Sunday, August 12, 2018

Reusable Skull Bags

Another episode in the painters tape saga, this time it's reusable shopping bags.  The ones that I've had for maybe close to a decade have seen better days and been demoted to carrying less than glamorous stuff like dirty shoes and wet beach towels.

I'm really happy with these reusable bags I ordered off Amazon.  They are just as sturdy as my old bags, and a tad bit larger.  Black would have been my first color choice of course, but it wasn't available when I ordered.  The dark blue is plenty dark enough to contrast with a nice white skull and depending on the lighting sometimes they even look black.

Bounce on over here for the original instructions.

I cut out two templates using them to paint 5 bags each. I probably could have squeezed out another bag or two if I were really careful, but they were starting to lose their stick quite a bit at the end and there was some bleeding under the edges in a few places.

Because of the darkness of the bag I found that using a base color of bright orange for the outer ring helped the metallics pop.

The skull needed quite a few layers of white, which meant a lot of paint build up on the stencils and a thinner stencil gives you better lines. The good news is when the paint builds up like that it's also easy to peal the paint layer off the stencil and start fresh.

Learning from past projects, I drew hash lines across my templates to make it easier to line things up and remember which pieces go with which template. Every few uses the marks needed to be darkened as they were covered with paint, but it really helped.

The plastic bottom inserts came in handy to keep the paint from bleeding through to the other side of the bag.

Then it came time to see how they would hold up in the wash.  I washed the first bag on the delicate cycle of my front loader with the bag turned inside out.  To dry I turned it right side out, folded flat and let it air dry.  A lot of the paint flaked off in the wash cycle.

You would think after all the bags I've done I would have this all perfected by now. Or maybe you wouldn't, but I certainly expect more. At least you get to learn from my mistakes. After the washing didn't go so well, I did a little research. Apparently the acrylic paint flaking off was to be expected because of it's thickness. That makes sense because in the past for this type of thing I've used acrylic paint pens, which I assume use thinner paint for it to flow and I have never had problems after washing. The only reason I didn't this time is because I was doing so many bags. There's a good Instructable here on how to make your own fabric paint by adding acrylic medium to thin it. The really sad part is I already had some, I could have easily done this. In my defense I get paint on my clothes all the time and it never flakes or washes off.
For round 2, I ran an iron over the paint on a second bag before washing.  The material is non-woven polypropylene, so I used the synthetic setting on the iron.  Before ironing I removed the plastic bottom panel from the bag and placed a piece of cardboard underneath the design and a piece of parchment paper over the design.  I ran the iron over it for 30 seconds or so.  After it cooled I washed it using the same method and the results where much better.  Still a little bit of degradation, but not bad. I was going for that distressed look all along, right?

I will have to touch them up with some homemade fabric paint and see for myself how it works.

The bags themselves washed up beautifully, no torn fabric, ripped seams or anything, although I've only washed the two so far.

Oh and I've had quite a few compliments. When's the last time you heard someone express delight over a grocery bag?  So get some bags, grab some creepy clipart and have at it.  No reason you can't be eco-friendly and spooky at the same time.


  1. I love the distressed look. Seriously, I thought you did it on purpose.

    1. I'm glad they still look good, especially because I'm in no hurry to fix them.