Decoupaged Tote Bag – Fabric Decoupage with a Twist

Hello my arty, crafty friends,

Hope you all are doing great. Vaishali here today!!

I am super excited about sharing this fabric decoupage project with everyone.  Many of you must have explored decoupage on fabric. When working on a fabric surface, one medium that I find  interesting is ‘ Fabric Stiffener’. This wonderful product from the store has various uses and I have used it in some unique ways in my creation.

I have a step wise picture tutorial of this Decoupaged Tote Bag, so sit back , relax and enjoy this new technique.

I had a plain,  cream tote bag (15 inch x 12 inch ) with me, which I have decoupaged to make a statement piece. Have used the  printed decoupage napkin – ‘Humminbird Hymns’ from Itsy Bitsy’s new collection to do so. Do check out the amazing prints of decoupage napkins available in the store. Since the bag was cream-( light colour), it was ready to work with any napkin, as all napkins including darker printed ones, look good on a light base. In case your fabric surface is dark in colour, give it a coat of white gesso or chalk paint, using  sponge or brush, before starting.

This is the overall design of the napkin used for the project. It has a beautiful bright hummingbird and a lovely lattice background with flowers. As seen below, generally the design is repeated four times on most napkins. This feature can be used to add dimension to any project.  Wondering how ? Read till the end to know the technique.

I planned to adhere parts of napkin and not a whole piece, as it is. This gives an opportunity to add interest in the creation, as you work on the spaces between the parts of napkin. When you plan to work in this way, choose a napkin design that has interesting elements like in the one above. Tear the parts of the napkin with your hands. Do not use scissors as it gives sharp edges. Hand torn parts of napkin blend naturally with the background.

I adhered the pieces of the napkin on the tote bag, using Little Birdie Decoupage Glue – Matte. Little Birdie Decoupage glue works well on fabric surfaces as well.

Tip – Remember to remove plain layers of the napkin before adhering as we are using only the top printed layer.

Next, I coloured the areas between the napkin with chalk paints. Colours used are Lemon Chiffon, Butternut Squash and Fortune Cookie. Use the colours that go well with the colours of the napkin. You can use a sponge or brush to colour.

Now comes the twist and an interesting technique with a wonderful product from the store – ” Fabric Stiffener “

Fabric stiffener as the name suggest, stiffens the fabric. You can soak a piece of fabric into it and shape it as required. Once the medium dries, fabric stiffens and retains the shape given. This helps make fabric embellishments. The medium can also be applied on any fabric surface with  brush to get a  stiff piece of cloth, that can be used in decoupage, mixed media, craft projects for children. Here I would like to share one of my favorite creation- Fabric Wall Clock. I made this clock couple of years back, when Itsy Bitsy send the fabric stiffener to me……appreciate the lovely, motivating gesture !!! For the clock, I have used the fabric stiffener to stiffen the cloth. This helped the cloth to remain firm and the clock machine could be fixed to the cloth with ease.  I am so thankful to Itsy Bitsy’s own brand Little Birdie for making this wonderful product.

Coming back to the tote bag project, I took a piece of white cotton cloth, ironed it, to remove creases and then applied the fabric stiffener on one side of it with brush. Lay the cloth on a plastic sheet while doing so, so that it can be easily  lifted later.  It takes about 4 to 5 hours for the stiffener to dry. Basically the piece of cloth should feel dry to touch. As  the stiffener dries, the cloth stiffens. Now you can fussy cut  it easily with scissors, without fraying.  Feels just like cutting a firm paper. Isn’t that amazing!!!  Let’s see how this helps. Now I decoupaged some pieces of printed napkin on this stiffened piece of white cotton cloth, using decoupage glue matte from the store. 

After adhering, I also applied the glue over the napkin to seal it. Once done, I fussy cut the bird piece and also cut the longer piece seen in the picture below into smaller parts. 

You will not be able to cut a piece of napkin into pieces like this as its very flimsy. Adhering it on a stiffened piece of cloth makes it possible to cut it in this way. Once the pieces were cut, I adhered them onto the tote bag, again using the Decoupage Glue – Matte.

I have adhered the pieces, with equal gap  between two pieces to create some interesting effects. You can see the groove effect in the picture above.

Next, was to use the bird design of the napkin.  As mentioned earlier in most decoupage napkins, a pattern is repeated four times. This helps create dimensional effect. I adhered one of the birds on stiffened cloth and fussy cut it with scissors as seen below.

I had also adhered another similar bird directly on the tote bag (Refer to the earlier pictures ). Now over that , I poured some glue with hot glue gun. While the glue was still hot, I adhered the fussy cut, stiffened cloth (bird design) pieces, matching the outline.  Pour enough glue to get the raised effect. The dimensional effect is amazing !!!! Have tried to capture that in the picture below.

So using the Fabric Stiffener, I was able to create grooved effect and dimensional effect. This otherwise is not possible with napkin that’s so thin by itself. And these  two effects add so much more depth and  interest to the creation. This is how the bag looked at this stage.

Next step was to bind all the elements together. I have done stenciling for this. Itsy Bitsy’s decor stencil collection is wonderful indeed. The decor stencils are big in size, making them great for larger areas and backgrounds;  like in this case. The lattice design stencil (size 9.5 inch x 7 inch ) that I used, matched the lattice print on the napkin. I have used chalk paint- Rainy Day for stenciling. Always use the colours that go well with the colours of the napkin.

Tip – Use stencil brush for stenciling work, instead of sponge. The brush gives crisp stencil effect and the paint does not seep through even the intricate stencil designs. While stenciling, the brush should be dry, and also do not add any water to the paint. Do not load too much paint on the brush at a time, just enough to do the job.

Itsy Bitsy has set of stencil brushes from the brand Monte Marte, which is worth a try. The set includes brushes in three different sizes, making it great for different sizes of stencils.

Have also stenciled some swirl, flower patterns with stencil – Garden Glory. And smaller lattice design, in golden colour.

Finally did some stamping- script, butterflies and a sentiment, using black archival ink. The sentiment says – ” Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful “…..that’s so true indeed!

Have given a coat of water based decor varnish – gloss to the entire product for further protection, making it wipeable.  The decor varnish from the store  is fast drying and I like the  glossy effect.  The varnish is available in both gloss and matte finish. Some closeups of the decoupaged tote bag.

The dimensional effect

The grooved effect

Hope you like these techniques which mere created using the Fabric Stiffener and would incorporate them in  your creations,  in your own unique ways.

Say ‘No’ to plastic bags, design your own cloth bags and use them to save the environment ……flaunt them around as well when you have a beautiful handmade one !!!!

Happy Crafting till we meet again.

Create, Express, Enjoy !!!

Vaishali Khandwala

List of materials




    1. Thanks a lot everyone for appreciating.. feeling happy and fulfilled that the tutorial created is helpful to many

  1. Vaishali, I just love the way u explain the entire project with each and every detailing. A great guide for all crafty beginners in fact.
    Loved the bag and the clock designed using stiffened, it’s just amazing.
    Thanks a ton for sharing.

    1. Thanks a lot Supriya..glad to read that the information shared in the tutorial has helped. Feeling happy and fulfilled

  2. wow!!!!awesome Vaishali….your are having such a deep knowledge about techniques used …..its commandable
    thanks for sharing

  3. Very original and innovative work Vaishali, the bag has come out really beautiful! You explain very well too, thank you.

  4. loved the way you have written and explained it..also taken pictures at each step, which most of us forget 🙂 thank u so much for sharing. i have done basic fabric decoupage but never used stiffner.. henceforth this 3d effect is a must try. keep inspiring

    1. Thanks a ton… the stiffener is a great product and can be used in different ways…do try..looking forward to your creations

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