Made to protect your furniture from drinks, coasters are one of those utilitarian items that have the potential to add subtle style to a room. Investing in or gifting these unsexy squares might seem like a silly proposition, but when you go handmade, you can transform them into pretty accessories. The materials are easy to find — tiles are available for cheap at home improvement stores, and you'll find the rest of the ingredients at craft stores. Gretchen Scronce, local librarian and co-creator of Charleston Craft Bee (charlestoncraftbee.com), suggests using an old wool sweater for the pads. "Just wash it in hot water and dry until it felts up a bit," she says. "The adhesives required are by far the most expensive part, so plan on making several sets or invite a friend over to join you." Did someone say coaster party?
• 4" x 4" ceramic floor tiles
• Paper or fabric for the top design [e.g. scrapbook paper, old calendars, wrapping paper, comic books, maps — get creative]
• Scissors, craft knife, or paper cutter
• Felt or cork for the bottom pads
• Mod Podge decoupage glue
• Foam brush
• Craft glue
• Spray acrylic sealer
1. Cut 4" x 4" squares out of felt or cork, then glue onto the back of the tiles.
2. Allow the glue to dry for about 10 minutes if using felt, or 30-60 minutes if using cork.
3. Plan and cut out your paper or fabric designs using scissors, a craft knife, or paper cutter. In addition to squares, consider letters, shapes, or layering a shape on a square background. Most 4" x 4" tiles are actually slightly larger than that, so cutting a 4" square will cover the top and still give you a narrow border of tile. Try to avoid taking the edge of your design to the very edge of your tile — it might peel off down the road.
4. Using the foam brush, apply a thin, even layer of Mod Podge to the top of the tile. Be sure the tile is completely coated, then place your design (or the first layer of your design, if you are layering) on the tile. Keep an eye on the tiles for five or 10 minutes and smooth out any bubbles that appear. Very thin paper or too much Mod Podge will increase the tendency to bubble, and once it dries, they are nearly impossible to remove. Allow the tile to dry for about 10 minutes. If you are layering paper, repeat step 4.
5. Apply another thin layer of Mod Podge across the top of the tile, completely covering your design. Allow to dry.
6. Inspect your top coat of Mod Podge once it is dry, especially the edges of your design. If there are any gaps between the paper and tile, or the coat seems thin, apply another coat of Mod Podge. Several thin coats are better than one coat that is too thick.
7. Take your dry tiles and acrylic sealer outside or to a well-ventilated area. Place your tiles right-side-up on some newspapers or a drop-cloth.
8. Following the instructions on the can of sealer, spray an even coat onto your tiles.
9. The finish may be dry to the touch after 15-20 minutes, but it needs several hours to fully cure. Try not to stack the tiles or place anything on their surface for at least 24 hours. The smell will dissipate as the tiles cure.