I made these shelves to hide all manner of ugliness. This is where I keep my printing inks and the shelves I covered were old wood-chip white lacquered type that didn't cost much. Now look how pretty they are!
I used some strong PVA (not watered down), and the glue stick was very handy, or you could paste it on with an old paintbrush that you don't mind ruining. The fabric was from a Designers Guild sale, but you can use almost anything. I think as long as it is absorbent and ideally not see-through.
Firstly I glued some plain cream polycotton that I had lying around. If you don't have any old cream or white fabric, you may be able to skip this stage if your final fabric is thick, upholstery weight. If it is a lighter fabric, and/or can see through it, I would still do this first stage, just buy some really cheap calico. I found doing this first stage useful because you can see/test how you will need to cut for your final fabric layer.
I stuck the cream layer on one section at a time. I put the shelves on their side, then cut the fabric to the right size for one side, with a couple of inches hanging over the edge so you can tuck it around the sides and inside.
I then glued the whole of one side, with my glue spreader. You can put the PVA on quite thickly, but not so much that it will drip everywhere. Place the fabric on top and smooth it out by pulling it taught, make sure all the edges have fabric hanging over the edges. Then glue the edges and just inside the shelves (by how much your fabric will reach around) and glue down the fabric. Cut the fabric at the corners and where shelves meet and glue them down flat. It doesn't matter if it is a little messy at this stage because you will cover it with your chosen fabric, just try to make sure there are no lumps or bumps anywhere.
NB: Ensure all of the surface is covered with glue because you don't want sections that aren't glued down against the shelves.
Leave this to dry, I left it for a few hours and kept checking when dry enough to turn over and do the top.
Glue fabric to all the sides, turning the shelves as you go so that the fabric that's wet is always on top. I didn't bother with the back, as I knew it would go against a wall, and I didn't bother with the bottom. I also left all the shelves free from fabric because they will be hidden and easier to clean if I got any ink on them.
Once the first layer is all completely dry. Do the same again, but with your chosen fabric. Try to be neater with the corners when gluing. Note above how I have cut the fabric on the side to glue around where it meets one of the shelves. Also note the top corner, tuck in any edges in on themselves to neaten it off.
Top left picture is how the fabric looks once glued on. I have glued all around the edges because these will still show when the curtain is on. Just inside the shelves isn't so perfect, but this wont show when the curtain is on. I had some extra fabric so I did the whole of the bottom shelf.
Use a sharp nail or something similar to start off a hole where your metal curtain eye will screw in. You can buy them online here. Then screw in the metal eye until it wont screw in anymore. Do this on all the 4 corners of the shelves, making sure they are all in line with each other.
NB: If you want the curtain to hang, instead of fixing the bottom hem, then only add one net curtain wire at the top with 2 hooks and 2 metal eyes.
When I received my curtain wire in the post, I had to cut it with pliers, so I screwed one hook into the end of the wire, hooked it onto the eye ring and measured where I would need to cut. This may be a bit of trial and error as the wire does stretch a little.
Once the wire is cut, screw in the other hook to the opposite end and check it fits correctly to the shelf hooks. Do the same for the bottom hooks.
Measure the width between the hooks and this will be the width of your curtain. Add 4cms to the width measurement for the turning over for the hem. Then measure the height, I would add at least 12cms to this as you will need to fold the fabric over to make the hole to feed the wire through.
NB: If you want the curtain to bunch up a bit more, then use a lighter weight fabric than I did and allow more in the width to bunch up. Also, The fabric I used is quite thick and stiff, which works well for a neat flat cover but is harder to pull across to get in, so I usually unhook it instead to get inside.
Tuck your side hems over on themselves twice by 1cm each time so that the edge is hidden. Pin your hems and sew to fix them down.
Turn the top hem over on itself by 1cm, then again by 2.5 cms, iron and sew down the edge 2.5cms from the edge of the folded fabric, creating a hole to feed the wire through. Do the same for the bottom edge. Tie off the loose ends and attach the curtain to your shelves.
NB: If you wanted to not have the curtain at all, you can just cover the whole of the shelves with fabric, but make sure you have all ends and fraying edges tucked away!
And voila! You have some beautiful shelves. Enjoy.