DIYdiy projects

DIY Sunprint Tote

by Grace Bonney

My go-to DIY seems to perpetually be a tote bag. Once you’ve got the basic technique down, you can churn one out in less than an hour. I’m always looking for an excuse to make one, and I get most excited when I can add a simple twist to make it into something totally new and different. In this case, a tried and true sewing technique plus an innovative product makes for a one-of-a-kind but decidedly utilitarian garden tote. Super cool light-sensitive dye lets me create my own, unique sunprinted textile with clippings from right outside my door, and using a box pleat-like technique, I create roomy pockets perfect for holding all kinds of gardening tools. –Mandy Pellegrin

The full how-to is after the jump!

-1 yard of white duck cloth canvas
-3/4 yard of navy blue duck cloth canvas
-6 yards of navy blue double fold bias tape
-navy blue thread
-pocket fold template {download the “Sunprint Panel Fold Guide” here}
-blue light sensitive dye & paint brush (we used Inkodye)
-leaves & other clippings
-4 large brass snaps
-48″ of 1″ wide brown leather strap
-8 medium brass rivets
-stain protector (optional)

-sewing machine
-utility knife
-hole punch
-rivet-setting tool
-snap-setting tool


1. For the shell and outer pockets, cut (2) 13″ x 19″ panels and (1) 7″ x 32″ panel from the white canvas. For the lining, cut (2) 13″ x 19″ panels from the navy canvas.

2. Use a paint brush to liberally apply the light sensitive dye to the 7″ x 32″ panel. Place your leaves and other yard clippings on top. Following the dye’s directions, expose to light for approximately 15-20 minutes, wash, and dry.

3. Topstitch a 32″ length of navy double fold bias tape onto the top edge of the sunprinted panel. This will become the outer pocket.

4. To form the pockets, use my template {link to “Sunprint Panel Fold Guide” here} to fold, press, and pin the sunprinted panel as shown.

5. Pin and baste the sides and bottom of the folded pocket panel along the bottom edge of one of the white canvas shell panels. Topstitch between each of the three pockets as shown in the template.

6. Install a snap in the middle of each pocket opening using a snap setter and a hammer on a hard surface.

7. With right sides facing, stitch the two white shell panels together along the sides and bottom edges.

8. To give the tote volume, box the corners by matching the side seam to the bottom seam to make a point. Pin and mark a line perpendicular to the side seam 1.25″ from the tip of the point. Stitch along this line, and trim the excess fabric. Turn the shell right side out, and press.

9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 with the navy blue lining panels.

10. Place the lining inside of the shell with wrong sides of both the shell and lining facing one another. Baste the top, raw edges together, and then bind these edges by topstitching the navy double fold bias tape around the top edge of the bag.

11. Install remaining snap at the top center of the bag using a snap setter and a hammer on a hard surface.

12. For the straps, cut (2) 20″ and (4) 2″ lengths of leather strap using a utility knife. On each end of the 20″ straps, punch 2 holes 1″ apart starting about 1″ from the end. On each of the 2″ cuts, punch 2 holes 1″ apart roughly centered on the strap. Each hole should be just big enough for the rivets to slip through. Mark and punch holes for the rivets onto the bag, placed approximately 3″ from the center and beginning 1″ from the top edge. Choose a medium length rivet that is about as long as the thickness of 2 leather straps and 2 pieces of canvas. With one 2″ leather cut on the inside of the bag and the strap on the outside, set a rivet in each of the holes using a rivet setter and a hammer on a hard surface.

13. (optional) To keep your tote fresh and clean, apply stain protector.

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