Friday, August 17, 2012

DIY Word Cloud Tote Bag: How-To

Today's project is a tote bag that looks professionally designed but is super easy to make yourself! Honestly, this only took me about 30 minutes to make. Here's what you'll need...


  • A cotton canvas tote
  • An iron
  • Scissors
  • Iron on transfers (for light fabric, unless you're using a dark colored tote... I used these from Avery)
  • An inkjet printer
  • An Internet connection (which I'm guessing you have, since, well, you're reading this)

Now I know you're thinking, "Okay, great, I have an iron; I (vaguely) know how to use it, but how do I make that word cloud?!" Never fear. I have absolutely no fancy design software or design background. I used the site Wordle to make the word cloud design I used. (Full disclosure: The idea for using this site and the idea for creating a tote from the resulting word cloud both came for my husband. I can only take credit for the execution!) So here goes:


1. Pop over to and click on Create.
2. Here's where you'll need some inspiration. You'll notice you can either copy and paste a chunk of text, or you can use the link of a blog that has an RSS feed. For the tote above, I copied and pasted the lyrics from the song "Simple Life" by The Weepies (a favorite of mine!). Once you hit Go, it will create a word cloud for you from the text you entered! From there, you can fool around with the formatting, font, and color to get it just how you like it. I had a lot of fun with this and actually created a bunch of other Wordles that I didn't end up printing out.... you can see a couple at the bottom of this post.
3. Next, you'll need to save your Wordle for printing. You can print it directly from the site, but unless you want all your words to be backwards, you'll have to go about it a different way. Here's what I did:
  • With the Wordle in full view on your monitor, take a Printscreen shot (on my computer this is accomplished by clicking Function (FN) and the button PRTSC.
  • Open up Paint, and click Paste. A copy of your monitor screen should appear. Crop this so that the image is just your Wordle.
  • Save your Wordle as a JPEG file.
  • Now, open your Wordle in a photo program so that you can invert the image before you print it. I used Microsoft Office, where I clicked Edit Photo, Rotate and Flip, and then Flip Horizontal. I then re-saved the image, which looked like this:

  • Now that your image is flipped, you're ready to print it onto the iron on transfer paper.
4. Once you've printed your image, it's time to prepare your tote for ironing. I followed Avery's instructions on how to do this. First, crank your iron up to full heat but be sure not to add any water: steam will ruin the transfer process.
5. Next, iron out any wrinkles in your tote the best you can.

6. After this point, it's a good idea to let your iron preheat for awhile. Let it sit while you carefully trim around your word cloud, getting as close as you can to the edge of the words. I cut kind of an oval shape because I didn't want any edges or corners coming up. The other issue is that there's a visible line where the transfer ends up on your tote. To eliminate this, one idea would be to add a border to your Wordle before printing. Then you could just trim right around the border, like this:

7. Once your iron has been heating up for a couple minutes, lay the transfer face down on your tote. Press it down as firmly as you can before beginning to iron.

8. Next, start ironing in very slow back-and-forth and up-and-down motions across the full length and width of the image. Press down with as much force as you can while ironing. I did this for about 3 minutes.

9. Turn off your iron and move your tote to a different surface to cool. Wait at least 2 minutes, and then peel off the paper:

10. And you're done! Wow, look at that awesome tote you just made!

Wouldn't this make a great gift to a friend or coworker? You could use the lyrics of a favorite song, like I did above, or maybe a favorite book of theirs. Here's a Wordle I designed from an excerpt of Pride and Prejudice:

Or how about a grocery tote? Here's one I made using the link of my favorite food blog, Not Without Salt:

The possibilities are endless! A couple notes on using Wordle: 1) the biggest words will be the ones most often used in your text, and 2) if you don't want a word in there, you can just right click and select "Remove" right there on the web page.

Have fun, and Happy Friday!!

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