upcycle takeaway containers into trinket bowls tutorial

How to Upcycle Takeaway Containers into Decorative Trinket Bowls

I admit it, I am prone to a cheeky takeaway every know and then.  One of my favourites is Wagamama (a Japanese noodle chain here in the UK).  With takeaway though, comes takeaway containers.  Wagamama meals generally come in different sized plastic bowls.  My sons love to play with them and bang them around the kitchen floor once they’ve been cleaned, so they do get reused, but I wanted to also find a way to upcycle them.  So this weekend I’ve been experimenting with a couple of different ways to transform them into decorative trinket bowls.  Both use decopage, but I did it in different ways and with different materials so I could decide which one I like and maybe do a set of them.  

materials for upcycling takeaway containers into trinket bowls

Materials Needed:

Method 1: Mod Podge, Newspaper & Gold Leaf

The first method I used is basically pretty traditional decoupage with some added faux gold leaf.  I had some old screwed up Mexican newspaper that had been saved after using it to protect some drinking glasses in my luggage form a trip, so I decided it would be a nice momento to use some scraps of this for one of my trinket bowls.  I thought that would look a bit plain on its own though so I decided to jazz it up a bit with some faux gold leaf – a bit reminiscent of some of the decor you find in Mexico as well I thought.

Step 1: Mod Podge Inside of the Container

mod podge on the inside of plastic food container

Spread your mod podge around the inside of your container first.  As you can probably tell from the photo I used my fingers for this.  That makes this much messier than if you used a craft brush – so do that instead! (I am terrible for using my fingers for things that I really should use the appropriate tools for!).  

Step 2: Start layering your Paper

To start decorating your bowl, tear off strips of your chosen paper and place them on the inside.  They can overlap here and there and there can be gaps too.  This is because if you use the method I did you’ll finish it off with some faux gold leaf to fill those gaps. If you are leaving that step out then make sure to fully cover all the visible parts of the bowl with your scraps of paper. 

I used old Mexican newspaper and I tried to tear it so I had some different sized text and not very much of the white borders at the bottom and edge of the pages.  

Step 3: Decorating the Outside of your Bowl

Repeat the process with your Mod Podge and scrap paper on the outside of your bowl.  I used the lid of a plastic storage container as my work surface for this.  You can make the scraps small or large, but if they are two big you will end up with bulges and folds you don’t want when the scraps go over an edge or a bend in your bowl, so keep this in mind.  

Step 4: More Mod Podge!

decoupage with mod podge for trinket bowls

When you have covered your bowl with as many scraps as you’d like paint on another thin layer of mod podge.  Use your fingers to smooth down any edges that aren’t yet stuck down.  As with the first steps I recommend doing the inside first and the outside second.  

Step 5: Gold Leaf

The last step for the first version of my trinket bowl upcycles is to add some faux gold leaf.  Could you use real gold leaf?  Of course, but it is much more expensive and the look is the same either way so there is no need.  

There is a proper way to apply gold leaf, either faux or real.  This is more of a makeshift method.  First, I didn’t bother using proper gold leaf size, I used more mod podge in the spaces where I wanted the gold leaf to stick. Two, faux gold leaf is cheap and I couldn’t totally remember where I had applied all my sections of mod podge for it to adhere to, I basically placed gold leaf sheets over pretty much the whole bowl, pressed it down and waited a bit for it to dry.  This won’t end up with whole bowl covered in gold unless you have applied the size or mod podge everywhere.  

Once you think your glue will have dried you brush off the excess with a foam brush like the one pictured above.  You should then find you have streaks and sections of gold leaf interspersed with your newspaper print (or whatever other type of paper you’ve used).

Method 1: Finished Bowl

Method 2: Spray Adhesive and Long Strips

For my second experiment at creating a trinket bowl out of a takeaway container I used some William Morris print wrapping paper that I had in my craft cupboard.  I didn’t want to cut it into too tiny pieces though as then you’d loose the pattern a bit.  So I decided to experiment with some spray adhesive and long strips of the paper.  Why tear it up at all?  Well I actually tried a version where I just wrapped a whole piece of the paper over the container and it failed miserably, too many areas where the paper bulged up and needed to be trimmed or folded.  

Step 1: Spray it!

spray adhesive on takeaway bowl for upcycle project

I don’t use spray adhesive a lot and to be honest I just wanted to experiment with it.  Which is why it is listed as optional in the materials list.  If you don’t have it or you don’t want to use it, just use mod podge instead.

I started by spraying the inside all over.  Before you do this cut your paper into strips, as unlike other adhesives this only stays tacky for so long.   Ideally you want to stick down your paper within 1-3 minutes of spraying it on.

Step 2: Lay down your Paper Strips

My strips of paper were basically the length of the paper I had.  Long enough to wrap over the edge of the bowl and ideally most of the length of the outside of the bowl too.  

I started with one strip pressed down on the centre bottom of the bowl up to one edge. I then added my strips to leave no gaps but without much overlapping.

Step 3: Continue to the outside of the Bowl

So you can see from the first photo above that I ended up with a starburst of paper strips once I’d covered the inside of my bowl.  I then sprayed the adhesive to the outside of the bowl and wrapped the strips over the outside.  I pressed down over the edges and curves as I went.

When I got back to the opposite edge if the strip was too long, I cut it off. If it was too short, I added another one until the whole bowl was covered.  

Step 4: Mod Podge to Protect and Seal

William Morris trinket bowl diy

Lastly, even though I was using spray adhesive to attach the paper, I still used mod podge to join and seal the edges and to give the whole thing a protective coating as I  intend to use these bowls for tossing jewellery into when I’m too tired to put it away properly.

Method 2: Finished Bowl

Which one do you think turned out best?

Now I just need to decide which one I want to do more of.  On the whole I think I prefer the mexican newspaper/gold leaf one. What about you?

anthropology style trinket bowls from takeaway containers upcycle project

Looking for more upcycle projects to do with items you might otherwise recycle or send to landfill?  Check our our list of projects from rubbish that you will actually want to keep.

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trinket bowl decoupage tutorial from takeaway containers
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