An increasing number of Americans are turning away from disposable paper-or-plastic shopping bags, and preferring to use reusable bags made from canvas or recycled materials. This eco-chic trend is great news for the environment: it keeps scarce resources like petroleum-based plastics and tree-sourced paper (and the energy used to manufacture and transport them) from being used unnecessarily.
If you’ve made the switch to cloth shopping bags, you’re probably taking them with you everywhere, and don’t want them to be an eyesore. Shopping bags are like fashion accessories to those who use them, and they can communicate blandness or excitement. These decorative options can turn canvas shopping bags into a fun, crafty project that can express a unique message every time you go shopping.
For the artistically inclined, fabric markers and fabric pens create a realm of endless possibilities for a decorated totebag. They can be used to write witty words and phrases to express political or moral ideas, or they can simply create beautiful images. Permanent fabric markers can be used to adorn a bag with floral designs, favorite characters, company logos, or even images of forests. How about “I’d Rather Have the Tree” with a drawing of a redwood? The possibilities are limitless.
Stencils and Fabric Paint
For people who are less artistically inclined or are looking for a “sharper” appearance for their shopping bags, stencils and fabric paint can be obtained at a surprisingly low cost. One little secret that I’ve found is that run-of-the-mill acrylic paint works just as well as a fabric paint as the more expensive labels, and it appears to be chemically identical. Stencils at your local hobby supply store come in a variety of fun and exciting shapes, letters, and characters. They can create a fresh-looking canvas bag, and are especially enjoyable for children who want to participate in the project.
Iron-on appliques are inexpensive and easy to use. They eliminate all the hard work of creativity, but allow enough room for artistry and self-expression based on layout. Most hobby supply stores carry an exciting array of appliques including fun slogans and attractive images, and rhinestone appliques have become especially popular recently. Many appliques are designed with shopping-bag use in mind and can be ideal for decorating your canvas bag.
For a hip, old-school punk look, patches can be hand-sewn onto canvas bags to pay tribute to your favorite bands, ideas, and films. Most alternative stores and craft supply shops carry a variety of decorative patches that are generally advertised for use on clothing, but they look equally sharp on canvas and denim shopping bags. Moreover, homemade patches from scrap fabric can be craftily stitched onto shopping bags for a hippie-punk calico pattern.
All of these methods can be mixed and matched to decorate shopping bags in unique and beautiful ways. In addition to serving the utilitarian and earth-friendly purpose of eliminating the use of disposable bags, a well-decorated shopping bag can also act as an expressive and unique fashion accessory.