I may never know whether it was nature or nurture, but ones thing’s for sure: my mom and I both love to be creative. No matter what I proposed as a little kid, my mom barely batted an eye. A fort made from blankets that took up my entire room? Sure. Using leftover vinyl flooring for my dollhouse? Go for it. Re-sewing an old shirt to emulate the latest spring fashion? Of course!
Thanks to my artistic mom’s encouragement, art became a way for me to find my happy place. Since we live far apart, creating things is a way to instantly connect with each other and I knew I wanted to make her a handmade gift for Mother’s Day. While I had a million ideas in my head, the one homemade gift idea that truly stood out was to make a tote bag to carry around her art supplies and our other shared love: books.
Our personal style is on opposite sides of the spectrum. She’s into earthy blues and oranges, and goes for an abstract vibe. To make sure I was staying on track, I started by scouting out various clothing items from the searsStyle site that fits her personal style (since it’s so very different than mine!) A few key pieces stood out, like this blue striped scarf and embroidered top. Those became starting points for my tote bag.
After playing around with RIT Dye and some beautiful trim, I came up with a project I know she’ll love: a subtle ombre indigo tote with embroidered heart. Monograms are on-trend right now and I considered using one, but for some reason I knew she’s love an abstract heart. There’s many variations if you want to make one for yourself or as a DIY gift for your mom, so here’s the basic how-to with many ways to switch it up to match the style you’re going for!
Hand Dyed Tote with Embellished Heart Tutorial
Basic Tote Bag
Plastic Bin and stirring stick
Thread and Needle
Velcro Dots (optional)
Step One: Iron a basic light colored tote (I got mine from the craft store). Following the directions on the package, prepare the dye. I used RIT, so I dissolved the package into two cups of hot water and then added warm water to a plastic bin and combined them. I also added a cup of salt, which helps the dye stick.
Step Two: I’ll admit I was going for a stronger ombre pattern (ombre means it’s lighter on top and darker on the bottom). Unfortunately, the bag picked up a ton of dye after just a few seconds in the bucket. If you’d like part of your bag to stay light, then make sure not to dip the entire bag into the dye. The soaking time will depend on how dark and/or varied you wish the bag to be—less time on the first step means it’s lighter and has more contrast. Start by submerging all the parts of the bag you wish to have color. Raise 1/3 of the bag out of the dye by the handles after 1-3 minutes, letting the rest soak. Soak for a few more minutes, and pull the bag out so only the bottom third is still soaking. Soak for 15+ more minutes, depending on how dark you wish to go.
Step Three: Rinse the bag in warm water until it runs clear. Dry. Iron again, if needed.
Step Four: Add on a symbol or monogram. I made an abstract heart using an embroidered type trim from the craft store. Arrange it on the top of the tote, and carefully sew using a running stitch. Make sure to sew it to the top layer only; don’t sew the bag together!
Step Five: I added a dot of Velcro especially at the top as an extra touch. This way, the contents of the bag are more likely to stay put.
And… you’re done! I heart my mom.
Here’s a Shop Your Way Catalog I pulled together so you can see how her artsy tote would fit with a few colorful picks from Sears—mostly her style, with a teeny bit of mine thrown in for good measure (hello, honeycomb necklace and geometric satchel!)
Find more ideas on the This is Style pinboard:
I’m so looking forward to giving my mom this handmade gift on Mother’s Day. It thrills me to think of her using her new tote for carrying her art supplies and books. It’s a way to connect despite the miles, and I hope she loves using it as much as I did making it!
This is a compensated post on behalf of #searsStyle and #CollectiveBias for the #ThisIsStyle campaign. All opinions are 100% my own.
Hand Dyed Embellished Tote is linking up with: