Quick Decoupage Table Mats Christmas Project

This is a bit late in the day for a Christmas Project I know, but I have been attempting to post it since the 5th of December, unfortunately our internet service had other plans and decided to go AWOL on us… hence I am posting this now. It might be of some use to someone out there, but it is actually not just a blog for Christmas, as you can use this technique to brighten up old table mats the whole year through. There are some really gorgeous napkins out there to choose from, and some are very cheap to buy – I find that price is no measure of quality when it comes to decoupaging with napkins – I have had some fantastic results with ultra cheap ones and vice-versa. Do think about the design and repeat though. The place mats I did here were very large, and so I needed to use one and a half napkin on each. Although the napkin design might look great folded, if you are covering a place mat larger than the folded square of the napkin, ie you will have to use the whole opened out, occasionally the design isn’t suited for the repeat. You can also cover coasters using the same technique.

All you need is:
Some old worn-out table mats
PVA Glue
Coarse Sandpaper
Fine Sandpaper
Chalk Paint (pale, pref white ) – great way to use up old remnants of paint
Cling film
Napkins of your choice
Roller (optional)
Water-based Varnish (I use Decorators Varnish)

Table mats can suffer a lot of wear and tear over the years, and can be expensive to replace but as long as the main body of the mat is sound you can easily transform them back to something smart and new. It is also far better for the world we live in to reuse and mend rather than throw away and buy new… not to mention being better for the bank balance also.

Take your old mats and give the  surfaces a good scrub with washing-up liquid and hot water to clear them of any grease and dirt, be careful not to soak them though.

Then take coarse sandpaper and roughen up the picture side and the edges. You want it good and scratchy to give the paint a roughened surface to cling to. You can also use the sandpaper to give the back a quick gentle buffing. Be much softer on the back, or use a finer sandpaper, but they can come up like new.

Paint the picture side and the edges with chalk paint – you could try it with emulsion, but I would recommend a chalk paint — either commercial or home made — just to ensure the paint adheres well to the unprepared surface. White or a pale colour is best as it doesn’t detract from the colors of the tissue layer. Leave to dry – another reason to use chalk paint as it can dry within half an hour. I stand mine on old paint pots to dry.

Once the paint is completely dry use the finer sandpaper just to go over it and ensure the surface and the edges are smooth and lump free.

Now, here comes the fun part. Take your first napkin and unfold it to measure it against your mat. Decide on the position you want and cut the napkin, removing any coloured edges you might not want and leaving an overhang of at least 1cm on each side of the mat – more if you can. As I said, my mats were very large so for this project I had to use one and a half napkins – which meant cutting off the red edging and matching up the pattern.

Carefully split the picture sheet from the two plain sheets of tissue behind (usually 2 sheets as most napkins are 3 ply, but some can be 2 or 4 ply). This can be very easy or at times ultra fiddly, slow and patient is the key with tricky ones.

Get together your glue, cling film, brush for applying the glue and, if you have it, a roller. This can be a craft roller as in the picture, or a rolling pin — but not essential.


Take your PVA glue and water it down about 3 to 1 – this isn’t an exact science, you just want a thin runny consistency.  You can use a paintbrush to apply the glue, or a sponge brush (which I prefer). Now cover the whole surface and the edges with glue – do this with the mat raised from a flat surface on a paint tin or something similar. If you are doing more than one place mat at a time it is is best to get a paint can, mug… or the like for each to sit it on throughout the process. If you are doing more than one mat do them one at a time, at this stage.

Float your tissue paper gently over the glued mat, if you get good at this you can get it laid over in such a way that it barely touches the wet glue, which allows for a little readjustment if you have not laid it over in the exact position it should be.


Once you are happy with the position, tear off a strip of clingfim to cover the whole of the mat’s surface and lay this gently over the tissue paper. You can now apply pressure and smooth over the whole surface, sticking the tissue to the mat, and the edges as well. You can use your hands to smooth it over, or a roller – if you have it. Don’t be tempted to touch the paper with your bare hands, always maneuver it with the clingfilm over the tissue, otherwise it will dissolve into one icky mess — I know from very messy experience! Smooth it from the centre out, to shift the air bubbles, try not to get creases, but even if you do these often look quite charming in the end result.  Reuse the same piece of cling film for as many mats as you can, always being careful to make sure it is the glue side down each time – another easy, messy mistake to make. Once you are happy the tissue is well adhered to the surface and the sides, you can gently remove the cling film and leave the mat to dry hard, whilst repeating the exercise with any companion mats.

Now comes my favourite bit. Once the tissue has dried rock hard, take your rough sandpaper and firmly but gently sand the excess tissue on the edges, downwards in a sweeping motion, like you were trimming a pie crust. You should find that the tissue comes off to leave a smart, clean edge – and when done well, this is a very satisfying exercise.

What you should now have is a nice smart recovered mat – all we need to do now is give it some protection.


With these mats I added some gold acrylic paint to the edges first, just to give them an extra bit of Christmas magic, but that is optional, as hopefully your tissue should have covered the mats’ edges also.

Now you can varnish your mats. Use a water-based varnish – I generally water it down to 1 part varnish to 3 parts water for the first coat, then apply 3 to 4 more normal coats.

Let your mats dry for a couple of days before use. They should be reasonably water resistant and heat resistant. As I said at the beginning, this idea doesn’t just apply to Christmas, you can update and personalise your place mats any time you like with this great technique.

I really hope you have enjoyed this project, I have found that once you get the hang of covering place mats like this, it can become a little compulsive 🙂  Do feel free to ask any questions either in the comments below or via social media.

A Very Merry Christmas to You All.

Peggy P x

Watching Paint Dry…

Painting things with Chalk Paint is a quick and easy job, right? It is the holy grail of  paint for the impatient, yes?… Err, well… sorry to disappoint you, but no. Whatever it says on the tin of your well-known brand, or even if you have read my last blog and are now making your own, the truth about chalk paint is, if you want a good end result, it DOES need some preparation and it DOES need time to dry off well between coats. I spoke about preparation in my last blog but this short article is about, well — watching paint dry! P1070142.JPG

One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the past year of doing up furniture is patience! Now, this has never, ever been one of my noted virtues, and it hasn’t come easy, but numerous tear-inducing disasters have taught me that letting things dry thoroughly and not rushing it definitely pays off in the end. I was, without a doubt,  far too impetuous and impatient with my early projects — not only with the paint but with decoupage and varnishes too — and boy, have I paid the price many times. There is nothing more soul-destroying than lifting a mask to find you laid it far too early and it simply takes the base layer of paint off with it. Or for the varnish to bubble, because you didn’t give the layer beneath time to dry thoroughly. P1070208

At the moment I am working on a Bohemian-inspired chest of drawers, it is a very intricate project involving lots of paint and decoupage techniques in layers, and it is taking weeks and weeks because I am now at a point with my creations where I have learned, the excruciatingly hard way, to paint a layer and walk away… walk away and leave it for at least 24 hours – if not 48… or even more sometimes, especially when masking. I have learned to go off and do something else, and completely forget about the object. I used to be absolutely hopeless, going back every 10 minutes to poke and prod to see if the paint was dry, and if it was no longer wet, on I would rush with the second coat, or the varnish! The thing is, although the paint may be dry on the surface. it probably won’t be thoroughly dry, or in any way hardened; I estimate chalk paint takes at the very least 2 weeks to harden off properly – and drying is always dependent upon the atmospheric conditions at the time. Exactly the same goes for decoupage, and my major nemesis — varnish! So much can go wrong with varnish, as I know too well, and you are left with a perfect piece ruined in the last stages because you rushed the varnish! 22339480_494793144220552_3755728090118268155_o

I once rushed a sign which had white lettering with a red foreground, the paint had been left to dry for days but wasn’t completely hard, and when I brushed the varnish on it immediately picked up the red pigment in the paint and I watched in horror as it merrily turned my lovely white lettering pink! I know it is frustrating to have to wait when you are so excited about your latest creation and you just want to see it done, and I know I am lucky, I have a workroom where I can leave a piece drying undisturbed, but my advice to any of you doing what I do, time and patience are your greatest allies in your quest for that perfect, well-finished piece.


A Few Words on Sanding Chalk Paint…

Despite being the “wan’ it now!” DIYers paint of choice, the first thing I want to say about sanding chalk paint is leave it as many days as you can to harden off before you start finishing the piece. 24 hours is enough, 48 is better – anything beyond that is better still as the paint continues to harden off for weeks. Of course you don’t have to sand your work, you could just simple go right ahead and wax or varnish it (again after waiting at least 24 hours, but preferably a bit longer), but you might want to sand it for a smoother finish; for a chippy, distressed look or to reveal a second colour beneath in places. Chalk paint tends to be very “chalky” when newly dry, and you can rub it back to the wood or and under colour with a damp rag when freshly done.Image result for sandpapersSandpaper is a bit of a minefield for the novice, it is easy to stand in front of a rack of it in the local DIY store and wish they did it in pretty colours, as then it would be far easier to choose which to go for 🙂 Basically- the lower the number, the coarser the grit on it and the more abrasive it is. Anything below 80 is for preparing surfaces – 40 to 80 is great for rubbing back before you paint. After painting you want to be using stuff above 180. A 180 grade is ok for distressing but I use right up to 2000 to get a great polished effect. I generally use a good open gritted wood sandpaper (brown or red) to rub stuff down before painting, then a silicon carbide (black – black/blue) sandpaper for finishing. When finishing, I find it is best to start with a higher grade and work down if needed. And I generally use wet/dry sandpaper as sometimes it is handy to use it wet, especially when rubbing back to a colour beneath.Image result for black sandpaper

“Slowly and Carefully” should be your sanding motto – you are not aiming to beat the life out of your hard work, you are utilising the sandpaper to achieve the required finish. It is far too easy to be a bit heavy handed and rub too much off, intensely annoying as I can tell you from experience!  Sanding chalk paint is an ULTRA dusty business, so DO wear a mask and goggles, sand outside if possible, or certainly in an area that can be easily cleared up , or is well protected. Sand in the direction of the grain, if there is any.


Sanding will always be a matter of personal choice, and will vary from project to project. My best advice — as with everything — is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE learn by being hands on with the materials; as ever, don’t make your first project Aunt Betty’s old family heirloom dresser,  begin with things that don’t matter so you can make mistakes, because mistakes are how you learn. Sanding blocks are great for big, flat expanses of surface, but again are often a matter of personal choice. I generally get annoyed with them and ditch them half way through sanding something. I also sometimes use nail files/emery boards for small, tricky areas. You can get sandpaper at your local DIY shop, the big DIY chains and Amazon do a good range, especially when it comes to the finer grades. My Grandad used to swear by something could Flour Paper (also known as Cabinet Paper) for the best finish, I haven’t tried it as yet but I plan to, and will share the results with you on here when I do. Some people use wire wool to rub back and finish, but personally I can’t stand handling the stuff (I must have been a mouse in a previous life) so rarely use it.20712416_1601184943266806_7785725686928375808_n

Hope the above has been informative and, along with my other blogs, has encouraged you to have a go at a project with chalk paint, the only rule is that it should be fun 🙂 If you have any questions or comments on this article please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or if you follow our Facebook page you can ask questions and leave comments there 🙂 J x

Let’s Talk About Chalk Paint for Beginners…

Once people know what I do by way of recycling furniture the first thing they invariably ask me about is chalk paint – what is it? is it any good? what is it like to work with…? so, this is my much-promised, long-awaited blog about chalk paint for beginners.

Chalk paint was reputedly invented by Annie Sloan  over 25 years ago, since which time various other manufacturers have developed their own “chalk style” paints. New brands tend to pop up daily and I personally have tried a fair few. I won’t list them all here but in brief – my least favourite to use is Annie Sloan; the Rust-Oleum range are a good, cheaper product to start with and will give a good result. Surprisingly, the best commercial chalk type paint I have used so far is Aldi’s – they don’t always have any and when they do it goes quickly, so if you see it, snap up a can at £4.99, or whatever ridiculous price they have it at. Once I had painted a few things, though, I soon discovered that the very best chalk type paint you can use is your own, homemade. The great thing about chalk style paints, and the reason they have quickly become so popular, is it adheres to almost anything – bare wood, varnished wood, painted wood, metal, plastic, fabric… and it adheres with no preparation of the surface you are painting – the only down side to chalk paint is, if you want a durable surface you need to protect the painted surface with a wax or varnish.


A quick google search will show that there are many recipes for homemade chalk paints out there. The recipe I currently use is:



(Yep, it is that simple!)

I decided to try this recipe as it ranked the best with those who had already tried it, and to be honest I have found it gives such a good, solid result I haven’t yet tried any other recipe – though I do plan to try using Plaster of Paris in the near future, and am intrigued by a friend who has had good results with a PVA glue mix. But, for now – if you want to have a bash at mixing your own chalk paint, this is the recipe I would start with. Calcium Carbonate is available via Amazon from various sellers and is around £5 per Kilo. You can mix it with any water-based emulsion paint – which gives you endless flexibility when it comes to colour. I even mix my own using acrylic paints as an additive to get the exact shade I want, and I have had success with using powder paint colours too. You have to mix the paint and calcium carbonate well into a smooth paste, and you can add water to get a runnier, smoother mix – it is all down to preference, but you are aiming for a slightly thicker than emulsion quality.  It will need stirring and may need a bit of water to revive it if it has been left for more than a few days.

Once mixed, I have found it lasts for months in an airtight container such as an old jar, old paint pot, Tupperware type box… anything you can keep the air out with…

A tea table done in my own mix – yellow and grey.

So, once you have bought or mixed some paint, what to do with it. Chalk paint will adhere to most unprepared surfaces – BUT, if you just whack it straight on without even cleaning the surface you are going to paint, it will flake into what is known as a ‘shabby chic’ look. Now, that is fine if that is what you are looking for, but the result will be an uncontrollable ‘chippiness’ which will expose the underlying surface wherever the paint doesn’t stick well. I always, at the very least, give the surface a good wash with washing up liquid and water, or sugar soap – I generally give it a quick going over with sandpaper too, as I am not looking for a ‘chippy’ result in most of my work.


Chalk paint can be brushed on, or rollered – and I have heard of some people having good results with spraying on, although I haven’t tried this yet. Depends on your preference and the piece you are working with, I think. I tend to use an assortment of brushes, sponge brushes and rollers. I think experimentation to find what suits you is the way to go here, there is no ‘right’ way with chalk paint, I have found. Give yourself permission to do your own thing, experiment and see what you end up with – I have found that hands on practice is the best way to learn any skill, and that those who don’t set boundaries for themselves of ‘I must do it this way, like it says in the book’ are the innovators who find new ways of doing things. It goes without saying to protect the area around what you are painting, that said, chalk paints wash off from most surfaces easily with soap and water, and that is how you clean your brushes, also.

Coat wise, again this depends on the look you are going for. You can wash over a colour in one coat, but sometimes you might need up to 4 coats with a pale colour. If you are painting over pine or a darker, varnished wood I have found, to my cost, that you MUST undercoat. I am now using  Zinsser BIN on anything I suspect might cause me a problem. Image result for Zinsser bin

Some of my early pieces I painted without an undercoat, I was so proud of the finished results, they were great works of art… but then horrid yellow patches came through because the varnish had drawn stuff through the paint from the original surface. So if in doubt, undercoat! Because, believe me, it is heartbreaking to have done something awesome to have it ruined by staining. For previously painted pieces, or some woods it is OK to go straight on with the chalk paint, but if in doubt, undercoat it out 🙂

One of my earliest projects,  my 5ft diameter Shipping Forecast Table which I did not undercoat. A huge project which took hours of hard work – the beautiful finished piece was a little marred by a yellowing, aged effect which came through because I had not undercoated – although this is still an absolutely stunning table, and no one else really notices the fact but me,  I wish I had undercoated it, and learned my lesson the hard way!


Chalk paint dries very quickly, but it depends from brand to brand and the weather conditions. generally I find I can add another coat within an hour or so, though I tend to leave it longer, and I leave the paint 3-5 days to harden off, even then I sometimes find that the paint can take 2 weeks to truly harden off – which doesn’t mean you can’t work with it and finish a piece in that time, but it is more vulnerable to damage than after a week or two.

Once you have achieved your desired look and are happy with the number of coats you can then sand (but this is for a future blog in its own right) and then you can go ahead and wax , again lots of brands out there, they are all much of a muchness. Annie Sloan’s is a good product, though be careful with the dark waxes as they can ruin your lovely work if you are a bit heavy handed with them.

Image result for chalk paint wax

All the other brands are as good, I am still experimenting with waxes, so will say more in another blog on them. That said, I find I use them less and less, favouring varnish finishes nowadays.

Polyvine Decorators Varnish

I generally use Polyvine decorators’ varnish to finish my work – the dead flat finish is akin to a wax finish. Easy to brush on and work with – it is a bit milky when you apply it, but once it has dried it is crystal clear, as long as it hasn’t pooled, which can cause opaqueness – best to go for lots of thinner layers than a couple of thick ones. The thing to remember with varnish is that it is basically protective layering over your vulnerable paint. Chalk paint is absorbent, easy to stain or chip and in no way water resistant when naked, a wax finish will offer a modicum of protection, but may need to be reapplied on high traffic areas and has its limits. With a varnish, each layer will be a shield protecting your paint. The more layers, the more protection. It will act as a buffer between the paint and wear and tear – a good thing to bear in mind is that the glossier the varnish, the tougher it is, though, that said, I have found the dead flat finish to be perfectly durable, I tend to use more gloss finishes as I just like that look – although I know most chalk paint purists like the waxed, dead flat look…

So, I hope the above has been helpful and informative, I will expand on paints, sanding, waxes, varnish and all the techniques I use in later blogs but I hope I have given you a bit of incentive to ‘have a go with chalk paint’. It is great fun, and easy to work with. The main thing is to have fun though, don’t expect top class results at your first attempt, you may take to it like a duck to water and produce a stunning first project, but in general it takes time to acquire any new skill, and I know I have made huge mistakes in the last couple of years since I began painting furniture. Mistakes are how we learn, errors are our teachers.  That said, probably best not to start with Aunt Edna’s precious Victorian sideboard, and make your first project a cheap car boot sale find, or a picture frame, or even a garden pot (works well on terracotta) but do have a go – and please post pics of what you have created below or to our Facebook page as we would love to see them.


I promise lots more blogs to come, about what I do and how you can do it too. Also, I will be adding whole step-by-step projects to the Projects Gallery.  I will also be looking to start my own Etsy shop in the coming weeks, and I will share how that goes too.  FABB FADS is not just about selling what we create (although that is a very important part as I am trying to make a living here) but I really want to pass on all I can about what we do, whether you are someone who just wants to know a bit more about how to do up your own bits and pieces, or you have dreams to start your own upcycling business, I hope I can inspire, inform and help you a bit along your way. I so love what I do and get such great pleasure from my work – I hope I can inspire others to discover the same for themselves, be it as a hobby or potential business 🙂

Any questions, please like our page on Facebook and ask us there or ask away below and I will try to answer them as  best I can – until my next blog…

J x

From Tiny Acorns…

Whilst drinking my coffee this morning I had the most marvelous entertainment as I watched a flock of young goldfinches rummaging around our wildflowers, feasting upon the seeds. What made this even more delightful was that the bird feeder is right above that patch but still the birds were choosing to go ‘organic’ rather than the easier ‘takeaway’ route. Some people who visit our garden see only weeds and probably take a very dim view of our horticultural skills, but the initiated visitor will be joyously wrapt to observe a mature wildlife garden all abuzz, aflutter and ascuttle with insects, birds and mammals. Our recently installed solitary bee house has a leaf cutter bee in residence, who astounded us by moving in within days of us installing the little wooden structure. We have frogs aplenty, and hedgehogs are regularly caught on our wildlife camera. There are lots of resident bank voles and a pygmy shrew or two… to scrape the mere surface on the wondrous safari our back garden supports. The buddleia, bergamot and lavender sustain a ravaging, diverse horde of bees, beetles and butterflies during the day and a tantalising array of moths and beetles who make up the night shift, and who in turn feed our skyful of bats. In the six years we have lived here our cultivated “weed” patch has brought what was, upon our arrival, a rather sterile garden into the magnificent life filled paradise it is now, just as a garden should be. We have even been graced by the presence of mint moths this year, not an uncommon moth but the first I have ever seen and ermine moths too, which are my absolute favourites.

Pyrausta aurata ~ mint moth

A recent visit to Natural Surroundings in North Norfolk has completely revitalised and reinvigorated our commitment to wildlife and wildflower gardening. The thing I have found most interesting in the past few years of gardening with native species is that my eye has become accustomed to the scale of British wildflowers. Initially, I was rather disappointed to be swapping burgeoning fuchsias and bulbous headed dahlias for tiny little scarlet pimpernels and sprigs of minute herb robert. The vast majority of our native species have the itsiest-bitsiest of flowers, but as your eye gradually grows accustomed to this miniature world there is a joy to be discovered that rivals any majestic tulip or rose. If you look really closely into a patch of “weedy” scrub you will find the tiniest of flowers so intricately marked that it looks as if a fairy has been busy with a paint brush. There was once a beautifully balanced ecosystem of native plants and animals which we humans have virtually cultivated out of existence, but, you know, all it takes is leaving a square-foot patch of ‘weed’s to grow in the the corner of your garden to make a huge amount of difference. Give it a go and marvel at the results.

Natural Surroundings, Glandford

And so to FABB FADS, for that is what you are really here on this site for. Well, what an absolutely phenomenal week it has been – we have been popping champagne corks all over the place. This week I feel I have been skyrocketed from bumbling about a bit with a bit of paint and some glue to feeling quite the professional. As many of you will know I began this rescued furniture lark with Tatterdemalia last year which has transmuted into FABB FADS – Fabbulous Finds & Designs (which, as much as I adore the Tatterdemalia name and concept, describes and fits what we do far better) anyway, the past year or so has been very much about learning and honing my skills – many of the techniques I use are craft skills I have acquired throughout my life, some from the very distant years of my childhood. I reflected recently, that it seems like all the crafts I have tinkered with over decades have finally come together in the most wonderfully exciting way to create an actual career for myself. Like with most things I do, there has been an awful lot of procrastination – I think many creative folk suffer from this malady, in my case it always comes down to my horrible lack of self confidence, it will allow me to take things to the brink but leave me teetering there, continually delaying the next step, this is where my amazing husband steps in. Over the seven incredible years it has been my absolute blessing to know the wonderful person I am so lucky to be married to, he has elevated my self worth skyward from the very bottom of the muddy pond where it lurked, and given me the confidence to achieve even the longest held of my dreams. His belief in me far, far outweighs my own, and it is purely because of his direct input, support, love and hard work that I have, in those years, published four novels and now launched my career as a…. well,  I am not exactly sure how I define what I do with FABB FADS – Teddy recently described me as “emerging designer and furniture artist, Janis Smith of FABB FADS, who specializes in the unusual and the beautiful.” ‘Who’s that?’ I asked when I read the description he had put on an advert for one of my pieces, ‘You,’ he replied… and so I guess that is who I am; I like it and aim to live up to the description,  I especially love the idea of specialising in the unusual and the beautiful – another word that has been used about my work a lot recently is “quirky”, and I find I love being described thus also… it certainly fits well with my newly cropped and dyed hair 😉

So, why has this week been so momentous – well this time last weekend I was working on my first ever commission. I was approached by the very gorgeous Nat from Ancient Path to add her company name and details to a chalkboard for her to use at events. Not something that I had envisaged doing when I began this venture, but I was very happy to give it a go (will try anything once, me ;)) and the end result was very pleasing to myself and Nat, who was absolutely thrilled with it – especially as she needed it asap and I produced it in record time.

This was my very first paying peice of work which was quickly followed by more success the very next day. Having appointed Teddy as my marketing manager (I love creating but I really, really struggle with actually charging people money for what I do – both with Fabb Fads and my writing) he set himself up with an improvised photographic studio and finally began to start advertising my creations for sale. Within hours of going up for sale the Victorian Mannequin I created a few weeks back was bought by a delightful couple from Norwich.

I was completely blown away by how much they liked my work, not to mention delighted, that it would appear that I just might be able to make a bit of a living from this lark. Given I would have to sell over 500 novels (at the 28p a copy I currently make on my books) to achieve the income I received from selling the mannequin alone, I think it becomes fairly obvious why I have switched professions (that is not to say I am never writing again, book fans) Following all this success I am just completing a mirror which a friend gave me a few weeks back, she was going to take it to the dump but offered it to me first.

I was rather overwhelmed when I found that she “love-love-loved” what I have done with it and is very eager to buy it back. So, it has been a busy week and one in which I can say that FABB FADS has been well and truly launched as a business. Needless to say, we have added bespoke sign making to the services we now offer, especially for small and micro businesses. We have lots of great items queuing up in the workshop to be transformed into quirky, beautiful originals and hopefully lots more customers out there eager to buy what I do.

Quick Picture Frame Decoupage Makeover

I have adored decoupage ever since I was a child and saw Georgian and Victorian examples in museums and stately homes. Of late, I have found myself working more and more in this medium when revamping our finds. I have gradually perfected working with tissue paper and napkin decoupage, which has taken my decoupageing experience to another level (especially as I have also perfected printing my own tissue paper – which I will cover in a future blog).  It is an extremely versatile medium and I find the end result with tissue paper decoupage is always very satisfying and absolutely stunning. I simply adore the transformation of the delicate paper into a really tough, hard shell surface which, once varnished, can even make a resilient table top surface. This is a quick, easy project, and a very good starter piece if you are decoupaging with tissue for the first time. 

For This Project You Will Require:

A picture frame that can be removed from the glass and backing.

PVA glue or Modge Podge

Paint brushes or sponge brushes

White chalk paint/undercoat (optional)

Decorative tissue paper

Cling film

Roller/decoupage tools (optional)


Decorator’s type varnish (optional)


I picked this photo frame up at a recent yard sale for £1.  Shows you how old it is, as it was originally from Woolworths!

For this project use a frame that can be separated from the glass and backboard (I will do an example of a frame you have to work with in situ, as it were, in a future blog).

Separate the frame from its other parts and give it a quick clean – a little water and washing up liquid will be sufficient to remove any dirt and grease from the frame, and the paint/tissue will adhere far better to a clean frame.

Although you could decoupage directly onto the frame, this one is very dark wood and I am using a light coloured tissue paper so I am going to give it a quick coat of light coloured chalk paint just to ensure the darkness of the frame does not detract from the delicate colours of the tissue paper.  I find it is best to stand the frame on old paint cans so I can work with it lifted from a surface, it makes it much easier to work on the edges. Paintwise, you could use an undercoat, I am using chalk paint because I have it to hand, it adheres to most surfaces without any preparation and it dries very quickly. When it comes to chalk paint I tend to make my own nowadays, but I have used most of the known brands (more on this in a later blog, plus how to make chalk paint yourself). Once painted, leave to dry completely – not just touch dry.

I am using a large sheet of decorative tissue paper, which I then cut into strips which would amply cover each side of the frame – you want a good overhang here, not cut to size.

For the glue, you can use Modge Podge, though good old PVA type glue is basically the same, and much cheaper. It should be thinned with water to a ratio of about 1 part glue to 2 parts water. Although, I am not that precise with measuring and weighing so for those of you who are a bit slap-dash like me, you are aiming for a very runny consistency when you mix the glue and the water.

Apply the glue along one side of the frame, making sure it is well covered, especially into the nooks and crannies of any mouldings, but not on the underside of the frame. I favour using a sponge brush for this, but a paint brush will do just as well. If your glue is as runny as it should be this will be a very messy job, so make sure you have your work area well protected before you start. You want to ‘float’ the strip of tissue into place. I cannot emphasise enough how delicately you have to lay the paper on. DO NOT press it down at this stage or you will end up with a nasty, pulpy, disastrous mess (believe me, I know what I am talking about as many of my early projects will testify). Floating is the best way to describe how to lay the paper down, and if done well you can gently maneuver it if it isn’t in the precise place it needs to be, as it should be hardly touching the glued surface, but try hard to get it in place first time — tissue paper is not very forgiving if handled too much. You should have a good overhang of paper at the edges.

Now, tear off a strip of cling film large enough to cover the area you are working on. The cling film is the secret of working with tissue paper – without it you will be making papier-mache, which was exactly what happened to me the first time I attempted this technique. Once it is covered in the cling film you can use your hands to press it into the glue and secure it into place with a gentle firmness. It moulds beautifully and you will find the fancier the frame the better. I also find that disposable gloves help, too, not essential but saves your hands from getting overly sticky and they tend to stop you damaging the wet tissue if you happen to touch it accidentally – but definitely not an essential.

I have invested in a roller and flat tool (made by Modge Podge) these are not essential either, as your fingers work just as well to press the tissue into the frame, but I do find these make the process a bit easier, give a slightly better finish to creases and edges and are invaluable for working on larger areas. Don’t worry if your tissue crinkles a bit, this is inevitable with tissue but I find a few crinkles often enhance the end result.

Once you are happy that the tissue is well applied, you can gently pull back the cling film and apply the next strip in the same way. If there is a cross over at the corners this can be gently trimmed back, or you can let the paper strips cross, either gives a good result.

You can use the same strip of cling film over and over, but be careful to make sure the glue side is face down onto the tissue each time. You can also use scrunched cling film to apply more pressure to difficult areas, if needs be. Once all fours sides of the frame are covered you can very gently go over the tissue paper once more with the thinned glue in a delicate dabbing motion — a sponge brush or an old sponge is best for this. It just helps the tissue adhere well and seals it.

Leave the frame for an hour or two to dry thoroughly. Once completely dry it should be set hard onto the frame. You can now trim off the excess tissue with a small piece of sandpaper by lightly brushing it along the edge of the frame with small sweeping motions. This leaves a beautiful, clean finished edge and is extremely satisfying I find, almost like magic in the perfect finished edge that it leaves 🙂

You can now seal the frame with a coat or two of PVA or Modge Podge, or varnish. I have found decorator’s varnish to be the best top layer for this sort of work, as it gives a good robust finish – it comes in dead flat, satin and gloss, depending on your preference. I finished this one with satin.


Do Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, and if you have a go at this project do post pictures of it, I would love to see them. I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial – many more to come.

 Janis x