Personalize a Reusable Grocery Bag with Photos
In an effort to become more earth friendly, I have finally jumped on the bag wagon- the reusable grocery bag wagon that is. While reusable grocery bags are great for the environment, I’ll admit they’re not so attractive. Most of the reusable bags I’ve seen are brown, green, or black with a store logo printed on each side. I know the appearance of the bag is not what really matters, but if you’re looking for a fun craft project that will surely catch the eyes of other grocery shoppers, personalizing your reusable grocery bags is a fabulous idea. So gather up all those reusable grocery bags you have stashed in the trunk of your car and let’s get started.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
You will need the following supplies to complete this project:
- Reusable grocery tote bag
- Iron-on fabric transfer paper
- Digital photos
- Computer and ink jet printer
- Embellishments (optional)
The transfer paper can be purchased at most craft stores. The package I purchased contained five sheets and cost $9.99 at Michael's craft store. If you’re using a bag that’s a dark color or you’re trying to cover up a store logo, select fabric transfer paper that is specifically for dark fabrics. I chose to use Wilton’s Easy Image paper for dark fabrics. Other than the transfer paper, I had all of these supplies on hand. Hopefully you do too.
Step 2: Select Photos
The hardest part of this project is choosing which photos to use. Look through your digital photos and choose two that make you smile (one photo for each side of the bag). Select photos of family members, pets, friends, or even landscapes. I chose a picture of my son.
Measure the space you want to cover on your bag before printing your photo. My bag had a big logo on the front measuring approximately 6x4 inches. I wanted to completely cover that logo. I opened my photo in photo shop and adjusted the size to fit my bag. You may be able to use half a sheet of paper instead of a whole sheet if the area you want to cover is relatively small. Save the other half sheet for the other side of the bag.
Use photo editing software to make creative enhancements to your photo if you’d like. If you’re using a black bag, a black and white photo would look classy. If you’re using a brown bag, try a sepia photo. Play around with different photo effects. I chose a pink bag and changed my photo to sepia. It's also perfectly fine to leave your photo exactly how it is. Either way, it’s going to look fantastic!
Step 3: Print Photos
When you’re ready to print your photos onto the transfer paper, follow the instructions that came with the transfer paper. Instructions differ, depending on whether you’re using paper designed for light fabric or dark fabric. Since I used dark fabric paper, I did not need to print the image in reverse (mirrored). When using light fabric paper, the image must be reversed before printing. This may not be a big deal unless there is text somewhere in the photo.
Make sure to print a test page on regular paper before printing on the transfer paper. The instructions that came with my paper directed me to load the paper in the printer so the photo would be printed on the unlined side. Only load one sheet at a time. When your paper is loaded according to the instructions, hit print.
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Step 4: Transfer the Photo with an Iron
Follow the instructions included with the transfer paper for the correct ironing steps. Once again, this may differ depending on whether you’re using paper for dark fabrics or light fabrics. The following instructions are specifically for the dark fabric paper since that’s what I used for my project.
First, cut out the printed image to the desired shape and size. Preheat your iron to the “synthetic” setting. Using an iron that is too hot will melt a synthetic grocery bag, so be careful. If the bag you are using is cotton or polyester, set your iron accordingly. Also, make sure the steam setting is turned off.
Do not use your ironing board when ironing the image onto the bag. The surface you’re ironing on must be hard, smooth, and heat resistant. I chose to lay a pillow case on the kitchen counter for this step. Make sure the pillow case is pre-ironed with no wrinkles. Smooth out the pillow case on the counter or other hard surface.
Next, peel the film layer off the back of the paper. Place the image on the bag with the printed side up. Make sure the image is centered and covers any logos already on the bag. Place the parchment paper (this comes with the transfer paper) over the photo, making sure it covers the entire photo. The iron should only come into contact with the parchment paper, not the actual photo.
When the iron has reached the desired heat setting, place the iron on the upper left corner of the photo and hold it firmly for 20 seconds. Gently lift the iron up off the photo and place it firmly on the upper right corner of the photo for 20 seconds. Make sure you don’t drag the iron across the photo when moving to the next section of the photo. Just lift it up and set it down. Repeat the ironing in 20 second intervals until the entire photo has been ironed. Make sure the edges and corners are ironed too.
The paper I used gave two options for removing the parchment paper. For a matte finish on the photo, peel the parchment paper off while it’s still hot. For a glossy finish, wait at least two minutes for the parchment paper to cool, then peel it off in a smooth even motion. I found that the parchment paper didn't get very warm using a synthetic setting on the iron. I was able to remove the parchment paper immediately after ironing.
Once the image is ironed on to the bag, you can jazz it up with embellisments. If you don't want to add embellishments, you're done!
Step 5: Add Embellishments
This step is optional, but it can be lots of fun. If you like the way the bag looks with just a photo, then you’re done! If you’d like to jazz up your photo a little, then consider adding some decorations to the outside edge of the photo. Ribbon, bows, sequins, pom pom balls, buttons, or beads can be added as a border around the photo using a hot glue gun or needle and thread. Be creative!
Make these personalized bags for yourself or as gifts for friends and family. A set of these grocery bags would make a great Christmas present for Grandparents who like to show off their grandchildren.
What a simple project-my bag took less than an hour to complete. Personalizing a reusable grocery bag is a fun and inexpensive project that results in something truly unique. Why carry a boring bag with a grocery store logo on it? Instead, personalize your bags with photos you love.