I am a tiny bit in love with these totes - they turned out so well. They're perfect for giving gifts in, they make a great alternative Christmas stocking, or you can keep one for yourself to festive-up your present shopping. I'm a huge Alphabet Bag fan and I'd always wondered if I could make something similar myself. And it seems I can! Hurrah. And now so can you! Double Hurrah!
I'm just learning how to use Photoshop and InDesign so designing the stencils was the trickiest part for me. However it did let me indulge my HUGE font obsession (see my logos and fonts Pinterest board for proof). All the fonts I used were free Google Fonts - so if you're au fait with some kind of design software you can design your own. If you're not, I've saved my designs as PDFs so you can download them, print them and use them to make your own bags. Go. Make. Send me pictures. Please.
To make these bags you will need:
Your stencil design (All I want, Joy, Jingle, Merry & bright. The snowflake I didn't design - I do not have those skills - but you can find it on this blog) A cutting board A craft knife Ruler (optional) Freezer paper Washi tape or painters tape Tote bag(s) - I got mine here Fabric paint Stencil brush (or round ended paint brush with fairly stiff bristles) An iron
Now this project nearly failed at the first hurdle because I tried to trace my stencil through the freezer paper. It was a disaster. I almost wept. But then I Googled "making stencils with freezer paper" and discovered that I should have put my stencil on top of my freezer paper. So tape a piece of freezer paper (big enough to fit your stencil on), shiny side down, to your board with your washi tape. Then tape your stencil on top.
I found cutting free-hand a whole lot easier than using a ruler for the straight edges. I won't lie, it's a bit of a fiddle - but it's actually quite satisfying. You don't have to be totally precise as long as you stick to the basic shape of your design. Some of the stencils are fiddlier than other - the All I want for Christmas one is the worst and the snowflake is probably easiest. For letters like b, a, o, cut out the centre "circle bit" first (that's a technical name that is), otherwise the whole letter moves and it's much harder to cut.
Gently lift the cut outs from the stencil - some of them my stick a little so just carefully run your knife along the edge to release the letter. Remember to keep the "circle bits" of the relevant letters - you'll need these to make the stencil complete.
Iron your tote bag and then carefully iron on your stencil. Place the freezer paper shiny side down onto the fabric and use a dry iron (switch the steam off) to press the paper onto the fabric. The waxed back melts slightly and sticks to the fabric. Once you've given it a general press, go around the edges of all the letters to make sure they're totally stuck down. Then put in your "circle bits". And iron those down. Then iron it again, and then again. It needs to be completely stuck down so your fabric paint doesn't bleed.
Put a piece of cardboard into your bag behind the stencil to stop the paint seeping through. Then dip your brush into your fabric paint and tamp off the excess into the lid. Dab the paint onto the fabric with the brush making sure it doesn't go on too thick. When you've filled in your stencil leave it to dry. Don't peel your stencil off too soon. It's painful waiting for it to dry, but don't, it'll ruin it. Even if you want to see if it's worked, even if it's just a tiny corner bit - don't!
When your paint is dry carefully peel back the freezer paper - it comes off very easily - it's like magic - I was so excited on my first one. And I will admit to jumping around the kitchen when it worked. As you can see below the "circle bits" get left behind, you can use the tip of your craft knife to flick up an edge so you can peel it back.
You can fix the paint by putting a clean cloth over the design and ironing it for a minute or so with a hot, steam-free iron. The bags can then be washed with the paint running - but I haven't tried it so maybe test it on something less precious first.
To make the snowflake on the red background just keep your cut out snowflake and iron it on to the centre of your bag. Cut strips of freezer paper to make the square/rectangle around the outside. Then simply fill in the white bits. You could do this with the word too but I deemed that to be far too complicated.
If you make any of my craft project or recipes I'd love to see pictures. Just follow me on Instagram and tag your pics #reallyprettyuseful.
Note: I'm linking this post up to the I Heart Naptime Link Party Palooza - a great place to find some brilliant crafts and recipes every weekend. Click the link and join in.