How to: Print your own tote bag

** This is a post that I originally shared over on NE Day Crafts - but I thought I'd share it here with you guys too! **

For a while now, its seemed like tote bags are all the rage. Every time I walk around town I spy one with a quirky illustration or bold slogan. For something, at its essence, so simple, creating one of my own has always felt a little beyond my abilities. After all, not many people have screenprinting facilities at their disposal!

All is not lost however, as Ive discovered a nifty little technique which achieves the same result, but with a fraction of the kit – and Im about to share it with you all today. Lets get started shall we?

You will need:

• A plain canvas tote bag
• Fabric paint in a contrasting colour to your bag (Ive used a beige bag with black paint here, but a black bag with white paint would look fantastic!)
• A computer and a printer
• A scalpel and cutting mat
• An ironing board and iron
• A sponge or paint brush

And the secret ingredient?

• Freezer Paper – you can pick this up at large hobby stores (though our US friends can buy it easily with their groceries)

1. First off you need to pick your image. Id advise choosing something that wont be too complicate to cut out. I chose an ampersand (bit of an obsession of mine – Im a bit of a typography geek!). If you, like me, choose a letter, dont worry about any areas within your image you dont want to print – this isnt like stenciling, these can easily accommodated, fear not!

2. Once you have your image, measure your bag and print out a version that sits nicely within this size. For your average tote bag, something roughly A4 size is perfect. Make sure your image is a nice high contrast one, youll be tracing it later so youll need to be able to see it clearly.

3. Next, place your printed version on the cutting mat underneath an equally sized piece of freezer paper (with the waxed side facing down). Use your print out as a template to cut out your image from the freezer paper with the scalpel.

4.  Right! Thats the fiddly bit over with. Now its time to position your freezer paper template where you want it on your bag. Then, with your iron on a non-steam setting, press the paper onto the fabric. Youll notice that its sticking to your bag – go over all the edge to make sure there are no bits left unstuck. If there are any bits within your image that you want to block out (like the inner loops of my ampersand), you can iron them on separately now.

5. All stuck? Time to paint! It goes without saying that at this stage, you need to be pretty careful as any fabric paint that gets on your clothing is staying put! Take your sponge and dab on the paint evenly till all the areas within the template are covered. If youre using a dark colour, I sometimes find it helpful to put a bit of card or wood in the bag to stop any excess paint bleeding through to the other side.

6. Now we play the waiting game. If youre impatient like me, you can speed things up a little bit with a hairdryer though.

7. Once your paint is completely dry, unpick an edge of your template and start to peel your template away. Your beautifully customised tote bag is all ready!

And its that easy! I created mine in less than an hour – near-instant craft satisfaction. Why not run up a batch as presents or personalise them with family members initials? The possibilities are endless!

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