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.


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