Homemade Horsey Gifts: Barn Tote Bag

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Barn Bag

Hand Painted Barn Bag

  • 1 large cotton twill tote or hobo bag (I found this one at a craft store)
  • Letter stencils
  • Traceable horse image or horse stencil*
  • Ruler
  • Black Sharpie marker
  • 1 or 2 Sharpies (any color)
  • Acrylic or fabric paint (see “Crafter’s Tip,” below)
  • Paint brushes
  • Sponge stick
  • Cardboard (or scrap plywood)

If you plan to trace an image, you’ll need carbon paper

Directions: Machine wash and dry the fabric bag according to label directions. This removes any starch or sizing placed on the fabric by the manufacturer. Set the clean, dry bag on a sturdy work surface. Slide the cardboard inside the bag. Smooth away any folds or wrinkles, as you’ll be painting in this area. The cardboard provides a flat surface and prevents paint seepage from staining the other side of the bag.

Center your horse image on the front of the bag. With your black Sharpie marker, draw around the outside of a wooden horse shape or use a horse stencil. You can also use a printed horse image by tracing it onto the fabric with carbon paper and a ballpoint pen. Next, add the recipient’s name. To keep the lettering straight, use your ruler and a pen or pencil to draw a faint horizontal line as a reference point. Then align the middle letter in the name with the center of the bag. Form each letter by drawing inside the stencils with the black Sharpie.

Start filling in the outlines. Large areas, like the horse’s body, will require several layers of paint applied with a brush. Let each layer dry before adding the next. The fabric’s texture will prevent long, smooth brush strokes. Instead, dab the paint onto the fabric and use short, shallow brush strokes.

Allow an hour for the painted areas to dry. Then add details—like the horse’s facial expression and small flowers—with the Sharpies. Leave the bag to dry overnight. The next day, remove the cardboard. Place the bag in the dryer, at medium or “normal” heat, for 20 minutes. This step permanently sets the colors so your artistry won’t fade away when the bag is washed.

Crafter’s Tip: Fabric paint is widely available in many forms and price ranges. An alternative is combining Liquitex fabric medium to acrylic craft paint. Pour a small puddle of paint onto a sturdy paper or plastic plate. Then pour an equal amount of Liquitex fabric medium next to the paint and mix the two liquids together. Liquitex helps the acrylic paint adhere to the fabric, makes the color permanent, and prevents the painted fabric from becoming stiff.

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Cindy Hale
Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.

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