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Back-to-School Crafts: Design Your Own Tote Bag

August 10, 2011

One of my most vivid memories of shopping for school was buying a new tote bag each year to carry my books in each day. Instead of buying one, why not make one customized to your interests? Any image can be used, so this tote bag can be made for a child or an adult, and best of all, there is no sewing involved. This tote bag would be perfect for a little girl to carry her homework from school, a teacher to hold her books, or just use it as a carry all for library books or a knitting project for on the go!

This project involves making a custom transfer for your bag. Sometimes the transfer paper comes with a CD of images. If not, there are many images that may be downloaded for free off the web. Just search for “free vector art” or “free images”, and you’ll find lots of sites. The image I used came from The Graphics Fairy,( which is a wonderful source for vintage style images.

If you don’t want to make your own transfer, craft stores offer many beautiful pre-made transfers and appliques that will work just as well.

For this project, you’ll need:


1. Find a graphic image that you like and resize it in a graphics design program like Photoshop or a free web program like Picassa. Print this image onto a piece of t-shirt transfer paper. It is VERY IMPORTANT to select the option to flip the image for transfers on your printer menu before printing.

If using purchased transfer or applique, jump to step 3.


2. Cut transfer paper very close to the image you printed, being very careful not to cut into the image itself.


3. Following the directions on your transfer or applique, apply image to the center of the bag. For most transfer paper brands, you simply turn the image paper side up, use an iron with no steam, then lift the paper once it has cooled.


4. Measure the front of the bag from side to side. Cut a piece of the grosgrain ribbon to this size and seal ends. Using the hem tape, attach this ribbon to the bag according to the instructions on the hem tape you purchased.


5. Using the glue stick, glue the 3/8 inch ribbon to the center of the 1 inch grosgrain ribbon. This step is optional, and you may just stack them to make the bow. However, I like to know my decorative ribbon will always be centered. The glue will dry quickly, so there is no drying time in this step.


6. Cut a piece of Bowdabra Bow Wire 18 inches long. Fold in half and place in the Mini Bowdabra that has the hair bow tool on it.


7. Fold the ribbon in half and place it into the Mini Bowdabra. Note that the ribbon is RIGHT SIDE DOWN.


8. Make a loop 2 1/2 inches long and twist the center before placing it into the Mini Bowdabra. Place this end of the ribbon facing up on the other side of the Mini Bowdabra. Also note that the loop shows the decorative ribbon and the other side of the ribbon is plain.


9. Take the other end piece of ribbon on the right side of the Mini Bowdabra and make another loop that is 2 1/2 inches long. Twist and place center into the Mini Bowdabra. The
ends are facing up with the wrong side of the ribbon showing, and the loops will have the decorative ribbon visible.


10. Repeat Steps 8 and 9. There will be a total of 4 loops at this point. Once again, the loops should have the right side of the ribbon visible with the wrong side of the ribbon showing on the tails.


11. Make 1 more loop on each side of the bow, but this time do not twist the center. The decorative ribbon should be visible on all 6 loops and both ends.


12. Scrunch bow center with the Mini Bowdabra wand.


13. Leave the bow in the Mini Bowdabra for now. Thread the 2 loose ends of the Bowdabra Bow Wire through the loop at the other end. Pull the wire tightly so the bow will not fall apart, then remove from the Mini Bowdabra. Separate the two loose ends of the wire and bring them around to the back of the bow. Double knot, then trim excess wire.


14. Cut a small piece of the 1/4 inch ribbon, wrap it around the center and secure with hot glue or fabric glue. Also cut ends to desired length. They can be cut straight, on a diagonal, or into dovetails. Seal ends with a wood burning took, fray check, or clear nail polish.


15. Glue bow to the ribbon band you made on the bag. I used hot glue, but fabric glue can be used.


Once the glue is dry, your bag is ready to use!

For more about the craft project designer…..

For more Back-to-School Crafts…..

Bow Making Tools
Mega Value RibbonsGrosgrain Ribbons

Bowdabra Ribbon Store

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