Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tacky Canvas Bag Turned "FaBuLoUs" Tutorial!

This bag is one of those “freebies” or “promos” you get when you join some gyms, sign up for an account at some banks, or become a member of any number of organizations. They’re everywhere! At least, I see them everywhere. They’re plain, usually natural canvas. And when I get them, they get tossed in a heap somewhere-- never to be used again. It doesn’t really appeal to me to walk around advertising the logo or brand name of some random business. SO, that’s where this tutorial comes in. I’m gonna take that "tacky" bag & alter the crap out of it. Well, at least we’ll embellish the front with some cutesy stuff. You could transform this bag multitudes of ways. The following tutorial is just one idea. I use this technique on LOTS of items. You’ll see later on.

The first thing you’ll do is find yourself a bag. Thrift stores seem to have an abundance. Or ask your friends for theirs. If you’re desperate, find out what organization is giving these suckers away & sign up for whatever they’re offering JUST so you can get a bag!!
Think of a design you’d like to create. I’m rather fond of cupcakes. And owls. So, that’s what I used. Think of a simple design.
Now trace your design onto some iron-on adhesive.
There are different kinds of iron-on adhesive & I’m pretty sure the directions are different on some of them. I used Therm O Web Heat-n-Bond brand in ultra hold. I used “ultra hold” because the material I’m using is pretty thick & I want it to stick REALLY well--especially since this item will be tossed around, used a lot & washed on occasion. The directions I give in this tutorial will be referring to this specific brand. Please refer to the manufacturer's instructions on how to use whatever iron-on adhesive you choose to use.

Here's a great tip for tracing your design. Well, first of all, you could make a template from heavy paper or cardboard. I like to "eyeball" things. So, here's my tip: Place a large piece of the iron-on adhesive right on top of your canvas bag. The adhesive is thin enough to see through. That way, when you're tracing, you know if your design will cover any logos or wording.
After you trace your design, cut around your markings, leaving a bit of space along the edge.
If your design has a few different parts to it, trace those parts on separate pieces of iron-on adhesive. For example, my owl’s body will be one piece, the 2 wings, & 2 eyes will be 4 more pieces & the beak will be the final piece.
Next, you’ll want to find fabric for each piece. I love using vintage fabrics, but use whatever you have, or scour the thrift stores or bargain bins at fabric stores. Even clothes or sheets in cool prints will work! One tip: You’ll be covering up the words & designs on your canvas bag with these fabrics. Use a medium to darker colored fabric, or a thick fabric, so that the words will not show through. (On my cupcake designed bag you can slightly see the image hidden underneath.)

Place the iron-on adhesive, smooth side UP, onto the WRONG side of your fabric. Iron should be set on dry, silk setting. NO STEAM. Using the instructions that come with the adhesive, fuse the two together.
After the piece has cooled down, cut it out.
Peel off the paper backing. (My girls love helping with this part.)

You'll now have a shiny surface left on the back of your fabric pieces.

Lay your design out on the canvas bag. When you get your design placed in the desired position, iron them onto the canvas bag, following the instructions that came with the adhesive.
Your bag is pretty much done! I say “pretty much”, because you can actually add buttons or decorative stitching if you’d like. While stitching, you may need to call upon the help of friend "thimble" because the adhesive, combined with the heavy canvas bag & fabrics, are quite difficult to sew through.
I showed you a simplified version of decorating---but feel free to go wild my crafty friend! Slap on some rik-rak, ribbon, tulle & trim!
After washing, slight fraying may occur around the edges of your fabric. But that'll just add to the charm of your design.Now tote your hip-n-stylish bag around town & actually USE it!! I know I will!
Oh! Before I forget, I have to tell you something Mr. 'WhiMSy love' said. I was explaining to him about this tutorial I was working on. He was like, "Just turn the bag inside out." I guess that's another option I didn't consider. Thanks honey. (**sarcasm**)

I use this iron-on adhesive paper for many of the projects I make & sell. Here's some more WhiMSy love items, made using my favorite iron-on adhesive...

Mini Cupcake Notebooks

Wee Onesie with Skullie

"Wee Tees" with Owlie


  1. That's a neat idea.

    I used to have so many of those before coming to the States. lol

  2. Aww, your designs are so cute! I love the cupcake! I'll be linking to this. =)

  3. Love the ideas! My Cafe Mom bag is scrunched up in my closet as we speak! Will have to put it to use. Also, I smiled at your hubby's comment...sounds just like my practical hubby too! It would work, but your way is way more fun and cuter too!

  4. I have been wanting to do something like that with my black reusable grocery bags from walmart. occassionally i do go to kroger and am not sure about what kind of reaction i would get from whipping out the walmart bags. i mean i already have 6 from one store i dont want to buy 6 more to use in the other stores. you've inspired me to get off my duff.
    oh and soooo glad that you got to watch you shows..wink wink nudge nudge ;)

  5. Hi Nikki--I met you at Convention in the creative activities seminar (my name is Kaci. If I had known what kind of cute things I could do to free totebags, I would have made a few more rounds of the Resource Fair :) Your stuff is so cute--I can tell that you appreciate the little things in life. It is inspiring! Where do you get your fabrics?

  6. Hi Kaci!!
    I'm so glad you finally dropped by!! I get my fabrics locally--at antique malls where I've scoped out vendors that sell vintage fabrics AND thrift stores. Even garage sales.

  7. I applique on bags all the time but never thought of doing it on those freebie bags everyone is giving out these days. Gah, why didn't I think of that before?!? LOL Great idea!!

  8. So it has been how many months and I finally got around to updating my my cafe mom bag using your awesome idea! I still need to finish up the post on the big tea party extravaganza but will also get my bag posted with a link back to you included as well!


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