DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag

Now that it’s summer, our local farmer’s market has started back up again! I love visiting the market because it’s great fresh food and produce at pretty reasonable prices, and it’s in the school playground literally across the street from our front door! We always end up buying something, so I decided we needed a reusable tote bag to bring with us. That way, we avoid the plastic bags, and I get a cute bag to carry around!

DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag

The bag is the perfect size for taking to the market with us, and it turned out really cute! Plus, you know how I love fabric projects that don’t require a sewing machine. 🙂

DIY Graphic Canvas Tote Bag

If you want to make your own tote bag with heat transfer vinyl, here’s what you need:

The first thing you need to do is design your graphic. I found a cute vintage farmer’s market logo and turned it into a cuttable design in Silhouette’s Studio software. If you like the graphic I used, you can download the cutting file here, or a PDF version if you want to cut it out by hand!

The heat transfer material is on a clear plastic backing that helps hold your design together while you iron it down. When you iron, the heat transfer material is against your project and the clear plastic is on top, which means you need to cut out your design backwards so that any text ends up going in the right direction.

In the Studio software you can easily click on your design, click on the Rotate tool, and flip it mirror image. Once your image is flipped, put the material on your cutting mat with the clear plastic backing against the sticky part of the mat. Once the cutting is done, your text should be backwards like in the photo below. But don’t worry, it will come out right side up when you’re done!

DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag - Cut out your design mirrored

Next, weed out all the extra pieces of material, leaving only the pieces you want to transfer to your bag on the clear plastic backing. Then flip the design over so the clear plastic is on the top, and place it where you want the design to transfer onto your bag. Now that I’ve flipped it over, the text is legible!

DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag - Iron on heat transfer vinyl

Place a cloth over the design and plastic backing and then press a heated iron FIRMLY into the design for about 45 seconds. The cloth is important to make sure you don’t melt the plastic backing. Your iron should be heated to whatever temperature is appropriate for the material you are transferring your design to.

It definitely feels a bit weird to just sit there with a hot iron on your project for almost a full minute without moving it around or anything (and do time yourself, 45 seconds is a LOT longer than you think!), but I promise that’s what you’re supposed to do! If you don’t leave the heat on long enough, or press down hard enough, the vinyl won’t stick to your project or come off the plastic backing. If you’re worried about it, start with 30 seconds and then check to see how it went, but I can tell you from experience that I needed about 55 seconds of heat over each section to make sure my design really stuck!

Once you’re done ironing, you should be able to pick up the cloth and gently peel the plastic backing away. The vinyl should remain on your project! If the backing is still stuck to the vinyl in places, just put the cloth back down and press the iron into that spot again.

DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag - Heat transfer vinyl

If you’ve done the ironing correctly, the vinyl sticks really well to the project! It should be totally flexible, so it can conform to the shape of your bag without folding or bending weird. And now it’s been two weeks since I did this project, and the vinyl is still stuck on just as well as it was when I first made it!

DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag

We take the bag to our farmer’s market each week, and it’s perfect!

DIY Heat Transfer Canvas Tote Bag

Plus, just in case something spills in the bag, the heat transfer material is washable! So as long as you start with a canvas bag that is washable, you can wash your project even after you’ve added the graphic. Just turn the bag (or shirt, or whatever you use the material on) inside out and wash and dry it on a gentle cycle!

And remember, there is a great promotion going on right now for Silhouette’s heat transfer material! All of their heat transfer materials are buy one get one free!!! That’s insane! You can mix and match any of their heat transfer products, including the heat transfer starter kit, the smooth material, the flocked material, and the printable material (as in, print your own design and just iron it right onto your project!!!)

Or if you’ve been thinking of getting a cutting machine, now is a great time because the discounts on these bundles are HUGE! Visit http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/heat anytime between now and June 15th, and use the code FUNCTIONAL at checkout to get any of the great deals you see below!

Silhouette Heat Transfer Discounts: Buy one get one free!

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links to the products I use and recommend for your convenience. Your price won’t change, but these links will share a small commission that assists in the maintenance of this site. Silhouette’s affiliate program is what lets me offer you guys great giveaways and awesome discounts on their products!

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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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  1. Rhonda says

    5 years ago

    Please tell me what the difference is between the vinyl you refer to and transfer sheets for inkjet printers that come 5 in a pack (brand is Jolee’s).

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      They’re similar, but not quite the same. The vinyl I used for this project is matte heat transfer vinyl; it comes in a sheet that’s all one color, and I cut the design out of the sheet and then iron it on. The Jolee’s transfer sheets are clear, but you can print on them. So you can print any design you want, then cut out the design and iron it on. The iron on part is the same, but the main difference is that heat transfer vinyl is a solid color vinyl sheet and the transfer paper is a clear sheet that you can print on.

  2. Jessica says

    6 years ago

    In your opinion is it better to use heat transfer vinyl or a stencil with fabric paint? I’ve read the amazon reviews about the vinyl and they are pretty bad. Lots a reviewers state the vinyl cracks.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      6 years ago

      I’ve decorated bags and shirts both ways! They have different pros and cons, but I’ve never had a problem with vinyl cracking. I sell graphic baby onesies made with heat transfer vinyl (glitter and flocked) in my Etsy shop as well and have never had any problems with it, nor have my customers. I think maybe it just matters what type of vinyl you use. I do like using fabric paint too but I can never get the lines as crisp and clean!

  3. Tammy Tschacher says

    6 years ago

    I have downloaded the silhouette file but it comes down as a .studio file and my silhouette says it is not a compatible file. What do I need to be able to use this file.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      6 years ago

      A .studio file is what you need to open it with the Silhouette Studio software. Though it’s a v2 file and the newest version of the Studio software is v3. But you should still be able to open it without a problem; I can open the file in my Studio software. Can you email me a screenshot of the error you’re getting and I’ll try to help you figure it out! [email protected]

  4. Rachel Bell says

    7 years ago

    Wow this is a great idea. Love the personal touch. I will have to try this.

  5. [email protected] says

    8 years ago

    Just wanted to let you know that I posted a version of the transfer you shared today. I just made it a little more personal for my little guy.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  6. Megin says

    8 years ago

    Jessi
    Great tip on using scissors instead of the e-cutter! I don’t have an e-cutter and so I usually overlook these types of posts as I can’t do the project. It never occurred to me that a lot of projects could be done with scissors – duh!
    I’m visiting today from House of Hepworths. I hope you get the chance to visit my blog, linkup and and leave a comment, too!
    ~ Megin of VMG206
    Join me each Tuesday for Brag About It Link Party
    Join me Saturday at 5pm Central for DIY Showcase Link Party

  7. Marilyn says

    8 years ago

    I so need to get a silhouette! LOVE your bag!

  8. malia says

    8 years ago

    Hello! New pal from the blogger’s FB group. Sharing on my FB page. Great to meet ya! Malia

  9. Chelsea says

    8 years ago

    Well how cute is that? And how lucky to have the farmers market within walking distance! I also love going – we have one a few miles away and go just about every week. I love the fresh produce and fresh flowers! Pinning.

  10. Gina says

    8 years ago

    Very cute bag! I do not have a silhouette, but have been wanting to do some screen printing.
    ~Gina

  11. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage says

    8 years ago

    Soooo cute – perfect for my trips to the flea markets!!

    Just got a silhouette so pinning this for future reference!
    Kelly

  12. Marilyn says

    8 years ago

    Okay, another great project that is telling me that I NEED TO GET A SILHOUETTE!

  13. Laura Beth says

    8 years ago

    You have to be the cutest shopper there!! Love the heat transfer product :o)

  14. Vanessa says

    8 years ago

    How nice of you to offer that great graphic! I want a bag and tshirt with it!

  15. [email protected] says

    8 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I just bought some heat transfer vinyl to make my son a shirt and I’m totally adding a bag to my list, too.

    And thanks for the design – very very cute!

  16. Elizabeth @ Southern Color says

    8 years ago

    Super cute bag!! I just used the HTV for the first time and love the results! It definitely took a little longer than 1 min to stick to my fabric, but it looks great. Question: can you share how to download a non-Silhouette image into Silhouette to cut? I’m still figuring out everything with this machine, thanks!

    • Jessi @ Practically Functional says

      8 years ago

      If you have a jpg or other image file saved to your computer, you can open it using the Silhouette software and then use the auto-trace function. The auto-trace has a bunch of settings you can configure to get it as close as possible to what you want it to look like, and then you can edit individual lines or points after the trace is done if it still isn’t perfect. That’s how I make pretty much all of my designs! The settings were a little confusing at first, but there are a ton of good videos on You Tube about how to do it!

      • Elizabeth @ Southern Color says

        8 years ago

        Thanks Jessi! This will be useful to know. I’ll let you know how it works for my next Silhouette project 🙂

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