Personalizing items and monogramming have always been in fashion, and now you can find companies via the Internet that will print pretty much anything you want on anything printable.
But if you don't need a minimum order of 200 tote bags to make a few gifts or party favors, this is a terrific, homemade solution for churning out personalized and useful tote bags. You can get crafty and design something over-the-top, or just enjoy this as a fun art project for the kids.
The customized printing-paper market has expanded to include invitation templates and labels of all types, but there is also a line of papers that are ideal for fabric transfer. They allow you to print an image, a photograph or even artwork that you created, then easily iron the image onto a T-shirt, laundry bag, cloth napkin or tote bag.
Some still photographic images of wildlife that I shot made beautiful embellishments for tote bags that now help me carry my groceries and cut back on plastic bags.
The images you use should make you smile. You'll be more apt to use the bags if you love them.
Kids will love creating their own book bags and gifts for Grandma. I bought several blank tote bags and had a field day churning out fun and personal designs.
Personalized tote bags
Iron-on transfer papers (found at office-supply and craft stores)
Photograph, sketch or image as a digital file (Scan photos or sketches into the computer.)
Computer printer (inkjet or laser, color or noncolor)
Package of off-white tote bags (Walmart carries these in the craft department.)
Ribbon, rhinestones and other trims
Hot glue or fabric glue
Before you get started: Be sure you buy transfer paper that's compatible with your printer. Also, there are transfers for both light and dark fabrics. I used Avery Inkjet Printable Fabric Transfer paper.
If you have never done this kind of project, work with a light-colored tote bag. Transferring to a lighter fabric enables you to really see the contrast of your art image or photograph. Working with darker fabrics requires a different transfer product, but also some practice in using specific colors. You can raise the contrast on images using photo-editing software, if necessary.
1. For this project, I wanted to create a tote bag to carry my dog's food and a water bowl when we are on the road. First, I scanned into my computer an artistic sketch of my dog, Little, and printed it off according to the directions on the transfer-paper package.
2. Then, I trimmed out the sketch, cropping the image in a square shape.
3. I let the transfer images dry for about an hour. When the ink is cool, it won't smear or make a mess on the iron.
4. I did a test run with the images on a piece of scrap fabric so as not to waste a tote bag. To iron onto the tote, I put a paper towel down over the image, on top of the tote bag, and ironed over the paper towel. This allowed the transfer to stick without burning the image.
After the transfer was used to the heat and adhered to the fabric, I lifted out the paper towel and gave the transfer paper a good ironing to lock it down.
Embellishing your bag: You can sew a grosgrain ribbon to the top edge by machine or hand, or you can use fabric or hot glue to affix it to the top. Fold the ends and secure them on the backside to prevent fraying. Add buttons, rhinestones or anything with bling to highlight and decorate your image and bag. I made a wedding-shower tote bag using a ball gown that I had sketched awhile back. I trimmed that bag more elegantly using ribbon and pearls. These bags would make terrific party favors for a bridal luncheon, to fill with gloves, jewelry and items for the ceremony night.
Care for your tote: Don't plan on machine-washing these. I'd give them a spray of Scotchgard so that they will repel dirt and water a little more and can be wiped clean.