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I found this article recently in a UK site I subscribe to and thought it could be fun to try with grandchildren or in fact for ourselves. I think we've had sufficient challenges as a group recently but with restrictions being slowly eased, it could make a pleasant activity.

Canvas tote bags are one of those versatile items that come in handy time and time again; they’re useful for carrying the shopping, loading up books for the library or packing a few essentials up for a long car journey.

Painting a tote bag together can be the perfect creative project for an enjoyable afternoon with your grandchildren and is something children of any age can enjoy.

If you’d like to give this craft a go, here’s what you need to know.

What you need

To start with you’ll need a plain tote bag. Canvas works best because it’s durable and easy to paint on, but you can use other fabrics or even experiment with patterns by making your own. You can find them cheaply on Amazon in multipacks or individually from other craft stores.

Next, you’ll need some fabric paint. Regular fabric paint works well if you’re painting on canvas or cotton but be sure to check it’s waterproof so once your tote is painted it will survive a cycle through the wash. If you’re doing this craft with young children or want to try a more intricate design, fabric markers can also be very useful.

Other supplies you’ll need:

  • Paintbrushes, sponge ones work well for this craft

  • A pencil and eraser

  • Sharpies or other thick marker pens

  • Firm paper or white cardboard

  • Masking tape or sellotape

  • Newspaper

  • A smock or old shirt

  • A print out of any special character your grandkids might want to draw, or a computer or tablet to look pictures up on the day

What to do

Once you have all your materials ready to go you can get started. The great thing about this craft is it all comes down to imagination – you can make designs as simple or as intricate as you like and be as creative as you choose. Here are some tips to help you through the process:

  1. Start by laying some newspaper down over the table to create a workstation. Put a thick piece of card inside the tote to keep paint from bleeding through and then lay the bag flat on the table and smooth out any creases. Dress in smocks or old clothing so you don’t have to worry about ruining your clothing with the fabric paint.

  2. Use a pencil to lightly draw any shapes or designs onto the canvas to guide you as you go. Using cardboard to create a stencil is an easy way to make sure everything looks uniform and your ideas turn out just as you want them to – you can even print off a few shapes or letters beforehand to help you get going.

  3. Homemade stamps are another great option if you are doing this craft with young children – you can create your own from a sponge, piece or cardboard, or even with a potato.

Finding inspiration

Before you sit down to paint your tote bags it’s worthwhile brainstorming a few ideas so everyone enjoys the process. Older grandchildren might want to keep their bags simple with a monogram or pattern, while littler ones might want to paint a scene or draw one of their favourite characters. Here are a few other suggestions to get you started:

  • Dinosaurs

  • Flowers and trees

  • Birds and butterflies

  • Cars and trucks

  • Pirates or princesses

  • Cats, dogs, rabbits or ducks

  • A rainbow, clouds, or the sun

  • Fruit or vegetables

  • Fish and sea life

  • Spots, stars, or geometric shapes

  • Their favourite characters from books or television

Will you give this craft a go?

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