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Easy to Sew DIY Fabric Nesting Trays

I love simple sewing projects, don’t you? Especially when you can create one-of-a-kind pieces for your home. That’s why these easy DIY Fabric Trays are now one of my favorite sewing projects!

Though these nesting canvas trays look complicated, they are actually simple to sew. It just takes a few beginner steps.

I personalized these catch all trays by stenciling the canvas fabric with fun and colorful prints. They are perfect for the entryway and to store jewelry and watches on my dresser.

These fabric storage trays are also great for desk organization, too. Keep paper clips, binders and other office supplies in them where you work.

Whether you buy pretty patterned fabric that doesn’t need stenciling, or you want to customize plain canvas or duck cloth with painted designs like I did, the method to make these trays is really simple.

You might also like my hand stitched felt valet trays. They don’t require a sewing machine to make them.

Plus, these make great gifts! Give a gift of the three nesting trays, or make just one and fill it with homemade goodies or wrapped candies.

Be sure to see my tutorial on how to sew a throw pillow cover in 5 easy steps and how to sew burp cloths (in 20 minutes or less!). They are so easy!

For more sewing crafts, check out these easy things to sew.

How to Make Nesting Fabric Trays

This DIY project makes three nesting trays of various sizes, with gorgeous stencil patterns on canvas. You can adjust the instructions to just make one tray if you’d like.

And you can use a different type of fabric other than canvas (and skip Steps 2-4 if you are not stenciling).


  • Medium weight 100% Cotton canvas fabric (you could also use drop cloth fabric)
  • Americana Acrylic Paints in Ocean Blue, Bluegreen Grass, Coral Blush and Light Orchard
  • DecoArt Stencils Aztec Pattern 6”x8” and Mod Leaf Pattern 6”x6”
  • Stencil brush, 1” angled brush
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine and matching thread
  • Painter’s tape


Step 1

Cut the canvas material into square pieces measuring 5 1/2” X 5 1/2″; 7” X 7″; and 8 1/2” X 8 1/2″.

Cut two squares in each size. Move one set of squares off to the side for the time being.

Step 2

Working with one piece at a time, place the smallest square on a flat protected surface. Center the Mod Leaf stencil on top. Holding the stencil in place or taping it down, use a stencil brush to dab the Ocean Blue color over the stencil.

When done, peel away the stencil and let the paint dry.

Step 3

Make the middle sized square by positioning the edge of a strip of painter’s tape along the center.

Using the Bluegreen Grass color, paint one side of the canvas square. Peel away the painter’s tape and let paint dry.

Place another small strip of painter’s tape forming a triangle on the other half of the square. Using the Light Orchard color, paint the inside of the triangle.

Peel away the painter’s tape and let the paint dry.

Step 4

Place the Aztec stencil over top of the largest square canvas and use Coral Blush to dab the pattern on to the canvas. Remove the stencil and let the paint dry.

Step 5

Once the paint has dried, give the painted squares a light press with the iron (on the reverse side) if needed. Then place the matching sized squares with RIGHT sides together.

With the sewing machine, sew the two square layers together with a 1⁄4” seam allowance all around the perimeter. Leave a 2” gap between the start and end of the stitching.

Backstitch the start and end of the stitching to lock the stitch ends so they don’t unravel.

Step 6

Clip the corners to reduce the bulk. Then carefully turn the sewn piece right side out.

Step 7

Press the edges along the seams flat and poke out the corners using a dull object such as the back end of a wooden skewer or use a cute flamingo turning tool.

Step 8

Sew the opening closed on each square with your sewing machine along the edge of the fabric.

Step 9

With the stenciled side facing up, fold one side of the square up and over to align the edge with the adjacent side. You will kind of be making a triangle with the sides folded together.

Sew the corners together 1” away from the pointed tip, backstitching (back-tacking) at the start and end stitches.

Repeat for all four corners on each tray. And repeat for all of the trays.

Interested in other crafts using canvas? Here’s how to make roman shades using drop cloth fabric.

Use drop cloth scraps to sew these cute pot holders.