Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

April 15, 2015

Wallpaper Craft Fail - What to do if Mod Podge Doesn't Work?

My Mom had been bugging me to get my hands on some wallpaper for a project she had in mind, so when I acquired a roll of a mid-century inspired pattern, I handed it over to her!

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When she saw the wallpaper, my Mom wanted more - to wallpaper her kitchen!  But we had already dropped $30 on a super-sized tub of Mod Podge, so we stayed the course.  Her plan was to recover a bunch of hat boxes she bought at HomeSense years ago.  She no longer loved the floral pattern and after we snapped some "before" photos, she realized she had about seven in total.  She hoped to recover them all. 


We plotted our moves, deciding how to position the pattern of the wallpaper on the boxes.  We snipped the edges so we could fold them over neatly underneath the box.  We were on a roll!

 
Hey, did you know that Mod Podging is really flipping difficult?!?

Neither of us had ever used Mod Podge, but hours of gluey sticky smudgey mess later, we determined that the Hat Box Recovering Project was not going our way.  The wallpaper is THICK and did not want to be wrapped around a round box.  Truthfully, our beginner Mod Podge skills were the bigger issue.  The paper ended up bunchy and severely wrinkled in a couple of places.


We added some black ribbon to the lid, which looks cute, but I think this qualifies as a #craftfail.  We're actually too intimidated to even tackle the other six hat boxes...


Have any of you used Mod Podge?  Any tips/tricks for using thicker paper?  Any Mod Podge fails of your own?  This is a really humbling moment for an avid DIYer like myself ;) But, you win some, you lose some. 
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33 comments

  1. Personally I hate modge-podge. When I use it, I know there's going to be problems all along the project. I have found if you work in very small sections at a time, it goes somewhat easier.

    BTW, despite its issues I love the hat box you did get finished. Very cool looking.

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    1. I think I don't like ModPodge, either, lol. I think with practice it would go more smoothly! If we tackle it again, I'll try smaller sections :)

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  2. How about just using wallpaper paste (or whatever it's called). That's what I used when I put wallpaper on cardboard boxes. I even used it to put magazine clippings on shoeboxes and it worked just fine. Maybe you could try?
    Linda

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    1. That makes sense, lol! Wallpaper paste for wallpaper...I should try that.

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  3. I use spray adhesive instead, have to be careful about getting it on your hands, but boy does it stick.

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  4. Wallpaper can be tough to work with. But courage! Take Anonymous's advice and give wallpaper paste a whirl. Apply it with a small roller for a job like this. It's great stuff.

    I have a ginormous pot of Mod Podge I use occasionally and when it's right, it's perfect. I just made a set of "adult" wooden blocks for myself using Mod Podge and paint chips.

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    1. Ooo, yes, a smaller roller would help too. We used foam brushes.
      Does Mod Podge work better with less heavy paper? I have a TON now, so I'm committed to trying another project.

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  5. I always thought ModPodge is great because everyone seemed to be using it in the States especially. So when I found it being sold in Greece I immediately bought a jar. I used it to make a sea glass bowl and a button bowl. I admit I didn't like it that much. It took ages to dry and in the end the bowls don't look much like bowls to me. But maybe it wasn't the right glue to use in those DIY who knows.AriadnefromGreece!

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    1. I had seen a ton of ModPodge projects too and I even prepared by watching a lot of videos. I really thought it would be super easy. I hate to give the product negative press, because I think it's really just me. I think that some DIYs just need some practice. I'm so disappointed your bowl didn't look good. I know that disappointing feeling...

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  6. You've got some great suggestions already, but I'll echo the go in small sections advice as the best tip, as decoupage is traditionally done with smaller elements instead of great big sheets. A brayer or squeegee can help smooth out the wrinkles as you go and I usually dilute my decoupage paste (regardless of brand) to about the consistency of Elmer's school glue.

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    1. These are excellent tips!! Yes, I think one big piece was a bit too ambitious. I'm thinking now, after reading your comment, that we could cut up the design and apply each piece individually. Hmmm. I was also thinking about ditching the wallpaper and trying thin sheets of tissue paper to make our own, layered pattern. Maybe wrinkles won't even show or matter with a really layered design. Because my Mom still has six boxes, in the original pattern, I think I need to keep trying. Maybe we can redeem ourselves yet, lol. Oh, and I didn't buy the brayer, which was probably a big mistake. I will pick one up. Thanks so much!

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  7. that's too bad - the paper really is fabulous. would love to apply it to a huge piece of sheet metal, frame it and use it as a magnet board!

    I have never had much luck with modge podge either - everything I do turns out cloudy. I like the idea of the tissue paper but if you are wanting consistency between the boxes it may be hard to create a definitive pattern.

    I wonder if vinyl would have been a better idea for the hat boxes? self adhesive and goes on easily.

    good luck - I hope you give us an update :)

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    1. I love your idea to use it as a magnet board!! We have lots leftover, so I'll suggest that to my Mom. Also, your vinyl idea is excellent - you had me at "goes on easily".
      It's comforting to hear that mod podge hasn't been awesome for you either.

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  8. I hate it when good intentions go bad. I think spray adhesive would have worked well on this project, it adheres quickly and doesn't pop up as your working your way to the next section. I use it to apply fabric to lampshades all the time. ModPodge like glue takes a while to dry meaning one section pops up just as you getting the next section attached. I have used ModPodge on several project and find it works best on thinner paper and especially well on fabric (anything that it can absorb through works best) just apply a layer to stick it on almost and then a layer as a topcoat/ sealant. If you have bubbles underneath you can usually brush them out when applying the top coat. Good luck next go round!

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    1. Yes, I think Mod Podge + Thick Paper wasn't the best combo. Hmmm, but it works well for fabric? My Mom has tons of fabric - maybe I should suggest that. I love some of the other suggestions folks have made for covering the boxes, but using fabric and the mod podge we have would mean not having to buy any more supplies (don't want these boxes to cost more than new, lol). Thanks so much for the tips. We have a lot of Mod Podge left, so I don't want to give up on it just yet! I'm willing to experiment a little.

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  9. mod podge is definitely harder than it looks! I can never manage complete smoothness even on flat surfaces.

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    1. I guess that's why there are so many tutorialso and videos. Should have been a red flag, lol. I'm determined to try again! I will pick a really busy pattern to hide the goofs.

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  10. I'd definitely say Mod Podge isn't for thicker paper like this - not sure what you "should've" used here myself. Mod Podge works well for me when using it for thinner paper. Either way, I DO think the box turned out great anyway! Very cute!

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    1. Awww, thanks. The pattern was a really fun idea. I will have to try another project with thinner paper - I'm happy to hear you have success with it!

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  11. About 30 to 40% of any paper is actually water that is adsorbed by the paper substrate. To avoid the wrinkling, the paper should be wetted. This could be done in several ways, and in no specific order:

    (1) the paper can be spread out, and taped down so that it lays flat and then carefully wiped down with a wet rag. This needs to be applied a few times so that the paper does acquire its correct amount of water saturation. There is a competition between the water evaporating versus working its way through the paper substrate.

    (2) if you have an aquarium or even a plastic tote, put water into the base of the unit. I would use hot water. Then put something into the water so that the wall paper can be laid down and NOT get soaked. By putting the lid on the container, the internal atmosphere will get to be very humid. The wall paper inside, and again not soaking in the water, but placed on something like stilts to keep it out of the water, will gain in a weight a little as the paper substrate will acquire the extra water. Paper likes to do this.

    Either of these methods should allow the paper to be as flexible as possible.

    As well, once you have this glued on, and hopefully you have many ways of keeping the wallpaper from springing out from the surface, the outside can be very lightly misted with a plant mister. This will allow the paper to keep the curl, and when it dries will like seek the curl. It should not wrinkle as much on first application, and when it dries as your gluing substrate dries, it should keep the curl.

    If you had something large, round and column like, suspended off the side of your table, you could use that as a temporary form and use a small roller to apply a little more pressure on the wallpaper to get it to do its unnatural curving.

    I would give this project one more shot. Remember, the world is filled with people who can't do things, but it is the very few who can do things. The trouble is that we all start out as people who can't do things.

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    1. WOW!! Thank you so much for this wealth of information. You have proposed some really excellent tips and ideas. I just really appreciate that you took the time to leave such an in depth comment. So thank you :) I'm not going to lie, this seems a bit intimidating, but you're so right about us all starting out as people who can't do things. Mod Podging isn't an innate skill, haha. Thanks for the vote of confidence as well! My Mom and I are planning a second attempt this weekend or next, so I'm going to show her the different suggestions. Hopefully she decides to give the wallpaper another shot, because the pattern is so pretty!

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  12. Wow, love that wallpaper. I've used mod podgy a couple of times, so I'm no expert. But I found it was easy enough to use with thinner paper. I'm pretty sure I watered it down, too, at least for one project anyhow. I use it for making photo transfers to wood. The mo doodle was gunned and used as a sealant. However, for that purpose, I probably could have use any type of sealant.
    As for the hat boxes, it's too bad they didn't go as planned. But that wallpaper is fantastic. I hope you and your mom find a larger project to use it on. The scale of the pattern is a bit too large for the hat boxes, it doesn't do the print justice. It would be great for a large bulletin board, as someone mentioned.

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    1. The wallpaper would be so fun for a bulletin board. I kind of want to just frame a big piece of it too...it really is striking.

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  13. I do a lot of collage work, which = glue + paper. I'm not a huge Modge Podge fan, either. Paper likes to wrinkle when it comes in contact with wet stuff. I've never tried dampening the paper, but it makes sense, in theory.

    If you do go the spray mount route, I would recommend 3M Fast Bond 77 - it's the stuff you can buy in the home inprovement/hardware store in the black can. I've covered vintage hatboxes using thin wrapping paper and craft store spray mount and it didn't stick very well, long term. Mind you, the industrial stuff will be "apply it in one shot, or you are screwed".

    When I want to make journal covers non-wrinkly, I use fusible webbing. I iron it onto one side of my paper and then iron it onto the cardboard journal cover. I use parchment as a "press cloth" to keep fusible web off my iron and to protect the pretty side of the paper. I think if I were attempting the thick wallpaper onto the hatbox like you, I would go that route, though it will be fun navigating the iron around the hatbox...

    The poster above also has a good point about "can't-do-it" folks turning into "can-do-it"ers with a little gumption and practice. Good luck!

    PS: Hang onto the Modge Podge. It doesn't go bad and you will eventually find some better use for it.

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    1. Thanks for the 3M Fast Bond recommendation - it's always great to know what products work. And to have the advance warning to work quickly!

      That tip about the fusible webbing is fabulous - you're so clever! I have a crummy iron I keep for projects just like this (normally adhering edge banding to plywood).

      I will definitely attempt mod podge again. I am going to noodle on all of these great suggestions and tips with my Mom and plot our course. I'm so happy I asked for help!

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  14. Maybe you should go ahead with the wallpaper lids (they look great with the grosgrain ribbon trim). Then pick your colors from the wallpaper and paint the bottoms to mix and match.:)

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    1. Oooo, I like that idea! The lid turned out much better - it was easier to wrestle a smaller piece. Thanks :)

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  15. I have done a similar shaped box but it was tiny. I used tissue paper and you rip it in to small pieces, glue each piece on one at a time, overlapping the edges and then glue over top of it as well to keep the edges down. Never had any bubbles with that, but I can imagine wall paper would be tricky because it is so thick, it's hard enough to get on flat walls lol. Only thing I can suggest is to take it one small area at a time. Glue down the starting edge and then add more glue to the box a couple inches at a time in a strip from the top edge to the bottom and then smooth that section on making sure to get all air bubbles out. You may want to even let it set up a bit and work on another at the same time so you can go back to make sure that section has stuck and not got air bubbles before you move onto the next couple of inches. Turning it on it's side during this waiting time and putting something inside to weigh it down might help ensure a smoother result. But I am guessing these hot boxes might not have the straightest sides because they are usually just cardboard and might have slight indents or bows to their sides that wall paper just might not want to conform too as it's not like regular paper that gets saturated with the glue and then shrinks into shape while drying. Hope all that makes sense.

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  16. Yes, makes lots of sense! And, you know, you might be right - the box itself might be kind of wonky but we didn't realize. Hmmmm. Thanks so much for the tips!! I'm always so impressed with how many different kinds of crafts and art projects you've tackled. You're so creative :)

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    1. I think I am a little crafty ADHD. I try something new, glad I tried it but then want to try something else new

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  17. I came here to say "wet that paper down" and I see that's already been very capably said!

    Is this wall paper that's preglued? If so, it's *meant* to be loosely rolled, dropped into a tub of water, and jerked right back out.

    If it's not (it looks very fancy and the fanciest of wallpapers wouldn't dream of being preglued), it's still meant to get somewhat moist in the whole wall-glueing process.

    Think about this way - they gotta make that stuff sturdy so it stands up to the stress of being hung. Thin stuff that would go easily around a hatbox wouldn't stand up to being yanked across walls, especially yanked on and manipulated while wet.

    So wet it down, in whatever way seems best for this paper and your box. I like modpodge, it's okay, but I bet you anything wallpaper paste holds more water in a different way. This paper is thirsty for water and wallpaper paste.

    And finally, one of the best tools when working with wallpaper is a cotton rag or cloth. Use it in your hands to moderate the dampness of the paper and remove excess water from the surface before it really soaks in.

    Good luck! The box still looks stunning!

    So

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