DIY Footstool From an Upcycled Plastic Tub

5 Materials
2 Hours

I love making useful things out of proper rubbish that would otherwise end up in the garbage or recycling bin. This DIY Footstool is one of those projects.

I used a large empty plastic tub (previously used for Epsom Bath Salts), lots of fabric trimmings, and a William Morris Fabric Remnant to make a functional footstool to match with my living room decor.

Total cost? About £8 for the fabric remnant, everything else was upcycled and would have otherwise been thrown out.

Remove the handle

Above is the tub I started with. It was a 5kg container of Epsom Salts.

I removed the handle first of all just by popping it out of the slots it was attached by. I might use the handle for another project in due course!

Attach leftover batting

Once that was done, the first proper step in my Footstool project was to give my large plastic tub a bit more of a padded look by attaching some leftover strips of quilt batting (sometimes called wadding) to the outside of it.

These leftover batting strips are basically the bits you cut off after you’ve quilted a quilt and before you but on the binding.

To attach them I used some regular craft glue on the outside of the tub, around the sides and on the lid, and pressed the batting down firmly.

I attached the batting on the lid and the batting on the sides in separate steps rather than all at once as I hadn’t filled my tub up yet (see the next step!).

I used 3 or 4 layers of this leftover batting. After the first layer I didn’t need to keep using the glue as batting kind of sticks to other batting naturally so I just pressed it down firmly to hold it in place until I put the fabric footstool cover on over it.

Give your footstool some weight!

Next you want to give your footstool a bit of weight so it actually feels sturdy enough to rest your feet on!

You could fill yours with any manner of unwanted items from old clothes to towels or even rocks if you want it to be really heavy!

I used a whole bunch of fabric trimmings from all my recent sewing projects as my footstool filling. My filling included bits of thread, thin slivers of fabric from squaring up and even bits of old jeans and men’s shirts from some of my other upcycling projects.

I filled it as full and as densely as I could before putting the lid back on the tub.

Once you have the tub as full as it can be press the lid back on your tub so the whole thing is no covered and padded.

Cutting the fabric for your cover

The cover for this project is made up of three parts:

  1. The fabric around the sides of the footstool
  2. The fabric on the top of the footstool
  3. The bottom of the footstool

I started by measuring for the piece that would go around the sides of the footstool. [The fabric I used was a remnant of William Morris's Strawberry Thief that I bought on Etsy by the way!]

To do that I simply wrapped my fabric around the footstool until it touched. Then I over measured by a 1/2″ either side (for the seam allowance) and cut my fabric there.

My plastic tub is round. So the fabric for the top and bottom needed to be too.

To measure I simply placed both pieces of fabric down on a table and put the tub on top. Then I left a margin for seams around the edge and cut in a circle following the shape of the tub.

I made sure to double check how the pattern for the top fabric would come out and positioned my fabric underneath just so in order to cut it out where I wanted it. I made the top a bit bigger initially just to make sure and trimmed it down later.

The fabric I used for the bottom of my footstool was actually an off-cut of some waterproof fabric I used for an outside garden bench. 

The right side of the fabric is a teal blue colour but the reverse side is black so I turned it over and used it wrong side out.

Sewing the Footstool Cover

I started by sewing the fabric I had cut for the sides of the footstool together – right sides to right sides – to form a little tube.

I ironed open the seams so it would lay flat.

Next I carefully started sewing the top fabric onto the tube (again right sides to right sides). I decided to use up some leftover piping at this point too. This is totally optional.

To attach the piping make sure the bit of the piping you want to see is tucked in between the two right sides of your fabric and feel with your finger as you sew along that the piping is right at the edge of your stitch line. Most people would pin the piping on first but I just find that fiddly so I just sewed very slowly re-adjusting as I went.

I’ll say right here I’m not an expert at sewing curves. I stopped to clip my seams every so often as I am under the impression that helps with curved sewing but I still ended up with a bit of a pucker at one point.

So realising that (unless I wanted to unpick the whole thing and start over) I was going to have a bit of a pucker somewhere I decided to strategically place it at the bottom of the strawberry thief design under the two birds and try to make it a kind of ‘design feature’ – as you should always do if something isn’t going 100% to plan!

Once the top and sides of the cover were sewn together, I gently slid it down over my batting. It was a nice snug fit so I breathed a sign of relief at that point!

Sewing on the bottom

The final step was to sew on the bottom of the footstool. I did this part by hand.

First I placed my bottom fabric where I wanted it, tucked the spare edges in under the footstool cover and then folded over the patterned cover fabric to hide the raw edges.

I then sewed it in place using an invisible ladder stitch.

Learning a lesson from the puckering at the top, I sewed first a section on either side and then stopped and sewed a section on the opposite sides.

Finally I sewed in between the sections to join them putting small gathers in the fabric here and there to sort of spread out the puckering so I didn’t have to gather it in one place.

Finished Footstool!

I am really happy with how this turned out and how cheap it was!

If you want to see more of my upcycled home decor ideas check out the Home Decor Section of my blog which is full of upcycling ideas to spruce up your home for less!

Crucial Cat Inspection Stage!

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Kristen Hubert
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Frequently asked questions

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  1 question
  • Johanne Palange Johanne Palange on Sep 17, 2021

    I like your project. I love making something from 'nothing'. However, I don't like the Design Feature wrinkles. Couldn't you have just made the top perfectly round? It would bother the heck out of me. But I really like your creation.


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2 of 35 comments
  • Christie Decker Christie Decker on Sep 17, 2021

    I like that people are still doing this! This post brings back many fond memories for me. Many, many years ago, I used a 5 gallon empty paint bucket and did the same thing, sewing it all by hand...I loved that footstool. It matched the fabric I had used to recover an old chair my parents let me pick up from the side of the road and have in my room. When I got married, younger siblings claimed my set...but it lived in my heart. I have thought of doing this again...I have some roll-on roofing I need to use up...once gone, I think I have a project for those buckets! Thank you! Blessings.

  • Tam Tam on Sep 17, 2021

    Genius! Saved you so much money...and a design that YOU designed!