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Leaf Print Tote Bag

Some of the best tools for making crafts may be right in your own backyard. Undamaged leaves, when covered with a coat of fabric paint in a favorite color, will make unusual and varied imprints on absorbent textiles, such as canvas, cotton, or linen.




Martha uses a bay leaf in a diamond pattern to embellish a plain canvas tote bag. Consider decorating other surfaces as well, such as pillow shams, tablecloths, and book covers. When collecting leaves, look for green, pliant, sturdy ones, such as magnolia and eucalyptus. Before you begin applying the paint, you may want to make a template of your leaf and use it to trace your pattern in pencil on the tote bag. That way you'll avoid misprinting the painted leaf.


  • 1 to 3 bay leaves
  • Fabric paint
  • Sponge brush
  • Undyed canvas tote bag
  • Paper towel
  • Waxed paper
  • Brayer
  • Scrap of fabric
  • Iron


  1. Step 1

    Lightly brush the underside of the leaf with the fabric paint. The underside shows the veins more clearly; you can use both sides for variety. The thinner the layer of paint, the more detailed the print will be.

  2. Step 2

    Place the leaf, paint side down, on the bag where you want the design to appear. Cover the leaf with a piece of paper towel, then a piece of waxed paper. Roll the brayer over the waxed paper a few times, firmly pressing the leaf onto the fabric.

  3. Step 3

    Lift the waxed paper, paper towel, and leaf. Continue this process, using a new piece of paper towel for each print, until you've finished the desired pattern. You can change paint colors by simply rinsing the leaf with water and drying it.

  4. Step 4

    Let the paint dry overnight. Then heat-set it with an iron. Lay the bag on your ironing board, cover it with a scrap of fabric, and iron on a low setting. The bag will be washable and colorfast.

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Reviews (13)

  • magp520 10 Nov, 2014

    I made 6 of these bags for Christmas presents for friends. I used leaves from the Catalpa tree, or cigar tree and maple leaves. I even added the actual "cigars" and "propellers". Everyone that sees them wants one! Definitely planning on making more to give out as gifts. In the next batch, the leaves will be painted in Christmas colors. Thanks for all the great ideas!!

  • CraftyLadyTOO 7 Aug, 2009

    I think Hosta leaves would work well for this project.

  • Learner10 17 Sep, 2008

    Thank you, ElyseLucie, for the tip about the fabric paint and all the information at the Dharma Trading web site! Much appreciated.

  • ElyseLucie 17 Sep, 2008

    Purchase plain canvas tote bags and fabric paint from Dharma Trading: - Fabric paints are made just for fabrics - fabric stays soft - must heat set - not a stiff acrylic - don't use acrylic paints - acrylics dry hard on fabric. They sell a variety of canvas bag sizes, brayer rollers, sponges. Their website has a lot of info.

  • DivaJosie 26 Jul, 2008

    Thank you, reinz. This looks like something easy

  • reinz 25 Jul, 2008

    A brayer is a small art tool that looks like a rolling pin with a handle in the middle. You can find them at craft or art supply stores.

  • DivaJosie 25 Jul, 2008

    Can someone tell me - what is a brayer?

  • starrjewell 22 Jul, 2008

    At our Bible School the children did fish.....big ones....we lived in the Norhtwest then. They loved that! Using the same technique...everyone had a fish shirt. I'm sure it fit in with the lesson but I can't remember which one.....maybe loaves and fishes?

  • finlander 22 Jul, 2008

    You can get large fake leaves with a lot of detail, as well as the nearly translucent leaves they have in some craft stores. Coat them very lightly with a paint medium so the paint isn't too thick or goopy. It should work great, plus the craft stores have a wide variety of fake plants to choose from. Be sure to let the paint dry and iron to set it.

  • CertainlySusan 22 Jul, 2008

    When I was an assistant at a Montessori school, the little kids did leaf print objects as an art project. The teacher printed a border of leaves -- greens, browns and oranges with an occasional purple for accent -- around a table cloth. It was beautfiul.

  • wduke2 22 Jul, 2008

    It looks wonderful, but what kind of bay leaves are those? The only kind I've seen are the kind you use in cooking and they don't look anything like those. Where do you get them?

  • amypatrick 22 Jul, 2008

    You could also cover the leaves with heavy paper and beat it with a hammer to get the leaf print from the liquid in the leaves.

  • jencooper 22 Jul, 2008

    I like this idea. Sounds like something my daughter and her friends (all pre-teens) might like to do at a sleepover. . . .could do bags, t-shirts, sleep shirts, hats, even the small drawstring backpacks they all carry these days! Would be very cute for fall. THANKS FOR THE IDEA!