DIY Tote Bag

DIY Tote Bag

As with almost all my DIYs, I learn as I go. I had never tried dyeing anything, but once I had a vision of this tote in my head, I knew I'd have to experiment to get the results I wanted! I used these bags to propose to my bridesmaids, but they would be cute for any purpose. My girls have been using them as beach bags, summer carry-alls, and even as a book bag.

I've always loved creative bridesmaid proposals. For example, my bestie Cate asked her maids with a beautiful, hand-stained wooden box with our names painted on the lid. She put all the details for the big day inside with goodies like nail polish and lotion. I knew I had to do something similarly sweet, so I scoured the internet for ideas, but there wasn't anything I was particularly drawn to. Then I saw this adorable quote, and everything clicked into place.

I know the memories I make with my best friends during this season are the things no one can take from me (Although I do actually hope my diamond lasts forever! It was my mom's.)

A blank tote bag
Dye appropriate to the material of the tote bag (cotton or synthetic)
Fabric paint
A bucket you don't mind getting dirty
A stir stick
An accessible water source
Small paint brush

If you're doing more than one bag and want to make a template for consistency:
Stencil paper
Exacto Knife

I got my totes from Beverly's and some i-Dye brand dye in gunmetal. Make sure you purchase dye that is right for the material of your bag. If you get a synthetic bag you have to get synthetic dye, same for natural fibers - get the natural dye. The packaging is clearly labeled on most brands. I haven't used other dye brands, but i-Dye worked fine for me. The color was not exact though so if you're concerned about that, do a test run first!

My wedding colors are technically lavenders and lilacs, but the purple dye just seemed too aggressive. I love that these came out looking like denim. I assume the dye reacts differently with different materials so again, do a test run if you're concerned. Me, I like to skip that step and live on the wild side.


1. Follow the directions on the dye packet. Most likely, you will need to boil water and add it to your bucket. Add the dye and thoroughly mix. I would do this outside, or over a drop cloth (I use multiple trash bags if I'm in a pinch to protect the floor).

2. Dip the bag halfway for a dip-dye effect, or go ahead and throw the whole thing in (again, pay attention to your specific dyeing instructions). I tried to go for an ombre look by quickly dipping the bag halfway, then lifting out, then putting the bottom 1/3 of the bag back in the dye for longer. It turned out better on some of the bags than others. Again, the effect will really depend on the fabric and how well it takes the dye, so for a cheap bag I felt like it did pretty well. I like how each bag has some natural variation.

3. My dye called for a rinse, so I just used my shower to get the excess dye off. Then, I let mine dry for several days and in the meantime, made the stencil.

4. I lettered the quote I wanted, traced it with a pencil on the stencil paper, and painstakingly cut out each letter with the exacto knife. I happen to have a lot of experience, but if you're using a tool like this for the first time, BE VERY CAREFUL. They are wicked sharp. Do not leave them lying around to bump your hand on later! For best results I pretend the knife is just like a pen and I am drawing over the outline of the letter again. The blade is thin enough to maneuver around curves pretty well but take it slow and don't get frustrated if you mess up. You only need a rough guide anyways, and can perfect the edges with paint later.

5. Once your bag is totally dry, lay it on a flat surface and get your fabric paint. I taped down the stencil I made with masking tape (this helps to make sure the design is centered) and traced a rough outline in pencil. Again, don't worry about being precise, the stencil is mostly to help get everything in the right place. Then, with the paint, carefully lay down a first layer, avoiding the edges of the letter. The second coat is where you want to take more time and refine the edges so that everything looks smooth. 

6. Let dry again! You're almost ready to use it.

If you are in fact a bride using these like I did, fill them up with goodies for your girls! I put clip boards that I customized and designed instructions on how to pick a dress, venue information, bridal party list, and other details. It helped keep everything nice and organized. Each girl also received a bottle of nail polish from Urban Outfitters with the color I wanted them to wear, and the rose gold sandals I'd picked for everyone. Don't forget a sweet card! 

Enjoy your new tote!

xoxo, m

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