Instant gratification (and library book bag tutorial)

Yesterday I played hooky. Seriously–Second Child got a snow day and my flight (I was meant to be on my way south to visit my mom) got canceled. And I wouldn’t have gotten much work done had I been doing the car/airport/plane/airport/plane/car/visiting family thing, right?

So I played.

Took a long bath with a craft magazine (which I would name, but it turned out to be a disappointing issue and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them).

Watched Monster in a Box on tv, putting My Better Half to sleep almost instantly, but entertaining myself enormously.

Made what we call around here Instant Gratification Cookies. You know, those great oatmeal chocolate raisin peanut butter cookies you cook in a saucepan but don’t actually have to bake.  Three of us nearly wiped out one huge batch in one day, but I’m convinced they’re actually pretty good for us.

Made this:

Want to make one, too? I’ve been needing a bag for toting books to and from the library (which one member or another of this family visits at least 4 times a week), and, inspired by this, I suddenly knew what to do with one of the pre-sewn fabric bags I bought a few weeks ago at Michaels.  Next time I might sew the bag myself out of a somewhat sturdier fabric, but I was in for instant gratification here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • computer, printer, and ordinary printer paper
  • two pieces of freezer paper (not waxed paper) cut to the same size as your printer paper
  • masking tape
  • a black pen or marker
  • an X-acto knife with a sharp blade
  • a bag to print on (should be pre-washed and ironed; I ironed but I didn’t wash–instant gratification day, remember?)
  • black fabric paint
  • a foam brush with which to apply the paint
  • an iron and ironing surface
  • a pair of tweezers

Step 1. Use your computer and printer to print out a sheet with the lettering you want. I played with various fonts and then decided something simple and quick was best, so I printed out my image in Times New Roman, increasing the font size to 200 pt. I had to print in landscape format to get the lettering arranged the way I wanted it on the page.

Step 2. Lay your paper on a forgiving cutting surface (I used my trusty Alvin self-healing cutting board) and use masking tape to make sure it stays put:

Step 3. Lay one sheet of the freezer paper, shiny side down, over your image and tape it in place, too.

Step 4.  Use a pen or marker to trace the outline of your letters on the (non-shiny side of the) freezer paper.

Step 5 (bet you’re way ahead of me by now). Use the knife to cut out each letter.  You’re cutting through two layers, here, but it’s really only the top one (the freezer paper) that matters. NB: as you cut, set aside the 4 little cutouts from the centers of (in my case) the q, e, o, and p. Your letters may vary, but whatever they are, don’t lose these bits!

Step 6. I missed a photo here, so work with me. Lay your ironed bag face up on your ironing board. Heat the iron to the cotton setting (no steam). Now take your non-cut piece of freezer paper and slip it inside the bag with its shiny side towards you (inside the bag) in a position that corresponds to the position in which you will lay the letter stencil you’ve made on the outside. Don’t skip this step–this will keep the paint you’re going to use from bleeding through the bag. Now iron the outside of the bag over where the paper is on the inside.

Step 7.  Lay your stencil (face up and shiny side down, with letters positioned as you see them above in Step 5) on the outside front of the bag, positioning your design where you want it. Carefully iron over the whole paper until your stencil is staying put on the fabric (marveling, as you do, at the miracle of freezer paper).

Now take those little bits you saved–the insides of any letters that have insides–and put them in their proper positions back inside their respective letters, and iron again. The tweezers may come in handy here so you can hold them in place as you start to iron each one. Burned fingers are definitely not instantly gratifying.

Step 8. This is the instant-est step of all.  Pour a little bit of fabric paint onto a non-porous surface. I save recyclable lids from deli cartons and the like for this, then rinse and reuse (or recycle) them, but you could even use a little scrap piece of freezer paper. Dab your brush into the paint and then gently pounce it down onto the open spaces in the stencil. There are flat sponge applicators made just for this, but I couldn’t find mine, so I just used the tip of a sponge paintbrush. Use 2 or three light layers instead of one thick one. Take care to apply paint straight down–if you brush back and forth you run the risk of dislodging the finer bits of your stencil. Look carefully to make sure you haven’t missed any part of any letter.

Step 9. This is the only non-instant, non-gratifying part. Wait for the paint to dry. Follow the instructions on the fabric paint you’re using–mine recommended letting the paint dry for 4 hours.

Step 10. Slowly, carefully, peel away the freezer paper sheets. Use the tweezers as needed to help peel the finicky bits. Stand back and admire your amazing tote bag. Ta-daa–(nearly) instant gratification!

What did you do on your snow day?


2 responses to “Instant gratification (and library book bag tutorial)

  1. I’d be really interested in knowing more about the instant gratification cookies!
    On our snowy day (which turned out not to be all that snowy) we did papercrafts and I baked bread. Cozy!

  2. LOVE this bag! And yes, could you give us all the recipe for the instant gratification cookies? Please, please?

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