Podge. Feel free to give it a good covering. You want to be able to fold the flaps  which will make the sides and back of the tray up, as this surface you are now covering is the main tray surface.

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Once your cardboard is evenly coated smooth your fabric onto the cardboard. The Mod Podge should saturate the fabric and soak through. Try to smooth out any wrinkles and bubbles.

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If you are working on a surface you don’t mind being covered in sticky glue go ahead and move onto the next step, otherwise wait until the Mod Podge is dry and then turn over your tray to fold over your 1 or 2 inch overhang. Apply your Mod Podge along the edge of the card board on all sides. Fold the fabric over and smooth it down with a mod podge covered brush.

When you get to a corner you can miter it by folding the corner in first, and then folding the sides over to make a neat mitered edge. You may need to pin it down while the mod podge dries to keep the corners flat.

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After you’ve given the first application of fabric and Mod Podge a chance to dry you can move on to covering the outside of the tray sides and back. Cut a strip of fabric to the length of the three tray flaps combined. The width of the fabric strip should equal the height of the tray sides plus one inch. I used the selvages at the top of the tray sides because the print went all the way to the fabric edge and I didn’t want to worry about fraying. You can also fray check your fabric edge, or just let the Mod Podge seal the fabric edges if the using the selvage is not an option with the fabric you chose.

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Fold up your tray sides and apply Mod Podge to the surface you are covering. Use the fabric strip to hold the corners together in the tray shape. Start from one front side and work all the way around. Trim your fabric to fit the edge in the front if you find it has an overhang.

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Once you have finished the outside of the tray sides you can secure the one inch fabric overhang to the bottom of the tray. Use an even application of Mod Podge and adhere the fabric in the same way as before. Don’t forget to miter your corners.

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Set your tray up on its side to dry. Once the Mod Podge is set up the tray will take on a sturdy stiff quality. It will be great for stacking your papers on your desk, but not as hard as a plastic tray. Some other places these trays can come in handy is as drawer organizers. Instead of doing them three sided you can make them with 4 sides and fit them into your drawers to keep socks and scarves separate from your other clothes.

Make a whole set and give them to your favorite dorm dweller as a beginning of the school year gift.