DIY Nautical Tote Bag

This is probably the first time I’ve embarked on a crafty project with the intention of putting it up for the world to see. I’ve been in love with nautical themed clothing and accessories for a while now, and I remember having this hand-me-down sailor dress as a toddler that I used to love very much. Since then, however, I haven’t really owned a lot of nautical themed pieces, and when I found this blue and white striped tote bag (and it has a zip) with rope handles, I knew it would make a great nautical piece, and I just had to find the confidence to actually take my paint to it and design it.

First I hunted for possible images online. Google is the best place to look, but to get a really good range of options, I also went onto Tumblr and Pinterest to find images of other DIYs that people had done. I was pleased with this image in the end.

This is the paint I used. I also did some research on the types of paint that works best for these kind of projects, read all about fabric thinners and fabric paint and waterproofing the completed bag, but also came across enough sites that told me that simple acrylic paint would work just fine, and if it’s a bag that isn’t going to go through a washing machine that often (if at all) acrylic would be fine on its own. I bought this lovely set of acrylic paints from Art Friend, a local art store, and it only set me back about $6.  These are small tubes of only 12ml each, but I am no painter, and I don’t paint very much at all, so this small set is perfect. I also used these paints for my first foray into painting on canvas (you can see the result here).

I took the image, and put it on Microsoft Word and stretched it to the size I wanted it to be. In this case, the watermark doesn’t matter at all, because you’re going to probably cut it out anyway. It doesn’t matter if the picture is a little blurry either, and the colours don’t matter at all. What you want is a design you like, the size that fits your item to be stencilled, and clean lines that help make clean cuts. Print that image out, stick it onto a piece of cardboard (I used the backing from a pad of foolscap paper), and don’t glue the paper down. I taped it down around the four corners, and this makes it easier to remove the paper to get your nice clean stencil. Use a penknife and make your stencil, and remember to do this on a proper surface otherwise you might ruin your desk or a book or whatever is in the way. I’ve got a self-healing cutting mat that I invested in a couple of years ago. It is a great investment for the crafty person.

So keep cutting until you’ve gotten all the bits (including the tiny ones) cut out, and your stencil’s taking shape! You might notice that there’s a little bit on the top of the stencil that’s lost its white paper. That bit has a lot of narrow lines and wasn’t the easiest bit to cut, so the white paper tore, but it’s still alright! As long as the stencil is fine, all is alright.

Take the paper off, and you’ll realise your stencil is a lot neater than it seemed. You can then neaten up bits that didn’t cut properly, or those fuzzy corners that bug you.

Since I don’t do this often (i.e. I’ve never done this before), I thought I’d test out the stencil once on paper to make sure it works alright as it’s supposed to. This helps figure out how much paint is required to get  decent coverage, and once you see what the stencil does, you’ll see which parts are more delicate and prone to smudging and going out of line than others. I figured this was a good way to test out what I should change when using the stencil. I wasn’t ready to possibly ruin a perfectly good bag with an imperfect stencil. This is actually really messy, and I was a little worried about what I got myself into. I’d come far enough on this project to want to see it through, but I wouldn’t be pleased if I ruined a bag, so I took a break for a couple of hours to psych myself about actually putting this on a bag.

This is the bag that I got. It’s a canvas bag, making it quite easy to paint on. The lovely rope handles really helps with the whole nautical feel.

So this is what the bag looked like after my first coat of paint. I realised that it was a little difficult to paint over the dark blue striped with my vermillon paint, or atleast compared to the white, it looked awkward because of the difference in colour. The colour looked perfect, though. I let it dry for a couple of hours.

This does not look very nice. You can see the stripes behind the anchor! Don’t have a minor panic attack. Everything can be saved.

This is what the stencil looked like after the first layer was done, so it made me scared to use it again even though it was 100% dry paint. There’s white on the bag, and it should remain white! So this stencil is probably a use-once-and-never-again type of stencil. But hey, it’s from the backing of a foolscap pad, no great loss!

So I used a finer brush and neatened up the whole anchor freehand. No stencils involved this time. This basically neatened up lines, evened out paint and made it much more opaque. Leave it to dry, and then admire your handiwork, for your nautical tote bag is done!

All pictures taken with my trusty friend the iPhone.

This is the first time I’ve put together a step-by-step, so I hope you like it! I enjoyed the process, so chances are you’ll probably see more of this in the future if I try anything else out.

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7 Responses to “DIY Nautical Tote Bag”
  1. archana says:

    Very pretty!! Good job och!

  2. sneakergaze says:

    This is great! You should post it on Pinterest, or something. Or can I tweet it (and your blog) to my friends? I think they will really like it (Shrew and Sneha, especially). :D

  3. Wow! This project is awesome – the bag looks great. I never would have thought of this – we are planning a nautical birthday party for my son and I think I will have to make mini-versions of this (or at least try to)…. Wish me luck! Glad to find your site :)

    • ochie says:

      Hey! Thanks for dropping by! It’s been a couple of weeks since I did this, and I’ve had no problems whatsoever with the paint (the paint sticking to anything, or staining anything else) so that’s mostly a relief!

      I think it’s a great idea to DIY stencil decorations for a birthday party, and it doesn’t come at much cost!

      I hope it works out great for you! All the best!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] If you’re interested in Nautical DIY’s, click here to go to another nautical tutorial of mine, the Nautical Tote Bag Tutorial. […]

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