No-Sew Embellished Canvas Tote

Do you have one of those friends that has known you longer than you’ve been with your spouse or partner? I do. She’s pretty darn special to me. We don’t talk or see each other nearly as often as I’d like, but I know she’d be there for me in a heartbeat.

A few months ago she called and told me about her new job. What impressed me the most is not that she had landed a new job (she’s talented and smart), but her attitude about her new job. She, in essence, told me that she’d finally come to the realization that she needed to stop undermining her value and experience to an organization by asking for or accepting less money than her time was worth.

For some reason, that struck a chord with me. Her mature revelation reminded me of a quote from a childhood movie, The Wizard of Oz. (Go ahead, chuckle at the irony.) Glinda the Good Witch said, “you’ve always had the power, my dear.” And she truly did – it just took awhile to realize it.

I thought I could use that quote to make a little gift for her!

I picked up a canvas tote at Hobby Lobby along with a few other supplies: letter stencils, fabric and a fabric pen. I had fabric paint and paint brushes already on hand. I pre-washed, dried and ironed the bag in case it was going to shrink at all.

I don’t have a fancy vinyl machine to cut out letters, so using my stencil I traced the outline of each letter with a pencil. I then filled in the shape with my fabric paint and a small paint brush. I probably could have used a fabric paint pen for this part and it would have been a little more exacting, but I already had a bottle of the black fabric paint. Use what you’ve got! I used a line of scotch tape as a guide to keep things as straight as possible when I traced my letters.

After that, I wanted to add some fabric to the back of the canvas tote to give it a little more pizazz. This started out as a sewing project, but clearly my sewing machine and I were not seeing eye to eye on the matter. I have no idea how I got a triple zig zag stitch. Plus, I didn’t really want to rethread the bobbin on my machine to pick a more appropriate thread color…it requires re-reading the directions every single time.

So, I ripped all of those stitches out and adhered the fabric to the back of the bag with iron-on hem tape. I figure if it works for IKEA curtains, it’s got to work for this, right? And that’s how a sewing fail became a no-sew project.

It’s actually kind of funny when I think about it because the friend who is receiving this tote can actually sew.

I let my 4-year-old wrestle with the tote when I was done, so I’m pretty sure the fabric is going to stick…at least for awhile! Ha!


I decided the straps needed a little something, so I knitted some little, well, I don’t know what to call them. Embellishments? I decided not to do them on the top of the strap because I just wasn’t sure how they would hold up and if they would slide around.

I used the yellow fabric pen to add a happy little detail on the inside of the tote. Nothing fancy, just a little cheer in an unexpected place.

Now for a little story…

I can remember when my daughter was a toddler and wanted to climb the play structure at the park so bad. It took awhile for her to get her footing and to overcome her fears. She wanted me to help her along the way, but I resisted.


I stood close by in case she got into real trouble, but I resisted that maternal pull to give her a boost. Instead, I encouraged her to keep trying. “I know you can do it!”

When she finally reached the top, she turned around with a huge smile on her face. With her boisterous, little-girl charm she proclaimed for the entire playground to hear, “I DID IT!”

“I knew you could,” I replied. And I did. I knew she was ready and had the “power” in her all along to climb to the top of that play place. She needed to have that experience so she could boost her skills, gain confidence and be ready for the next challenge.

So whatever it is that you’re pursuing: a new skill, a promotion, better life choices… I truly believe that deep down we have the ability, the determination to rise to the occasion. It doesn’t mean that we won’t stumble a little along the way. That’s to be expected. The perseverance is what counts – seeing it through until the end.

I hope that when you do reach that goal that you’ll feel as happy and jubilant as that little toddler who triumphantly made it to the top of the jungle gym. Because, of course, you’ve always had the power, my dear.

No sew projects are my jam! Here are some others…

No Sew Way to Fix a T-Shirt Hole – a small one

Painted Visor using a Doily for a Stencil

Leather Map from Old Boots

Share this:

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.