Monday, October 11, 2021

Create a Personalized Printed Artist-To-Go-Kit with Geri Beam

Personalized Printed Artist-To-Go Bag and Tooly Tool Holder Easel

Hello from my new home in Georgia.  My husband and I moved from our native California to Georgia this year.  We had a lot of experience with needing to grab-and-go when fires threatened. I want to share how to make your own artist-to-go kit. This kit is useful no matter what emergency you face. It will help bring peace in times of stress by allowing you time to create.

I was inspired by a pattern for this project.  I use this tool in all of the sewing classes I attend away from home. I created it in 2016 with the support of my local sewing group. It carries all of my flat sewing tools and is great for having them in an easy to carry package. Here you can see what it looks like made with commercial fabric.

It is called the Tooly Tool Holder Easel and was created by Sara Grey. 

You can purchase the pattern at:

When I contacted Sara, she gave me permission to post pictures of the finished project. I will not include instructions for making the Tooly (because her pattern contains great step by step instructions). However, I will include instructions on how to make the Tooly your own by creating personalized fabric. I also want to share how to take a simple canvas bag and attach it to the Tooly for those other not so flat must-have items in your total artist-to-go kit.

The pattern has two sizes to choose from and calls for 5/8 -7/8 yard of fabric. I chose to make 1 yard of fabric. I can always use leftover fabric in other projects.

It was important to make the fabric water resistant because of the mess I make when creating art. We will cover how to make fabric water resistant on smooth and rough fabric later. You can also find a list of stencils and supplies used for this project at the end of this blog.

For the Tooly, I chose a white cotton fabric with a smooth texture. One that I rely on when doing surface design is bleached, mercerized combed broadcloth that I order online from a company called Testfabrics, Inc.  Dharma Trading Company is another source for purchasing good quality fabric to do surface design. 

I placed garbage bags on top of a stainless-steel table. I wet one yard of fabric and placed it out on top of the garbage bags. The fabric should be more than damp but not sopping wet. Too much water will make it take longer to dry.

The color pallet I chose was purple, green, yellow, orange and pink.  This pallet was used throughout the project using different mediums, i.e. paint, spray, ink, etc. 

For the background color on the fabric I used acrylic ink and some fabric paint. This method is quicker than dying the fabric. I used Daler Rowney FW Artists Acrylic Ink. I didn’t have the right color of purple in the acrylic ink so I used PROFab Textile paint from Pro Chemical. 

I stared with the darkest colors – purple and green and used a 2-inch wet paint brush to randomly place color across the entire yard of fabric.

The rest of the colors were brushed across the entire yard of fabric. I used the acrylic ink dropper to drip the bright pink in splotches and lightly sprayed with water to make sure the colors would blend together.

Scrunching up the wet fabric helps create valleys and hills.

Liquitex metallic acrylic inks were used with the dropper to scatter shimmery droplets. 

As the fabric dries the ink travels along the hills and valleys and creates wonderful mixing lines. When the fabric was dry, I “set” the ink by ironing the fabric with a hot dry iron. 

This is how the yard of fabric and detail section looked. The brown areas are where the colors blended.

Next, I wanted to do a fast-overall pattern using different stencils. Instead of taking time to sponge fabric paint through the stencil, I used Aladine Izink Dye Spray Ink. I learned about these spray inks from Seth Apter. The colors I used are listed at the end of the blog in the supply list.

A stencil was placed on the fabric and plain copy paper was used as a way to control over-spray. When finished spraying through the stencil, I sprayed the stencil with a light mist of water and placed it next to the first print. This way I got a positive and a negative print from the stencil and none of the ink was wasted.

Colors that matched or contrasted the background fabric color were used, depending on the look I wanted to achieve. These are transparent inks so they let the underlying colors shine through or mixed to an interesting new color. I selected a variety of stencils, some with very linear designs, some with organic shapes and of course something with dots or circles. I love dots. And for the final third of the fabric I wanted little tiny shiny squares.

When I used a stencil that was very linear, I tore pieces of paper to give a more natural edge to the image instead of stark lines.

And as it always happens, I had an O.O.P.S.  Carolyn Dube calls these “Outstanding Opportunity Presenting Suddenly.”  I had not placed the masking paper well and now there was a harsh purple line on the fabric. 

Not to worry – I had a trick up my sleeve. Transparent white paint is a friend that tricks the eye and makes things better.

I took a smaller scale stencil, white transparent paint and a cosmetic sponge. I placed the stencil right on the line. I sponged the paint through the stencil. Then I randomly scattered bits and pieces of the same stencil over the rest of the fabric. This helps draw the eye around the fabric.

Can you spot the O.O.P.S.? When I finished stenciling 2/3rds of the fabric, I wanted something different for the pockets of the Tooly.  I wanted tiny shiny squares. I used the same spray-and-flip method to generate positive and negative prints.

Spray inks which are metallic and opaque did the trick. This included Ranger Distress Mica Stain and more of the Aladine Izink Dye Spray Ink.

Here are the tiny shiny squares.

And here is what the final fabric looked like. Be sure to check out the end of this blog for a list of all the stencils I used.

As I cut the pieces for the Tooly, I was able to fussy cut the fabric to get the contrast I wanted for the pockets.

Let’s talk about creating water-proof fabric. I had two types of fabric. One was a smooth cotton with surface designs that would not be washed but needed to resist spills and could be wiped off.  The other was a canvas bag with a rough surface. 

We will talk about the second surface later. For now, let’s focus on this smooth cotton.

As is often the case, as I was watching Mary Beth Shaw give a wonderful Facebook Live session, she presented a new product. It is called HeatnBond Liquid Vinyl from Therm O Web.  I knew I had to try this on my project. I have used Therm O Web’s iron on vinyl before but I wasn’t sure that product would give me the flexibility I needed to turn the fabric inside out as part of construction. I ordered the new product.  I followed the directions on the jar and was very pleasantly surprised at the look, feel and of the water-resistant features of the fabric. Basically, you apply with a soft brush, wait for it to dry and then iron. The number of coats you use determines how water-proof it is. Of course, where you sew, you make holes so that affects water-proofing. But the fabric was very flexible and not difficult to sew through. I only used the Liquid Vinyl on pieces of fabric cut to size for the Tooly pattern not the entire yard of fabric.

Let’s look at the finished sewn Tooly. The first picture is the inside pockets.

The only addition to the pattern was to add a little piece of Velcro to the fleece so I could attach a tea towel. I needed a way to clean my brushes or hands as I work. This detachable tea towel can be thrown in the wash and attached again when it is clean.

Here is a side view of the Tooly. 

The key to success for your personal Artist-To-Go Kit is to fill it up with useful items. I have listed below some of my most used art supplies. You need to determine what is important to you and what you want inside. 

I chose the following items:

  • Bone folder 
  • Pair of scissors
  • Brayer
  • 6-inch metal ruler
  • Two different spatulas
  • Neocolor II water soluble crayons
  • A water paint brush
  • Four different sizes of paint brushes
  • Black SAKURA Pigma Micron Black Ink Pen
  • Black Lyra fat pencil
  • Black Stabilo pencil
  • White SAKURA Gelly roll pen
  • White uni Posca Paint Marker Pen
  • Exacto knife
  • Blank key card to spread stuff around
  • ATC (Artist Trading Card) stencils on wire ring
  • 4x4 stencil for back pocket
  • Pallet hand-made from a phone book

Here is a picture of the Tooly with the pockets full of tools.

My hand-made pallet is just some pages cut from the Yellow Pages and stapled to a piece of a cereal box. It fits perfectly into the front pocket of the Tooly. These pallet pages with dried paint and ink, make their way into future mixed media projects.

This is what the Tooly looks like from the front when it is closed.

This is what the Tooly looks like from the back when it is closed.

But what about those items that aren’t flat you ask?

Well, you need a water-resistant zipper bag that can attach to your Tooly. The size of my finished Tooly is 7 ½ inches wide by 9 inches tall and 2 inches deep.

I found a set of zippered canvas bags on Amazon. I knew I could find uses for them as gifts so I bought a set that averaged a little over a dollar per bag. The size of the zippered bag is 6 ½ inches wide by 8 ½ inches tall.

Gesso is the perfect medium to make canvas paintable. Spread white gesso on both sides of the bag with a chip paint brush. Let it dry completely – hard for me to do - as I was anxious to make it pretty. 

Deciding which stencils to use is always tough – especially when StencilGirl has so many wonderful choices. Using the ATC size stencils is a good choice for the size of the bag. I auditioned some of my favorite stencils on brown fabric as I waited for the gesso to dry. I needed to express my joy for art and how it opens my heart. I also wanted an image to contrast city with the country because I never know where I will end up in a time of crisis. 

Here are the stencils I chose for the bag:

ATC Mixup Sjodin Stencil (L672) by Valerie Sjodin

ATC Mixup Evans (L654) by Jennifer Evans

ATC Mixup Carriker Stencil (L651) by Pam Carriker

ATC Mixup #2 (L579) by by Mary Beth Shaw

ATC Mixup Borloz Stencil (L655) by Andrew Borloz

I decided to place the city/country stencils on the back of the bag along with the attachment of the headband.  The front of the bag would carry hope filled images of art.

I tested stenciling on a scrap piece of canvas using black gesso and a cosmetic sponge. The test canvas did not have gesso on it but it came out so well that I decided to use it as part of the piece. 

I used PaperArtsy Fresco Paints in the previous color scheme.

As I had with the cotton, I started with the dark purple first. I lightly sprayed the gesso with water and used a foam paint brush to apply the paint.  When covered, the colors looked a little pale so I bumped up the colors using Ranger Distress Ink and Oxide.

As this layer dried, I decided which paints to use through the stencils.

I started stenciling with the face and the arched window and the two leaping women. I used Taupe on the face and window to create a shadow. I used Little Black Dress for the jumping figures.  

Then I applied the second layer of lighter paint using the same stencil but moved slightly to the side.

This accomplished exactly what I wanted – giving depth to the face and window. I used Derwent Graphik Line Painters and SAKURA Pigma Micron Black Ink Pens to add details to the face and window. Now I had a decision to make concerning how to put text onto the rough canvas.

I used a Fineline Precision Applicator tube filled with black gesso to write the words. After the “A” in Art came out as expected, I completed the phrase.

I finished up detailing the front with more shading and adding a little sparkle with Rangers Stickles.  

I needed to seal the front of the bag before starting work on the back of the bag. The last thing I wanted was to ruin the front with paint seeping from the back. Gel medium is a good way to seal the surface. 

The problem with using a brush over water reactive sprays or inks is that the colors may shift. 

To eliminate that problem, I used a blank silk screen, put gel medium in the well and used a blank credit card to pull a thin layer of gel medium over the entire surface.  To make sure all the little nooks and crannies caused by the zipper and seams were covered, I used a flexible spatula to scrap medium over them.

The other advantage to using gel medium is that this side of the bag was now water resistant. There you go – how to make a bumpy surface water resistant!

As everything dried completely, I figured out what to do on the back side of the bag.

I needed a closure on the back that would have a headband through it. The headband works like it did on the Tooly to keep the bag in place. I played with the layout until I was satisfied.

With this layout, I could stencil the city and trees directly to the bag and use the bird canvas piece to cover the attachment. 

I wanted a grainy feeling to the back that was different than the blended colors on the front. Sprays inks would give me the effect I wanted.

I used a moving box to prop up the bag and sprayed it inside to contain the overspray.

I took a small piece of canvas, wrapped it around my stretchy headband and sewed it to the back of the bag.

I wanted the city and the trees to be in the distance and a little blurry in contrast to the sharp images of the birds. To achieve this affect, I put the stenciled images onto abaca paper. If you are not familiar with this paper, it is the paper they use to make tea bags. However, a tea bag size was not big enough to make the ATC size stencil images. I purchased some abaca paper from the artist Judy Coats Perez (who if you don’t know her – you should Goggle her. She is a great artist and wonderful teacher).

To get a tea stained look on the abaca paper I sprayed the paper with Aladine Izink Dye Spray Ink in colors of Honey and Coffee. I scrunched the paper up and dried it with my heat gun.

I placed the paper over the stencils and used a Ranger Distress Crayon to rub the image onto the paper. I smudged the crayon with a damp finger to get the image. I used Aladine Izink Dye Spray Ink to spray the piece of canvas with birds on it.

I tore out the images from the abaca paper. I zig-zag stitched around the edge of the canvas to keep it from fraying any further. I then applied gel medium to the canvas birds and to the entire back of the bag to make it water-resistant. 

I used gel medium to attach the abaca paper to the bag by applying a layer of medium, pressing the paper into the medium and then applying another layer of medium on top of the abaca paper.

I sewed the bird canvas to the bag using a zig-zag stitch. Posca paint pens were used to add color and depth to the images. Note the ATC stencil for the tress contained a leaf layer that proved very helpful in attaining a realistic look of leaves in the tree. The white Posca pen provided the city lights and reflection in the water as well as a dotted focus on the bird canvas.

I filled this bag with more useful art supplies that would not fit well in the Tooly. The supplies are as follows:

  • Fineline Precision Applicator tube filled with black gesso
  • Ranger Stickles
  • Two glue sticks – one from Avery, the other is a Ranger Dylusion Dyary Mini Glue Stick
  • Ranger Archival Ink pads in Jet Black and Coffee
  • Ranger Distress Collage Medium
  • A plastic cup to hold water
  • Cosmetic sponge for applying paint through a stencil
  • Cosmetic brush for applying ink through a stencil

This bag together with my Tooly is my own personalized Artist-To-Go-Kit that will help me through those tough times.

The front of the kit.

The back of the kit.

And a bit of fun fabric to play with on other projects.

I hope that you have found something to use in this blog that will help you be prepared to grab-and-go with your personalized Artist-To-Go-Kit.  I have enjoyed making this project and I feel good that I have the tools I want when I need them.

Supplies used for the Artist-To-Go Kit


ATC Mixup Sjodin Stencil (L672) by Valerie Sjodin

ATC Mixup Evans (L654) by Jennifer Evans

ATC Mixup #2 (L579) by by Mary Beth Shaw

ATC Mixup Carriker Stencil (L651) by Pam Carriker

ATC Mixup Borloz Stencil (L655) by Andrew Borloz

Stencil Club December 2019 - Private Collection 19.2 by Mary Beth Shaw

Stencil Club August 2020 - At the Improv by Mary Beth Shaw and Seth Apter Mash-Up

Stencil Club June 2020 - Mash-up by Mary Beth Shaw and Valerie Sjodin

Stencil Club September 2015 - Lost Languages by Julie Snidle


Tooly Tool Holder Easel with Handle

Supplies needed for the Tooly are listed on the pattern

Canvas Zip Bag and Fabric

Size 6 ½ inches wide by 8 ½ inches tall

1-yard white cotton fabric

Tea Towel and a small piece of velcro


White and Black Gesso – any brand will work

Gel medium – I use Liquitex matte gel

Ranger Stickles


HeatnBond Liquid Vinyl from Therm O Web

Paint, Inks, Sprays and Crayon

PaperArtsy Fresco Paints in the following colors:

  Bubble Gum, Smoked Paprika, Purple Rain, Magic Moss, Haystack,

  Little Black Dress, Taupe, Smurf, Heavy Cream

Daler Rowney FW Artists Acrylic Ink in the following colors:

   Flamingo, Yellow Ochre, Scarlet, Light Green

Pro Chemical PROFab Textile paint in the following colors:

   Violet 83, Transparent White 01

Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink Set - in the following iridescent colors

   Bright Gold, Rich Bronze, Rich Copper

Aladine Izink Dye Spray Ink in the following colors:

   Cassis, Coffee, Flamingo, Emerald, Honey, Sunflower, Licorice,

   Seaspray, Antique Pearl, Copper Buff, Goldmine

Ranger Ink, Sprays and Crayon

Distress Mica Spray in the following colors:

   Flickering Candle, Winterberry, Hocuspocus 

Distress Ink in the following colors:

   Wild Honey, Mermaid Lagoon, Picked Raspberry

Distress Oxide in the following colors:

   Twisted Citron

Distress Crayon color Walnut Stain

Derwent Graphik Line Painters 

SAKURA Pigma Micron Black Ink Pens

uni Posca Paint Marker Pens

Tools and other supplies used in this project


Paint brushes

Foam brush

Cosmetic sponges

Fineline Precision Applicator tube filled with black gesso

Garbage bags and table for painting fabric

Spatula for spreading gel medium

Water and Spray bottle of water

Blank silk screen

Abaca paper

Paper box (for over-splatter)

Copy paper (for masks and over-splatter)

Sewing machine or thread and needle

Stretchy headbands

Yellow pages from phonebook, stapler, cereal box

Your most used Tools and Supplies to place inside your finished project


  1. So many useful tips, so much beauty, meaningful beauty, in such a small, useful space! This is very clear, and full of new ways of doing things. I love the way you credit all the artists who inspired you along the way. It conveys the sense of artistic community as well as your talent for taking an idea and running with it. Great project, which will enable other artists to take art making with them on the go.

    1. I believe that every artist influences everyone who views their work. I have been lucky to be in the right place at the right time to have some wonderful role models and fabulous friends and family to help me on my journey.

  2. I love this project! I've never heard of Liquid Vinyl and will have to check that out asap. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Thanks. That is why watching Mary Beth Shaw's Facebook lives are so helpful. She is always up to date and so willing to share her knowledge with others. She is a real inspiration.

  3. Wow - this is quite a project - so useful and so pretty! Thanks for sharing all the details!

    1. Thank you. Glad you liked the ideas. Hope you are inspired to try your hand at some of them.

  4. Thank you very much. I am glad that the pain of evacuating could be turned into art that speaks to people.


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