HOME DECOR DIY: Oversized Lap Desk For Mermaids

I made this oversized lap desk with an abstract mermaid pattern, for a Fairfield World Poly Pellet's challenge with our Master Makers team. I use lap boards every day. I sit on the couch with a lap desk to work on projects, paint and eat. Quite often the ones I find aren't large enough to sit big projects, which leads to me having to move to my work table, and out from under my pile of blankets and warm cat snuggles. I have a stash of thrifted finds to use in projects. My daughter found this old oversized tray in my thrift stash. I looked at it for a while, in the correct orientation, unsure if it would work. Then I flipped it over. The back is nice and smooth, perfect for work on large projects! For the artwork, I chose an abstract mermaid scale pattern. You could paint any design you want. I used black cotton fabric, reinforced with Fairfield World Smooth interfacing, for the bottom.

Most of these are Amazon Affiliate links. Any purchases using those links, will result in Amazon paying me a small commision. Fairfield World and Dritz provided me with their products for this project. DecoArt provided me with some of the paint. Fairfield World paid me to create this project. I use these links as references to show you the products I used, if possible.


1) My tray has black handles that are screwed on. I unscrewed the handles. I set them aside with the screws attached to the handles. If your tray doesn't have handles, skip this step.

2) Flip the tray over. Using the wide flat paintbrush and white gesso, paint the tray back and sides. Let dry and repeat in a different direction. Let fully dry between layers. Once fully dry, sand the surface, to remove any bumps. Use a paper towel to remove the dust. Rinse and dry the paintbrush.

3) Squeeze a little of each paint color, except black, onto one or two paper plates. I used two, because I had too many colors for just one plate.

4) Paint an abstract patchwork using all the colors. I try to balance out the shades. Some colors might need multiple coats until the color is opaque and not streaky. Let the paint dry between coats, for more even coverage. There's no wrong way to do this.

5) Squeeze some black paint onto a paper plate. With the liner brush, paint alternating scales. These are basic curves like you would do to form a D.

6) For the sides, continue the edge colors down in stripes. Rinse and dry the paintbrush between each color. With black, paint semi-evenly spaced stripe lines. I segmented the colored stripes with black lines. The line don't need to be even. We're going for whimsy, not perfection. Rinse and dry the paintbrush. Let the paint dry completely.

7) Shake the Krylon Clear Polyurethane can for 1-2 minutes. Spray a thin even coat on the top and sides. Let dry for 15-30 minutes. If it's humid outside, bring the tray inside to dry. Give the tray a second coat.

8) Screw the handles back onto the tray.

9) Measure the outer tray edge. My tray is 18" by 21.75". Add 5" to each measurement. That made mine 23" by 26.75. On the black cotton, with the ruler and dressmaker's pencil, mark out a rectangle that is the exact tray measurements and another than is the increased measurements. On the Smooth fusible interfacing, mark out a rectangle that is slightly larger than the increased measurements. Cut out all piece.

10) Iron the cotton rectangles flat. Fuse the bigger rectangle to the Smooth rectangle. Fold in the edges 1/2" and iron into place.

11) Load the sewing machine with black thread. Straight stitch 1/4" from the folded edges.

12) On the Smooth side, with the black marker, draw squares 1.5"-2" in at each corner.

13) Fold the corners along those lines, like a dart. Straight stitch down those lines. This boxes out the fabric. Trim the bulk back to 1/4".

14) Center the smaller rectangle inside the Smooth rectangle. Straight pin in place. At the sewing machine, straight stitch around the smaller rectangle's edges, leaving a 6" gap. This is a separation for the Poly-Pellets, so they don't mix with the Poly-Fil.

15) Cut one corner of a Poly-Pellets bag. Pour the pellets into the separation, through the gap. I used three full bags.

16) Straight stitch the gap closed.

17) Center the tray onto the smaller rectangle. Plug in the hot glue gun and add a glue stick. The glue is a temporary hold, before adding nails. Work one side at a time, lifting the tray slightly. Hot glue the fabric edges along the tray sides, overlapping about 1/2"-1". Leave one side open.

18) Stuff the tray and fabric with Poly-Fil.

19) Hot glue that last fabric edge to the tray.

20) Prop the tray up on one side. Starting by a corner, hold one decorative nail with your fingers or pliers. Using the tack hammer, hammer the nail into the wood tray. Repeat by the other corner. Then, the center. I continued to divide the section with nails, to make the nails as evenly spaced as possible. If you wanted these exactly even, measure with the ruler and mark with the dressmaker's pencil. I eyeballed it. Next time, I might measure.

That's all for this project. All week, the Fairfield World Master Makers will be posting their Poly-Pellets challenge projects. I'm currently on vacation and unable to link to those for you all. I'll throw their project links on here, if I can, when I return. Like I mentioned before, you can choose any design and colors you want. I think this design is pretty simple and imperfect, which is great for beginner painters. My tray is oversized, but your tray might be smaller. This project can be scaled to any size. Just remember that smaller trays may not need as many Poly-Pellets to weight the bottom, so use less bags for a small tray. Whatever you're making, have fun with it! Happy Makery!


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