I started a new job last month. Since that time I've been carrying my lunch (and random objects) to work in recycled bags from the grocery store. While this method was working fine, I decided I wanted something a little more durable and stylish (especially since I'm not a purse chick). I decided to create my own tote bag; with a nerdy twist of course! Keep reading to see just how easy it is to create a custom tote bag (hint, remember doing iron-on transfer t-shirts when you were young?).
- Tote Bag* (I picked up a blank one from my local craft store for $1)
- Iron on image transfer paper** (I used Avery Light Fabric Transfers that I got off Ebay for $6)
- Design to print
*The transfer will typically work best on a 100% cotton fabric. The smoother the texture of your bag's surface, the better as well.
**Match your transfer sheet types to your bag's color -either light or dark
1.Decide on a theme or image(s) for your bag.
Lord of the Rings being my favorite fandom, I went that route. For inspiration, I used Litographs.com. I love the look of their products, but sadly they don't yet carry Lord of the Rings items. Using their concept, I knew I wanted at least one side of my bag to have an image created out of text (bonus that I'll always have reading material on hand ;-) ). Using Illustrator and Photoshop I created a silhouette of Gandalf using chapters from the Fellowship of the Ring (it was a tough choice but I decided to go with the two chapters about the Mines of Moria -'A Journey in the Dark' & 'The Bridge of Khazad-dûm.'). For the other side of my bag, I combined a couple of my favorite symbols -the One Ring inscription and the Tree of Gondor.
After printing your image you'll be ironing it onto you tote bag face down; that means you need to reverse any direction specific items (such as text), so that they face/read the correct way once transferred. You can use any program, even Paint, to flip an image.
Print your image out on normal paper first to ensure everything looks good; especially if you plan on printing an image that'll span more than 1 page -make sure it's easy enough to trim and line-up during the iron transfer step. For ease, I kept my designs within an 8.5x11 inch print size. Once everything looks good, go ahead and print your images out on the special iron-on transfer paper.
Read the instructions for your iron transfer paper if you haven't already done so. Mine required a hard surface that was lower to the ground so I could apply hard downward pressure. I used a cutting board covered with a pillowcase, set my iron to it's highest cotton setting, and turned the steam function off. I ironed my tote bag first to prep the surface then placed my image face down. I ironed the paper for roughly 1-2 minutes (per the instructions) then let it fully cool before gently peeling the paper backing away. And that's it! -It's that easy.
Tip -be sure your bag's surface is free of lint before the transfer. I didn't consider this when doing my first side and you can see small bits of fuzz trapped; nothing major, but easily preventable!
Let me know in the comments below what kind of tote bag you plan on making!