DIY Geeky Tote Bag -Lord of the Rings Theme

 In DIY Projects

I started a new job last month. Since that time I’ve been carrying my lunch (and random objects) to work in recycled bags from the grocery store. While this method was working fine, I decided I wanted something a little more durable and stylish (especially since I’m not a purse chick). I decided to create my own tote bag; with a nerdy twist of course! Keep reading to see just how easy it is to create a custom tote bag (hint, remember doing iron-on transfer t-shirts when you were young?).

  • Tote Bag* (I picked up a blank one from my local craft store for $1)
  • Iron on image transfer paper** (I used Avery Light Fabric Transfers that I got off Ebay for $6)
  • Design to print
  • Iron

*The transfer will typically work best on a 100% cotton fabric. The smoother the texture of your bag’s surface, the better as well.
**Match your transfer sheet types to your bag’s color -either light or dark

Avery fabric transfer paper
1.Decide on a theme or image(s) for your bag.
Lord of the Rings being my favorite fandom, I went that route. For inspiration, I used I love the look of their products, but sadly they don’t yet carry Lord of the Rings items. Using their concept, I knew I wanted at least one side of my bag to have an image created out of text (bonus that I’ll always have reading material on hand ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Using Illustrator and Photoshop I created a silhouette of Gandalf using chapters from the Fellowship of the Ring (it was a tough choice but I decided to go with the two chapters about the Mines of Moria -‘A Journey in the Dark’ & ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dรปm.’). For the other side of my bag, I combined a couple of my favorite symbols -the One Ring inscription and the Tree of Gondor.
2. Horizontally flip your Image(s).
After printing your image you’ll be ironing it onto you tote bag face down; that means you need to reverse any direction specific items (such as text), so that they face/read the correct way once transferred. You can use any program, even Paint, to flip an image.
Tree of Gondor and One Ring inscription on transfer paper

Gandalf outline ready for transfering to the tote bag

3. Test print and final print.
Print your image out on normal paper first to ensure everything looks good; especially if you plan on printing an image that’ll span more than 1 page -make sure it’s easy enough to trim and line-up during the iron transfer step. For ease, I kept my designs within an 8.5×11 inch print size. Once everything looks good, go ahead and print your images out on the special iron-on transfer paper.
iron transfer setup

ironing on the trasfer image

4. Iron transfer.
Read the instructions for your iron transfer paper if you haven’t already done so. Mine required a hard surface that was lower to the ground so I could apply hard downward pressure. I used a cutting board covered with a pillowcase, set my iron to it’s highest cotton setting, and turned the steam function off. I ironed my tote bag first to prep the surface then placed my image face down. I ironed the paper for roughly 1-2 minutes (per the instructions) then let it fully cool before gently peeling the paper backing away. And that’s it! -It’s that easy.
peeling back the trasnfer paper on my Lord of the Rings tote bag
Homemade Lord of the Rings tote bag


Mines of Moria chapter text outlining Gandalf's shape

Lord of the Rings Gandalf tote bag tutorial
If you’re feeling super artistic you could event paint or screen-print a custom bag…but that’s a whole tutorial in itself, so I’ll save those instructions and tips for another time ;-).
Tip -be sure your bag’s surface is free of lint before the transfer. I didn’t consider this when doing my first side and you can see small bits of fuzz trapped; nothing major, but easily preventable!Let me know in the comments below what kind of tote bag you plan on making!




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Showing 6 comments
  • Julie

    You have such a creative flare,and definitely more stylish than grocery bags ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      Thank you! Yes, definitely way more stylish ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Brookenado

    Neat! Love the designs you went with, too – that is one awesome tote bag ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      Thanks Brookenado -can never be too geek chic, right?!

  • Charlie

    Such a lovely design and easy to follow tutorial! These would make lovely presents.

  • ocelot


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