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Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl to a Canvas Tote Bag

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Inside: Customize a basic canvas tote bag with adorable heat transfer vinyl patterns. Perfect for gift giving and weekend shopping! No sewing required.

I’m all about being eco-conscious and creating less waste. So when it comes to shopping or gift giving, I try my hardest to reduce the amount of paper and plastic we use. I’ve started carrying canvas tote bags tucked into my purse when we go on family outings – and it’s helped SO MUCH!

I have a couple cute ones I’ve been given as gifts, but I wanted a few more with cute sayings on them that I could bring to the grocery store or the mall. So today, I’m sharing the full tutorial for how to add heat transfer vinyl patterns to plain canvas tote bags!

Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl to a Canvas Tote Bag
Yield: 2 totes

Adding Heat Transfer Vinyl to a Canvas Tote Bag

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $15

Instructions for adding heat transfer vinyl patterns and appliqués to plain canvas tote bags; uses a Silhouette Cameo or a Cricut machine.


  • Hot iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Old Towel


  1. First things first you’ll need to open Silhouette Design Studio software and set up your design. I purchased two different designs from the store for 99 cents each (Super easy because it just hooks up to your PayPal).
  2. Then you’ll want to iron out any creases in your tote bags. I also recommend using some spray starch just to get them nice and crisp (plus, smells so good!)
  3. Now the heat transfer vinyl I had was 12″x9″, so I simply sized my design based on that. Mine ended up being about 11″x8.5 just to be safe.
  4. Don’t forget! If you are doing text, you must MIRROR your image before cutting otherwise your words will be backwards! You'll need to do this in your Silhouette Studio software.
  5. To mirror, just right click your image and click ‘Flip Horizontal’ in the menu and you’re all set. Using heat transfer vinyl for the first time took a bit of figuring out. It’s a bit more stretchy than normal vinyl and the recommended settings didn’t work well for me. You need to feed your material into the machine with the shiny plastic side DOWN. This way the blade will only cut the actual transfer and not the backing.
  6. I ended up setting my material thickness to 10, my blade to 3 and I used my 12×12 Silhouette Cameo cutting mat.
  7. If this is your first time using heat transfer, just be patient and try out some different settings until you see your blade cut through. Now you just peel away the excess vinyl leaving your design on the backing.
  8. Grab your tote and place your design where you want it to be, cover it with a thin tea towel and go over it with a hot iron for 30-45 seconds. Your design should have transferred! If not, just put the towel back down and reapply the hot iron with a bit more pressure.


If you do not have a Silhouette Cameo - a Cricut machine will do the same job!

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Maybe one day, I’ll be brave enough to get my sewing machine out and actually sew a tote bag to customize. But for now, these store bought ones are just fine!

I have a couple other simple ‘new sew’ tutorials, they are holiday themed, but could easily be turned into something fresh and fun for summer or spring. I have these snowflake pillows that are basically my take on a simple pom-pom. Can you tell that I love textiles, but don’t love to sew??

I’ve also used my Silhouette Cameo and vinyl transfer to create some neat home decor pieces. I did this coffee table using regular transfer vinyl (not heated) and it turned out so amazing!DIY Typography Table with a Silhouette Cameo

 Here are some other  projects you might like! 

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Wednesday 1st of January 2020

Tried using the Everyday Iron on vinyl by Cricut on a canvas tote bag and no matter what I did, it did not stick. Is there a particular brand of iron on vinyl that is best to use? Thank you!

Rebecca Lopez

Thursday 11th of February 2016

So cute, love them!

Helen Gullett

Saturday 6th of February 2016

Super cute tote bags!!! I never tried the heat trasnfer vinyl. I might wanna try now :) Thanks!

Jenny @ Refresh Living

Friday 5th of February 2016

These are so cute! I've never used the heat transfer vinyl before, but your post makes me want to give it a try.


Thursday 4th of February 2016

First, love that "on sale" bag, and that you got to use your Cameo toys! I haven't tried a heat transfer project yet but I'm itching to! Second, what a GREAT idea for a blogging bag! I blog all over the place as well and it would be so much more efficient to have everything together in one place! I'm stealing that!

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