Lap Desk Tutorial – with guest Pleased as Punch

Hi!  I’m Rachel, visiting from Pleased as Punch.  I’m thrilled to be here at Brassy Apple…Meg has been a favorite of mine ever since her “boxy-to-foxy” t-shirt refashion last year!  My blog is a place for me to post about the creative things I like to do for my family & my home.  Sewing is my “first love,” but I really do enjoy all kinds of crafting as well.  I especially love to make things that would otherwise cost a lot more if I were to buy it in a store.  So let’s get into this project, shall we?
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 12×16 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 12×16 (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!
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 to…it 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!  
Hey Meg, thanks for having me over to your blog today!  🙂


  1. These are awesome! Thanks for sharing the tutorial!:)

  2. Great idea. I have some hard placemats that I thought would make a great craft project but never did anything with them. I think I might just have to make a lap desk for my daughter. I think the cork side as the top might be a fun nonslip surface.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. What a clever tutorial!!! Now I’m going to be scavenging the thrift stores for old wooden puzzles! LOL!

  4. Seriously genius…how fantastically clever…

  5. What a great idea…and such a clear & thorough tutorial! Perfect back-to-school project. 🙂

  6. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [12 Aug 01:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  7. How cute!!! What a clever idea!

  8. Perfect idea I am defiantly doing this. I did need an excuse for a hot glue gun too. I had one of these when I was a kid it was horrible brown plastic top. Thanks

  9. This is SO awesome!! I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  10. What a clever idea!

  11. this is so great! I’ve been wanting a lap desk for my laptop for some time now but couldn’t bring myself to pay for one. Thanks for the tutorial.

  12. That’s as great idea! I wonder if it will encourage my kids to do their homework.

  13. Too easy, I am going to make this for my girl. Thanks for sharing.


  14. GREAT idea! Kids and school work NO! (Well mine are grown and gone…ha) ME! Yes…For my crafty watching tv nights! LOL Thanks for sharing!

  15. Wonderful! I’m so going to have to make some!

  16. Great idea, better than the ones in the store. I want an adult size one for me 🙂 The glue gun worked well, eh. I re-upholstered a love seat with denim, using a glue gun, and a lot of glue sticks, ha ha. It lasted 18 years! I finally got tired of it. My name is Loo.

  17. It just occurred to me, I wonder. Could we just glue a pillow to the old wooden puzzle? Wouldn’t have to do any sewing! Now you’ve got me thinking. Thanks.

  18. A lap desk… I so need it 🙂 It can be a perfect reason for never getting out of bed 😉

  19. Nice!! Last year I bought a dry erase board to help my little girl learn to write her letters. I think it’s getting a new bottom!! Thanks for the idea!

  20. Oh this is just too good to be true! I love my lap boards (I am using one right now) and to make one in my own ‘style’ would be just awesome! Thanks!!!!

    I would love to see your work added to the site. It is a new quilty/sewing site a la ravelry:) (full disclosure – I am a cofounder).

  21. Adding to my ‘things to make for Christmas’ File!

  22. Brilliant, brilliant idea! Shared the link over at my blog, SEW that!

  23. If you made a pillow and used strips of velcro to adhere it would make it washable. Thanks for the inspiration.

  24. Brilliant!!!! I was just about to order some lap desks from pottery barn teen at about $59 each!!! You rock!! I am making extra for the car as well as their playroom!

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  26. Just made mine! Just what I wanted!!! Thanks for a great tutorial!!!

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