Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tutorial: DIY Lap Desk

***Hey, are you here from Pinterest?  Hello!  :)  I'm so glad you found your way to my blog. I hope you look around!  I write about all sorts of things, but mostly focus on sewing & needlework.   I have recently changed the name & url of my blog - it used to be Pleased as Punch; now it's Gilbert Street Stitches.  If you'd like to start receiving posts from here in your reader or email, go ahead and subscribe!  The buttons are to the right.  :)  Why don't you drop me a note to say hi; I always love to meet new readers!***

Now, on to the reason you are here in the first place...

When I was in high school and college, I had this great beanbag lap desk.  I did all my homework on it...I could sit on my bedroom floor, on the bed, on the couch...wherever!  It was just perfect.  I decided that I wanted to get my kids each their own lap desk for doing their own homework.  Well, have you looked online lately?  The best price I could find was about $24 + shipping.  As IF!   

So, with a little sewing (straight lines only, I promise!), a little hot glue, and a lot of resourcefulness, I made my kids each their own lap desk, and spent $2.50 total, by using mostly what I had around the house.  Now, of course, this will vary from person to person, but I know that anyone can do this project for under $5.  I'll show you how!

STEP 1: Find a suitable board for the top of the desk.  
Wanna know what I used?  A hard (cork-backed) placemat for one (the one in the pictures), and the bottom of a kids' wooden puzzle for the other one (with decorative contact paper on the top - that was my $2.50).  I raided my kids' playroom and found the puzzle (that they no longer play with), and I had the placemat from at least a year ago.  I found it on clearance somewhere and thought it would someday be useful.  Don't have these things?  Look in Goodwill!  You could use almost anything!  You just want a good surface to be able to lean on to write.  Be resourceful!  The approximate size you want your board to be is about 12x16 inches. 

STEP 2: Cut out your main fabric.
Measure your board, and add 6" to the width, and 6" to the height.  These will be the dimensions for your fabric.  If you have a board that's 12x16 (or close), a fat quarter (which you can get for like .99) will work great, and you won't have to cut anything!  Precision is not all that necessary; we're not doing quantum physics here!

That's about an extra 3" all around.  Won't this fabric look cute?
STEP 3: Make your piping*. 
*Fear not!  Piping seems like it would be difficult to make, but it's actually not.  If you want to impress your friends and amaze your neighbors, try it out.  You'll even amaze yourself.  Piping makes this lap desk look great, and it also makes it super-easy to assemble.  It's worth the extra step, trust me!
Check out my piping tutorial here.  

STEP 4: Sew your fabric into a box-like shape.
With right sides together, one corner at a time, fold each corner over onto itself, like this: 

Measure on the raw edge: 3" from the point.  Make a little mark.  Then, from that mark, draw a line perpendicular to the raw edge, like this: 

Repeat with each of the other corners.  Cut off the "flaps," and turn right side out.  

I present to you: the Floppy Fabric Box that is impossible to get a good picture of.

Now we're getting somewhere!

STEP 5: Sew piping to the main fabric.
With raw edges together, on the right side of your main fabric, sew the piping to your fabric.  Use a zipper foot (on your sewing machine) to make it easier.  Do yourself a favor, and don't start at a corner!  Start sewing in the middle of a side.  Trust me.  And leave about an inch of un-sewn piping at the beginning, so you can easily tuck it in when you get to the end.  Again, trust me.  ;)
raw edges lined up

don't freak out when you come to a corner of your main fabric; just keep sewing.  No problem!

No pinning necessary.  Just pinch the piping to your fabric and sew away!
When you come to the end, you'll have some overlap.  Do this: veer the first part you did (remember, you left an inch of un-sewn-on piping) off of your fabric, like this:

Then, overlap the end part over top.  Like this:
kinda messy looking, but don't worry.  It'll turn out fine.

sew right over top of that baby!  Go slowly so you don't break a needle.

trim off the excess piping
At this point, you'll have this:

a nice little hat for your sewing machine! ha ha
STEP 6: Fire up that glue gun!
(Hot glue worked best for me.  I tried E-6000, and all it did was smell bad.  But use whatever you want, of course!)  Start at a corner.  Lay down a bead of hot glue, and push the cording down onto the glue.  Go from one corner to the next, adjusting and finagling as you go.  

you'll glue that to the bottom of the board.

No having to fold fabric!  No burnt fingers!  This is why piping is so great for this project.  :)

Here's the tricky part we came doesn't look too bad, huh?  Just make sure it all gets glued down here.

Remember to leave a "short" end open, for stuffing.
STEP 7: Stuff that thing like a Thanksgiving turkey.
I thought about using beanbag filler, but #1, it's (surprisingly) expensive, and #2, it seemed like it would be a pain to use.  Not to mention the mess!  So I used Poly-fil, and it worked beautifully.  No Poly-fil?  You could un-stuff an old pillow and use that.  I've done that once or twice before.  :)

Stuff till your little heart's content.  When you have stuffed enough, glue the last side down.  Fluff it up to evenly distribute the filling, and.............

You've got yourself a lap desk!

Here's the one I made for my little guy.   That's the upside-down puzzle bottom (on top) with faux bois contact paper from the dollar store.

I'd love to hear from those of you who try this...and please, if you have questions, feel free to email me and ask!   

Love these link parties...
The Shabby Creek Cottage * Somewhat Simple * Beyond the Picket FenceA Glimpse InsideA Little TipsyChristina's Adventures * Chic on a Shoestring * Tidy Mom * The Shabby Nest * Fingerprints on the Fridge* Skip to My Lou * Sumo's Sweet Stuff * Keeping It Simple * The Girl Creative * Making the World Cuter



  1. These are SO CUTE! I really love the fabrics you chose...they're so great!

    Thanks so much for linking to "20 Below Thursday"! :)

  2. Great Tutorial. I need to make 2 - one for me and one for my son.

  3. This is just what I need! Seriously, my legs get so hot from my laptop. :) You did a wonderful job. I love the fabric you used--you've got great style!

  4. OK super genius — I love these. I was just looking at some at Target (not nearly as cute as yours) and couldn't justify the expense. I think the hard placemat is the perfect choice. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. This is so great! Thank you for posting the tutorial; I definitely want to make these for my kids. My favorite part is the resourcefulness; $2.50 for the whole project is amazing. Way to go!

  6. Lap desks are surprisingly expensive. I love these and that you can personalize them with fun fabric and piping. Nice using a place mat and puzzle! Thanks for linking up with DIY under $5!

  7. This is so cute! Thanks for the step by step. I just got a sewing machine and I am going to try this out.

  8. WOW this is a great tutorial! Thank you for sharing, I need to make one of these too! I'm so glad I saw your link up over at Tatertots and Jello! Thanks for sharing I'm your newest follower ;) Hope you can come visit me too:


  9. I love this tutorial so much!! I might just make one for myself!

    I featured this on my blog today...go check it out and grab a "featured" button!

  10. This is a great tutorial! I have been wanting one of these. I used to have one in college, but that was a few/many/a hundred years ago. :)
    I found you from being featured on Christina's Adventures. Congratulations!

  11. I love these. I've been thinking about repurposing some old wooden puzzles with missing pieces and this would be a perfect use for them.

  12. Fun! I bet my kids would love these on road trips.

  13. I LOVE this! I pinned it, and I'm now stalking you on there as well :o) I have some puzzle's that are missing pieces, the fabric, and fluffy stuff [that's what I call it]. Surely I could do this soon. One for me and one for my son! Thanks for sharing this hun!

  14. Super cute! You are so talented!

    I'd love for you to link up to our Crafts for Under Twenty Somethings party going on now. It's a blog hop specifically for kids and teens related "stuff", so your post would be perfect!


  15. I love this idea. I usually end up with my laptop at my desk because it gets hot on my lap! I would love for you to enter this project in my brand new Saturday link party at

  16. love it. i think i need to make one for myself. you're so creative.

  17. As I mentioned on Brassy Apple, this is a brilliant idea. So brilliant, I had to feature the link on my blog, SEW that! ;)

  18. Totally darling! What a fun project, these would be fabulous in the car! Great, thanks for sharing! Good luck in crafting with the stars! :)

  19. Love it...only thing is if you are putting a laptop on top of it, I am afraid it would slide off...feel like it might need some border on the top or something? Great job!!

  20. Perfect! I knew someone out there would have just the lapdesk tutorial I was looking for! Now I have 3 of these in my future! Thank you ;)

  21. I just finished making mine - it turned out great and may be my most successful DIY yet! I am a total novice at sewing, so this was my first piping (how easy!). I used a 14 x 14 magnetic dry erase board and my glue gun stopped working for the last side, so I finished it off with Tacky glue and it seems to be holding. It's going to be great to have on our vacation for the 8 hr+ drive we have. Great tutorial! I found you on Pinterest!

  22. I like the idea of the white board, but you could also use the white board contact paper type stuff instead.

  23. I was just wondering a couple of days ago how I could make one of these for my daughter! Thanks for the easy tutorial...wonderful!!

  24. Just made one up for 13 year old cousin using an oversized clip board. Turned out well. Thanks for sharing the tutorial!

    Best wishes!

  25. Thanks for the detailed tutorial. I just finished making mine using an puzzle board for the top and I cut and rolled up some scraps of high loft batting for the stuffing. The cording was a great idea as well. I was pleased with the results and the best part is that it cost me a cent.

  26. Thanks for the detailed tutorial. I just finished making one for myself using a puzzle board as my top and stuffing the inside with pieces of high loft batting that was tightly rolled. Your idea for using cording was very helpful when gluing the fabric to the board. I am very please with the results. Thanks for sharing your idea.

  27. Just made two out of cork backed placements from Salvation Army. Gave them to my kiddos for valentines day. They loved them! Painted and varnished the top white. Thanks so much for the tutorial. What would we do without crafty goddesses like you sharing their talents!

  28. I just had a better idea.. instead of spending time on sewing the bag, i would just use an old pillow cover, stitch a zip at the opening and then stick it onto any board. It would be the same result within a shorter duration:)