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Family Craft Ideas

with Leah

I'm Leah--wife, mother, editor, writer, photographer, and rickrack apologist. There's craftiness in my DNA, but between the kids and my work and the house and the television and my blogs (http://www.agirlandaboy and, among others), I have to keep my projects quick and easy if I hope to finish them before my boys (born December 2008 and July 2012) graduate from college. You're a working mom and you're busy too, but if you still want to get your craft on, join me here for some fun projects!

DIY Custom Silhouette Tote for Mother’s Day

Categories: no-sew, paint

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This Mother’s Day craft is so classic it will work as a thoughtful (and practical) homemade gift for any mom on your list—your mom, your mother-in-law, your sister, your best friend…You could also casually leave this webpage open on your family computer on the chance that maybe someone will make a silhouette tote for you (if you can refrain from making one for yourself first).


A custom silhouette tote makes a stellar gift on its own, but if you want to go the extra mile you could fill it with a little surprise too: a bouquet of flowers, something fresh from the farmer’s market, a few favorite books and a box of tea. I gave one featuring my nieces to my sister-in-law and filled the bag with Thin Mints, since she lives in England and can’t get Girl Scout Cookies there. Don’t tell my MIL, but she’s getting one with the silhouettes of all the grandkids, two on each side.

If you’ve never done a freezer paper stencil before, this will blow your mind.


Here’s what you’ll need:

Craft Supplies

  • Canvas bag (there are tons of sizes, styles, and price points to choose from on Amazon)
  • Freezer paper
  • Xacto knife and cutting surface
  • Piece of cardboard or paper bag that fits inside your tote
  • Fabric paint
  • Sponge brush
  • Tools You Probably Already Have

  • Digital camera or digital photos of your subjects
  • Computer hooked up to a printer
  • Pencil
  • Dark marker
  • Iron
  • Crafters ready!

    1. Using a digital camera, get or take a profile picture of the kid(s) who will star on your finished tote. Make sure you take the photo from right down at their level, and take the shot from exactly the side so there’s no weird distortion. (You know what works to keep kids staring straight ahead and perfectly still? Cartoons!) Also remember to photograph the whole head, not just the face profile. And no open mouths! (I know, so many rules.)


    2. Figure out how big you want the silhouette to be (measure it out on your canvas bag) and then print a copy of the photo to those dimensions. I printed mine as a “fast draft” in black and white to save ink on my printer that always seems to be running out even though I hardly ever use it argh.


    3. Using a pencil, trace along the photo until you get the silhouette just right. Depending on how your original photo turned out, you may have to make some adjustments here and there. When I made one of these for my sister-in-law of her two daughters, I drew a ponytail on one and drew the other’s mouth closed so the silhouettes looked better.


    4. Once you have the outlines how you want them, trace over your pencil line with a marker dark enough that it will show through a sheet of freezer paper.


    5. Rip off a piece of freezer paper big enough to fit your silhouette. Put your traced photo under the freezer paper, shiny side down , and trace that with a pencil, being very precise, since this is what you’ll be cutting out.




    6. Cut out the silhouette using an Xacto knife. Remember that you’ll be using the negative space, not the positive, so don’t make any cuts or holes anywhere you don’t want paint to go.


    6a. Unfortunately, the freezer paper stencils are single-use, so if you’ll be making several totes using the same silhouette(s), save the center piece you cut out (the part that looks like the head) so you can trace that on a new piece of freezer paper for the next tote without having to redo any of the touch-up details like extra ponytails and whatnot.


    7. Position your freezer paper stencil, shiny side down, on top of your tote. When you have it exactly where you want it, press it on with a hot iron for 20 or 30 seconds, or until it sticks. Take special care that the edges get sealed tight, since that’s where your paint would be likely to bleed under the stencil.


    Now the fun part! This is where you can get your kids in on the action.

    8. Put a piece of cardboard or paper bag inside the tote so you don’t have any seepage. Then use fabric paint to fill in the silhouette, taking special care around the edges so you don’t squish any paint under the freezer paper. I usually start with the edges first, painting in strokes from the outside in.



    Do a few coats for good coverage. I love the classic look of black on off-white, but you can do any color, or combination of colors, to suit the mom you have in mind. Maybe you know someone who’d like a neon rainbow polka-dot silhouette.


    9. Let your tote dry a few hours (or overnight, just to be safe). Then peel off your stencil and behold your custom work of art!



    Your mom’s going to love you best now.



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