How to Update a Thrifted Wood Caddy - With Stain and Leather!

2 Materials
1 Hour

Today we’re making over a thrift store wooden caddy and answering the age-old question: how do I keep my remote organized? Do you always lose your remote controls too? This one will keep your remotes in one handy spot!


Aside from giving the remote control holder a beachy feel using white gel stain, we’re also making a leather grip wrap on the handle! Leather grips are all the rage on golf clubs, tennis rackets and motorcycles, so why not a remote control holder? For that matter, this technique can be used on anything with a handle!

Watch the Video!

Watch this video to see how I apply gel stain and turn a cheap thrift store caddy into a luxe remote control holder with leather handle!

A few weeks ago Hubs picked up these leather scraps from a leather maker for only $10. Better in my craft studio than in land fill! But when it rains, it pours: I also found a discarded leather sofa on garbage day so harvest the leather from that too! This may be my first leather DIY, but I now have loads of leather to upcycle so there will definitely be more projects to come.

Here’s the wooden thrift store caddy before. It has the kind of deep groves reminiscent of our faux barn board technique.

Notice the water stains? The first thing I do is pull out the drawer and wet the whole thing down and set it aside to dry. And it works! The stain is no longer as apparent when I stain it!

Then I remove the felt drawer lining and make a replacement out of vinyl wallpaper. The wallpaper is also upcycled – from a wallpaper sample book.

Instead of cutting out 5 pieces, like originally, I make a one piece template. Score all fold lines with a ruler and tracing wheel.

And then bend it along the lines, burnishing it.

For anything that sticks above the edge, you can trim the wallpaper back with a utility knife held flat against the edge. Be careful and cut away from yourself.

There happens to be enough adhesive to hold the wallpaper insert in place. But for the edges, I add a piece of double side tape.

In order to gel stain the wood without obstruction, I decide to pull the handle off.

I love the smell of cedar, but the colour is quite drab. So I’m using Gel Stain to perk it up. If you’re ever curious to see how a product will look first, try it out in an inconspicuous spot. If you look closely at the video, you’ll see I tested first on the bottom of this caddy

To apply it, I’m trying out these new foam brushes and I have to say I’m impressed with the performance. Not only do they not leave streaks, but the foam stands up to the of the wood. I know that cheap dollar store foam brushes would just shred on this rough wood, but these are tough and durable!

I dampen the brush with a little water first before applying the gel stain. Since this gel stain is water based, you can also add more water to thin it out so more of the wood shows through.

Notice that I leave some of the natural colour cedar. Tape can help mask the areas you don’t want to gel stain.

As the gel stain dries, we can cut the leather for the caddy handle!

Use a sewing tape measure to determine the circumference of the handle. I couldn’t find mine so make a paper pattern instead.

A rotary cutter and self healing mat is used to cut the leather to size. A self healing mat is just as much for safety as well as it is to keep the blade from dulling.

Initially, when I went to wrap the leather around the handle of the caddy, it was too small; there was a whopping 1/2 inch gap.

But then after removing the plastic lacing, I find that the leather stretches while sewing. Just keep in mind that the leather should stretch to fit tight – that’s what you want. So, after trying this for the first time, I think it’s best to add at least 1/4″ to whatever circumference you get. You can even cut it a little bigger to test it out before punching holes and adjust. After all, you can always take away, but you can’t add.

Watch the video to see my tips on cutting!

Score a line 3/16″ in from the edges. I just use the metal tip of a retractable pencil (with lead retracted) to mark it.

If you have a leather wheel or prong punch, you can use those to mark or cut the holes, respectively.

Since I don’t have any of those tools, I use the retractable pencil tip once again to mark my holes, starting with 1/8″ from the edge and then 3/16″ in between. A grid ruler helps with this task!

Then I punch the holes with this rotary punch tool set to the small hole size. This punch is old, and belongs to Hubs, but it’s still going strong. It’s one of the only tools I didn’t have a duplicate of when we got married!

There are so many types of leather stitching to choose from. But for this project we’re going to cross stitch the leather together onto the handle using a heavy waxed thread.

Sewing the cross stitch on leather is a two needle job. If you get into more leather work, you’ll want to purchase ‘harness needles. They come in various gauges, depending on the thickness of the tread you’re using, and have blunted tips especially for use with pre-punched holes. I just happen to have sewing needles that are blunt and they work perfectly well for this small product.

I measure about 6 times the length of my leather and then double that. then thread both sides of the thread.

To lock the thread in place and keep it from slipping out of the holes, wrap the end around twice. on the second pass, insert the needle through the thread, splitting it in two. Pull the end down past the eye of the needle, then pull to tighten it up against the eye. This probably won’t make sense unless you watch how it’s done on the video :).

To keep the leather in place as I stitch, I use a velcro strap and tighten it around the middle. It’s the extra set of hands I need and works like a charm!

Starting in the first hole, come underneath the first set of holes with each needle. straight out the ends of the thread, then loop one side to create a bar tack.

Then with the right needle, insert it into the hole down one on the opposite side (from the outside in), then out through the hole parallel to it on the other side.

Pull the thread through the hole, then drop that needle.

Repeat with the other needle, going back through the hole just completed.

Now with the left needle, repeat this again but insert the needle into the hole that the right-hand needle just came out of (pulling the thread forward and out of the way as shown). Pull the thread through and drop both needles.

Take the threads on each side, and pull tight. The wax on the thread will help hold it.

This will all make more sense when you watch the video - and you'll see how to fasten off.

Here’s a reminder of the before:

And now? The end result is fabulous! The leather really makes a cheap thrift store caddy look luxe! I love the smell of cedar and it’s still fragrant because I left some of the wood natural. With the leather complete, I’m actually loving how it looks.

But before we can call this done, let’s grab those remotes!

By the way, the butterfly art you see below is REALLY easy to do: click this link on acrylic pour painting for the how-to.

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Suggested materials:
  • Caddy   (Thrifted)
  • Waxed thread   (Michaels)
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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