Stef and I have developed a bit of a habit in that we often make each other gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Generally, they’re Blyton-themed too. For Christmas last year I decorated a bag for her, and I’m going to try and walk you through how I did it. This is my first how-to, so go easy on me?
You will need:
A fabric bag. I got a canvas one from Hobbycraft.
Fabric paints. Again, I went to Hobbycraft where I picked up an inexpensive set of fabric paints. You can buy individual pots (useful for picking and choosing specific colours) but I got a pack of six (blue, green, red, yellow, white and black). I used Pebeo Setacolor Opaque (I didn’t want a transparent effect from the paint.)
Black Fabric Pen. I picked one fine enough for writing with but thick enough to make bold lines.
Paintbrushes. I bought a cheap pack of brushes in varying sizes.
A ruler, a pencil and rubber, a tea-plate or other circular object, some paper, kitchen roll, an iron and a cup of water.
The whole lot set me back less than £20, and I still have plenty of fabric paint left over for future projects.
STAGE ONE: THE TEMPLATE
I taped two sheets of A4 paper together and trimmed them down to give me the approximate size of the bag. I then roughly sketched out the layout of books I wanted. I chose to have one lying on its side, three upright and two leaning to the side, but you could have several in a neat row or all stacked up if you prefer. The books don’t have to look exactly like their real-life counterparts at this stage as you can use colour and text to identify them later.
Once I was happy with the general layout I used the ruler to get straight lines in the drawing, and to mark out rectangular text spaces on the books, in a variety of dimensions. I used the saucer to round off the tops and bottoms of the spines and to draw striped bands on a couple of books.
Next, I cut it all out. I admit now, I’m dreadful at free-handing, so I used it as a template and drew around it onto the bag, in pencil.
(Note, it’s worth testing whether or not your pencil marks will rub out well on an inconspicuous part of the bag – mine was fine, thankfully.)
STAGE TWO: THE PAINTING
Once the lines are in place, it’s time to crack out the paints!
I already knew which book was which, so I picked my colours accordingly. The Famous Five book had to be bright red like the Hodder & Stoughton Hardbacks. For the Malory Towers books I chose yellow with green details, and green with yellow details, to give a sense of them belonging to the same series without being identical. For the others I picked colours that just seemed to suit; though of course you could match your paints to the colours of actual copies.
Before painting I lined the bag with kitchen roll, to mop up any paint that went through the fabric.
I found that brushing the paint on didn’t work too well thanks to the texture of the canvass, a gentle stippling technique worked better.
I left the paints to dry overnight before tackling the next part (though with hindsight, I could have done the lettering and then the painting…)
I found that after drying overnight a few paint areas needed touched up, as there was the odd cream dot showing through.
STAGE THREE: THE DETAILS
Using the cut outs from the text boxes I mapped out how I was going to fit the book titles in. Up and down? Sideways? How many words per line? I tried them out a few ways before deciding for each book, and worked out the size and spacing for the letters too.
I faintly drew pencil lines onto the bag to help keep the writing even and then pencilled on the lettering.
Again, I’m rubbish at free-handing so I didn’t dare draw directly with the fabric pen without guidelines. I tried to use different fonts; some in an attempt to match the real-life book.
I did use the pen eventually, though, to go over the pencil lines. I then used it to outline the books, the striped bands and the text boxes.
Finally, after a bit of practice, I forged Blyton’s signature on her books!
STAGE FOUR: THE QUOTE
I picked a booky quote for the back, you could use a few lines from a favourite story or something general about books and reading.
Again, I used paper to map out the space I had to work with and measured out how many lines and how many words per line.
With my mock-up on paper as a guide, I drew faint pencil lines on the back of the bag and then wrote the quote on in pencil. I had to rub out a few letters I didn’t like the look of and re-do them.
Once I was happy I carefully went over the pencil marks with my fabric pen, and let it dry before rubbing out any remaining pencil marks.
Lastly, I turned the bag inside out and ran a warm iron over it. The paints came with instructions as to the temperature and time it would take to make ‘fix’ the paint so it was waterproof.
And that’s it! I think it turned out not too badly considering it was the first time I’d ever attempted such a thing, and I’m atrocious at drawing. I think if I did it again I wouldn’t put text boxes on the books, I’d just paint the whole spine and write on top.
I hope to do another of these some day, I just need a book loving friend to give it to!