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Appliqued Sea Star Tote Bag


A pair of sea stars floats across a natural-hue tote. Because the canvas bag is too thick to print on, we used a lightweight canvas for the impressions (muslin also works) and appliqued them in place for a pleasing sense of dimension. The finished product is perfect for the beach, but it would look just as chic on a city street.


  1. Step 1

    Print a sea star on lightweight canvas or muslin. (If the sea star's underside is concave, the details may be hard to capture. Instead, lay the star upside down, and use the fish-form technique, pressing with fingers.)

  2. Step 2

    Cut out printed sea star, leaving a 1/2-inch border. 

  3. Step 3

    Place sea-star cutout on bag.

  4. Step 4


    Applique sea-star cutout: Starting at the end of 1 of the cutout's arms, tuck edge of cutout under 1/4 inch. Using a needle and thread, sew along fold, securing with small stitches. Repeat, tucking next section of edge under 1/4 inch and sewing to secure. Continue along edge until cutout is attached. Repeat with additional cutouts.

Martha Stewart Living, June 2009

Reviews (14)

  • Sonjamn 9 Jul, 2011

    Hi, does anyone know how to make this tote bag? I have a pattern for a simple tote, but would really like to try and make this one. I would appreciate if someone would share a pattern with me or point me in the right direction of finding one. Thanks all.

  • DianeinMinnesota 26 Jun, 2011

    I am occasionally frustrated by the craft ideas where the instructions assume I can read minds. I am always thankful for some other reader who comes up with the answer and enlightens me. Thank you.

  • mainemoosie 26 Jun, 2011

    So you print how??

  • lindalalonde 26 Jun, 2011

    Here's the instructions from Martha

  • lindalalonde 26 Jun, 2011

    You don't use a dead fish! Get a plastic or rubber starfish and use a paint roller to put paint on it. You don't want to get the paint in all the cracks and crevices because that's what makes the 'picture'.
    Then you put the fabric on top of it and press it onto the paint which creates the design. And you're done!
    If you can find a large enough stamp of a starfish, that would work too but I've never seen one big enough.

  • Sunshine_Az 26 Jun, 2011

    Come on Martha, you are always so detailed, what is the fish-form technique? I googled this technique on the web and your web site and still no technique or templet.....

  • mahjongger 11 Jul, 2010

    Almost 1 year later and you still have not added a template. I have losts of ideas but without patterns one can not share them with others. Add a template please - no dead animals! Thanks

  • ManyJoys 11 Jul, 2010

    I learned fish printing in Hawaii. Not so yucky if you wear plastic gloves.

  • cyntheeB 11 Jul, 2010

    dead animals??? yucky!!

  • cyntheeB 11 Jul, 2010

    dead animals??? yucky!!

  • shleite 11 Jul, 2010

    I hope everyone will use a rubber stamp and NOT a live sea star!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I was expecting to see a template!!!!!!

  • sanaaloriana 4 Aug, 2009

    I strongly believe in the mission and methods of TAP and would be honored to be a part of such a project.

  • sanaaloriana 4 Aug, 2009

    I strongly believe in the mission and methods of TAP and would be honored to be a part of such a project.

  • bhw 4 Aug, 2009

    hobby lobby has a variety of plain canvas totes