No Minimum | Free Shipping over $300

(888)TOTE-BAG Call Now!

Quick ship from our CA & GA warehouses.

DIY Techniques for Personalizing Your Tote Bag at Home

April Cole |

ToteBagFactory Blog Thumbnail

As more and more people explore for eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags, canvas tote bags have risen in popularity. Despite its many uses and usefulness, a simple custom tote bags may become old fast. The good news is that, with a little bit of do-it-yourself ingenuity, they can be made uniquely yours.

Do you have a thing for bags and want to design your own? You've always wanted a personalized tote bags but thought it was impossible, right? Customized bags can be great gifts for holidays, birthdays or any special occasion. And you know what is even a better gift? A DIY tote bag that you have put your own heart and mind into.  So if you are wondering about how to make your own custom canvas bag, please follow us through this blog.

This guide will show you how to easily and affordably spruce up a standard tote bag by adding some embellishments.

Paper Cut Out Painting

This is one of the most basic and affordable ways to make custom canvas bag. And the good thing is, you can create any design as long as you have the paper cut of it. Moreover, this method can be considered as one of the perfect birthday or party activities for children.

ToteBagFactory Custom Tote Bags

So let’s start with our supplies:

-Canvas totebag (of course)



-Scissors / Craft Knife


-Fabric Marker or Paint

Put your imagination to work and come up with a design for your tote bags in any way you see fit, whether it a clever phrase, a memorable logo, or a one-of-a-kind image. To begin, put a cutting mat under the paper template to secure your work area. Use a craft knife to carefully and precisely cut out each letter. Once you've cut around each letter, you can peel away the paper to reveal a stencil. Use a pencil to carefully draw the inside of each letter, pressing down firmly and moving back and forth to emphasise the lines. This step is particularly important if your custom tote bag is a deeper colour, such navy blue, so that you can be seen easily. Once you've traced all the letters, you can carefully peel off the stencil to reveal a one-of-a-kind personalized tote bag with your own monogram.

Custom Bags Tote Bag Factory

Here are some examples you may use as your vision board. Also you may check our blog about using dimensional paint to customize your tote bag

Let’s Get Crafty: Embroidery

A stylish custom tote bag is not only very useful, but also a great way to express your own style while you're out and about. Canvas bags are very sturdy, and canvas is a terrific fabric for your favourite stitching project too. Visit a craft shop and get a blank tote, or use one you already own and embellish it. Check out this guide for an easy and entertaining method of transforming a basic tote into a stylish handbag.

Tote Bag Factory Canvas Custom Bags

Iron & Ironing Board

Canvas tote bag

Embroidery pattern 

Printable Dissolvable Stabilizer Paper 

Embroidery Floss

Embroidery Needle(s)

Embroidery Hoop (size of your choice)

Embroidery Scissors


Fabric marking pen

Fabric scissors or rotary cutter

Remove creases from your cloth by pressing it well. Don't use a hot iron on damp canvas since it is a thick fabric that is prone to shrinking. If your blank tote bag came with ironing instructions, be sure to use them.

Blog Post Image Tote Bag Factory

Canvas is a thick material, thus while transferring a design I utilise printable dissolvable stabiliser paper. When you're ready to sew, just print your design on the printable paper, remove the backing, and stick it to your personalized tote bags. Stitch the pattern using the thread, needle, and frame specified in the instructions. When you're done sewing, remove the dissolvable stabiliser paper by rinsing it well as directed. Canvas needs at least 24 hours to cure flat after being painted on. After the bag has dried fully, turn it inside out and press it one more to get rid of any remaining creases.

You may discover that some of the threads at the front or back of your needlework are loose now that it is no longer pulled tight in a hoop. To make the front of your needlework tauter, gently (but firmly) pull on any loose threads from the rear, and then sew the additional slack to the back. Cut a piece of felt large enough to cover the back of your embroidery threads to prevent them from getting caught on anything you may place in the bag. Now it is time for you to slay with your outfit and light up every room you enter.

Using Patches or Transfers

If you are not such a crafty person, do not worry. We still have options for you. You may consider ironing, glueing or sewing patches or transfers. Yes, we know. They sound a bit like the 90’s or from a punk rock style. But we do love and live for rock'n roll. And now, we will be guiding you through the whole process of how to. 

Personalized Tote Bags ToteBagFactory

When time is of the essence, nothing beats iron-on. A steam iron and a cotton towel or cloth will do the trick. A custom canvas bag may be patched by preheating the iron to its maximum setting, ironing its side to ensure it is heated, positioning the patch where it is to be attached, and ironing it on many times while protecting the patch with a cloth or towel.

Patches applied by ironing them often last through 25 washings. Which is enough for most bags, but if you want your favorite Totebagfactory totes to stay there, you'll need to sew them on.

The local dry cleaner may be able to clean your baggage, but they might not. I tried it both methods, and the stitching on one patch ended up extending nearly all the way through the patch, making it look terrible.

Tote Bags Custom ToteBagFactory

Using both methods (glue and stitching around the edges) ensures your patches and garments will last as long as possible. Before stitching, patches on bags and coats must first be glued in place. The adhesive is basically a general-purpose contact cement, and you can get it at any shop selling construction supplies. The patch should be secured in place with glue before being sewn on. Glue alone worked alright the one time I tried it, but it didn't exactly put my mind at ease.

Glue is often required whenever iron-on application is not possible, for as when working with nylon, synthetic materials, or any fiber. You don't want to risk scorching the fabric of your bag or jacket by ironing it.

Random Fabric Patching 

This one will be more than just customizing your tote bag but is more like sewing your own custom tote bag. This might be specific, but if you have ever watched or read the beautiful romantic saga of Twilight, you may be familiar with the all-patched blanket. In the series, Bella’s mother made her a blanket out of her t-shirts was something we all wanted in our houses. And I believe sewing a patched-tote bag will be a great way to carry your memories with you. 

Tote Bag Factory Blog Image

In this tutorial, we'll guide you through the process of creating your personalized tote bag, departing from Bella's mom's journey. Here's a list of essential materials you'll need:

  • At least five distinct fabrics for the front and back panels of the bag.
  • One Fat Quarter of complementary cotton for the lining.
  • Wadding/Batting measuring 12 1/2" x 30").
  • One meter of Cotton Webbing Tape.
  • One meter of Ribbon.

Here is how you will cut:

  • From each of the 5 fabric pieces, create 8 squares measuring 3 inches each.
  • Utilize the Fat Quarter to cut 2 pieces, each measuring 10 1/2" x 13".
  • From the Wadding/Batting, cut 2 pieces, each measuring 12 1/2" x 15".

Next, let's proceed to assemble the front of the bag. Lay out half of the 3" squares following the guide provided in the picture below. For convenience, place them adjacent to your sewing machine. Begin forming the bag front by sewing the squares together to create horizontal rows labeled a, b, c, d, and e. An efficient method is to chain piece them, working on all five rows simultaneously.

Start by sewing squares 1a & 2a together. Without cutting the thread, continue by feeding the next two squares (1b & 2b) into your machine. Repeat this process for rows c, d, and e. Cut the thread after joining squares 1e & 2e. Move the column of squares to the ironing board and press the line of stitches to set them in place. Now, cut the threads between the squares, open them out, and press the seams in the direction indicated by the arrows. Alternating the direction of the pressed seams ensures that when you join the rows, the seams will 'nest' together, resulting in neat, matching corners.

Custom Tote Bag ToteBagFactory

Repeat this process, joining columns 1 & 2 to column 3 for all five rows, and then join columns 1, 2, and 3 to column 4. Remember to keep pressing in the direction of the arrows. Your bag front should now take shape. To complete it, take row a and row b, align the seams carefully, pin in place (as shown below), and then sew together. Repeat this process until all rows are joined. Turning the front piece over, you'll notice how the pressed seams sit neatly.

Now, replicate the entire process to create the back of your tote bags custom.

For the handles, cut two lengths of Cotton Webbing Tape, each measuring 1 meter. Position them on the bag, ensuring they are evenly spaced and securely attached. Pin the handles in place and sew along the edges to secure them firmly. You can choose to sew them on the inside for a more concealed look or on the outside for added flair. Once the handles are securely attached, your custom tote bag is ready for use!


What are some popular DIY techniques for personalizing tote bags?

Fabric painting, stenciling, appliqué, embroidery, and fabric transfers are popular DIY techniques for personalizing tote bags. Each method allows you to express your creativity and add a distinct touch to your bag. Experimenting with these techniques provides a range of options for creating unique and customized designs.

Do I need special skills or equipment to personalize my tote bag?

No specialized skills are required, making these techniques accessible to beginners. Depending on the method, you might need basic crafting supplies like fabric paint, stencils, embroidery floss, or an iron for transfers. Most DIY tote bag projects can be undertaken with items readily available at craft stores or even around your home.

Can I use any type of tote bag for these DIY techniques?

Yes, you can personalize various types of tote bags, including canvas, cotton, or recycled bags. Keep in mind that the material may influence the result, so choose techniques that complement the fabric. Additionally, pre-washing the tote bag can enhance the adherence of certain DIY elements.

How can I ensure my design lasts on the tote bag?

To ensure longevity, follow the instructions provided with your chosen materials. For fabric paint, heat-setting with an iron is often recommended. Fabric transfers require careful ironing, and for embroidery, securing the threads well during the stitching process will prevent unraveling. Proper care will help maintain the vibrancy and integrity of your personalized design.