How to Cover a Desk With Fabric
Although the method of attaching materials with glue -- decoupage -- started in 12th-century China as a way to adorn lanterns, windows and gift boxes with paper cutouts, the process works the same for furniture. But for the decoupage method to work correctly with fabric, you need a thin, colorfast material, such as an inexpensive cotton or polyester. Do not use heavier fabrics, or you'll be disappointed with the results. Let your creativity decide how much of the desk to cover in a way that looks the best.
The Prep Work
Measure the desk top and all its flat surfaces you want to cover. Combine the length measurements together to calculate how much fabric you need. Fabric comes in yards -- 36-inch lengths -- and various widths, found on the bolt of fabric. After adding the length measurements together, divide by 36 to determine how many yards you need. For example, a desk 4 feet wide and 5 feet long requires a fabric width of at least 50 inches or greater, and 2 yards of fabric just to cover the desk top.
Prewash the cotton fabric in warm water to shrink it, and then dry it in the dryer. It may come out of the dryer wrinkled, so iron it flat on an ironing board with a hot iron.
Cut the fabric to fit the top of the desk top with enough of an edge to fold completely over the desk edges. Cut additional pieces for drawer fronts in the same way, as the fabric needs to fold over. For the face of the desk, remove the drawers to cut the fabric to fit.
Make fabric cutouts for the legs of the desk and any other places you want to cover with fabric. Lay out all the cutout pieces so they're organized for easy access.
Clean the desk completely with soap and water, drying it with a soft cloth.
Arrange the pieces of fabric on the furniture to ensure you have a good fit before you begin gluing. Make any adjustments as needed, or cut new pieces if needed for a proper fit.
Apply a thin layer of glue to the entire surface of the desk top and beneath the edges with a small paintbrush. Position the fabric carefully onto the desk top, folding over the fabric around the desk's edges. Smooth out any wrinkles with your hand, the Popsicle stick or craft bone.
Add the fabric to the desktop, smoothing it as you work. You must work quickly as the glue generally begins to dry in about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on weather conditions and humidity.
Allow the glue and fabric to thoroughly dry. When the glue is dry, the fabric will be hard to the touch. Your fingernail should not be able to indent the fabric. If it can, the glue is not thoroughly dry yet.
Mix 3 parts of glue to 1 part of water in a clean bowl. This diluted decoupage mixture goes over the top of the fabric on the desk.
Coat the entire desk atop the fabric with the diluted glue-and-water mixture. Apply it evenly and smoothly over the entire surface of the fabric on the desk.
Wait for the glue to dry completely overnight. The glue dries clear and should be hard. If it's still soft, but clear, it is not thoroughly cured.
Apply your desired finish coat once the glue has dried. If you don't want to add a polyurethane finish, you can coat with more of the diluted decoupage mixture, as long as you let each coat thoroughly dry.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.