Craft: Stencil A Tote Bag in Four Easy Steps!

by BUST Magazine

So you want to customize your accessories with fabric paint, but you don’t like the corny floral stencils at the local craft store? Have no fear, salvation is here in the form of a very humble material: freezer paper. That’s right—the same sheets you wrap your steaks in can be used as a stencil featuring your favorite slogan or an image of a kitten giving the finger. The sky’s the limit. After mastering this super-simple project, I’m now in the grips of stencil mania. I’m stenciling everything, so beware of coming to my house and standing still for too long.


  • Freezer paper
  • Tape
  • X-Acto knife
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Tote bag
  • Fabric paint
  • Foam brushes


  1. Buy a roll of freezer paper, which costs around $3.99, or beg a piece or two from the meat department at your grocery store. Print out one of our designs, or draw your own on regular ol’ printer paper and tape it to the non-shiny side of the freezer paper. Use an X-Acto knife and self-healing mat and cut through both papers, removing the black areas of the design. Then toss the printer paper and you’ve got your stencil. Remember to keep the small interior pieces of paper from the design—these will be white space in the finished product. For example, if you’re doing our cityscape, keep the little windows and clock face from the buildings.
  2. To keep paint from soaking through to the other side of your bag, slip a piece of foil or freezer paper inside. Make sure whatever you insert in the bag is larger than your stencil. Then put the stencil shiny side down onto the fabric. Align it and the little white-space pieces where you like, then iron the freezer paper down, using the setting that corresponds to the fabric you’re stenciling.
  3. Once the paper cools, apply fabric paint to the empty areas with a foam brush (a stenciling brush, sponge, or paintbrush also work). You can also use acrylic paint as long as you mix it with some fabric medium, to make the tote bag machine-washable.
  4. Let the paint dry; a hairdryer will speed the process along if you’re the impatient type, like me. Peel off the freezer paper and set the paint by following the directions on the jar—ironing usually does the trick. Then take that tote out on the town!


By Jessica Jones of

Photographed by Sarah Anne Ward

Styled by Maya Rossi



This review appears in the Aug/Sept 2012 issue of BUST Magazine with cover girl Tavi GevinsonSubscribe now.




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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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