DIY Mermaid Scales Tote Bag

A mermaid or fish scale tote bag is the perfect accessory for beach trips, library trips, and just about anywhere.

A tote bag for library books is a must-have for any kid, in our opinion!  To fill it with new magic each trip to the library (and keep library books in a safe place between trips) is one of the most exciting things, no matter how old you are!

Of course, a tote bag like this can be used not just for the library, but for going to the beach, around town, to school, or on a trip.

So, as a gift for a special little girl, we set out to make a personalized ocean themed tote bag, with a mermaid scale inspired pattern.  And this one’s not just for kids — it is a design that suits all ages of ocean lovers.

Not only that, we gave the mermaid tote with our latest picture book inside.  If you haven’t heard the news yet, our latest picture book has just hit the shelf at!  It’s a sequel to our first, the second book in the Zale’s Tales series.  We’re so excited to introduce children to the ocean world, revealing ocean habitats and the creatures in them through a whimsical game of hide and seek.  (Click here for a sneak peek behind the book.)

So on to the adventure of making the mermaid or fish scale tote!

Here’s what we used:

fish scale tote bag supplies

  • canvas tote bag (NOT plastic or nylon – it will melt and yes, we learned this the hard way :))
  • printed name flipped so it reads backwards (on regular computer paper)
  • clothes iron
  • iron transfer pen
  • fabric paint in aqua and blue glitter
  • foam pouncer
  • scale stencil (we used a Martha Stewart geometric pattern stencil)
  • cardboard to fit inside the tote bag

We typed out her name in a text box in Word, and then used the “rotate” feature to flip the text box until it read backwards.  After printing on regular computer paper, we used an iron transfer pen to go over the printed letters.  (In hindsight, we probably should have printed it in a different color than black, so that we could see better where the transfer pen was marking.  Oh well, it ended up working out ok!)

fish scale tote bag steps (1)

Then we placed the paper where we wanted on the tote bag, and ironed over it.

With the cardboard inside the tote bag (so the paint doesn’t bleed through), we made a mermaid scale pattern around the name with the stencil and foam pouncer, wiping off the stencil in between:

We went over one of the letters and rectangle with the fabric paint, first in the aqua color…

…then in the blue glitter color and also on one ring of each scale in the blue glitter too:

fish scale tote bag steps (8)fish scale tote bag steps (9)

We had found a fish scarf in the same color scheme at the dollar store, and thought it might look cute tied to the handle.

fish scale tote bag (2)

To complete the gift, we stuffed the tote bag with our children’s books and some other goodies like mermaid stickers, pencils, and a pencil pouch.

fish scale tote bag for books

The tote is so easily customizable with different stencils and different fonts, so it makes for a great personalized gift idea for any age.  We hope that this one for Caitlyn will get many miles of use, especially for carrying all sorts of good books to read! 🙂

Live porpoisefully, The Taylors

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