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Turn your unused produce into art with this DIY vegetable stamp tote bag

This precious and thrifty kids' art project is perfect for making use of last week's unused vegetables – and makes a great gift, too.


School is starting up again and summer is winding down, but there are still several weeks left of most summer season farmers markets and CSAs! Late summer and early fall yield some of the PNW’s most important crops, like apples and pears, so make time to check out what your local farmers are bringing to market this month.

Make this veggie stamped tote bag with the leftovers from last week, and then take it to the market to restock your fridge!




To make a veggie stamped tote bag, you’ll need:

fabric paint

a palette for your paint

paint brushes or foam brushes

scrap fabric or paper

fruits and vegetables! carrots, celery, potatoes, beets, apples, citrus, whatever you have!

a sharp knife

tote bag

a piece of cardboard as big as your tote bag

newspaper or a drop cloth

an iron




You can use pretty much any firm vegetable as a stamp. The first thing to think about is what kinds of shapes you want to use, and what design you want to stamp on the bag.

If you’re just interested in basic shapes to make a fun, easy pattern, then don’t worry too much about needing a sharp knife to carve.

If you want to make a picture with your stamping, you can carve shapes into raw potatoes or slightly softened beets. Small ribs of celery make a sweet little heart shaped stamp, and the tops of carrots (that you’d be cutting off anyway!) are perfect circles.

You can make a rainbow on your tote bag with half a grapefruit, the bottom of a red pepper, carrot tops, half an apple, a potato carved into a heart shape and a brussels sprout halved crosswise to make a flower stamp.

To get the clear segment lines on the grapefruit, use a sharp knife to remove the flesh from the segments. A grapefruit is probably the best citrus to use for this effect, but you can also use a lemon or orange. You can cut the apple in half  while keeping the stem intact, or just paint a stem on afterward.




Read the instructions on your paint and tote bag to prepare for painting or heat setting at the end, if necessary.

Set up your paint, stamps, and tote bag on a flat surface covered with a drop cloth or newspaper. Put the piece of cardboard into your tote bag to prevent the paint from bleeding through to the other side.

You can use a palette and paintbrush to apply paint to your stamps, or put the paint on small plates to dip the stamp into.

Apply paint to your first stamp and give it a test on your scrap paper or fabric. If the stamp looks good and the print comes out evenly, apply more paint and start stamping your bag!

If the print is uneven, you can wipe it off and use a sharp knife to smooth out the surface, or simply use a paintbrush to apply the paint more evenly or thoroughly as necessary.

If you’re using a juicy fruit or vegetable, try to squeeze some of the juice out before using it to stamp. The first time you use it the paint might be a bit runny, but blotting it with a paper towel or dotting it on the scrap paper should dry it up.




Repeat these steps to print your pattern on the tote bag. If some stamps are a little patchy, you can go back over with a small paintbrush to fill in the empty spots if you like. Some of the empty spots might look natural and give the print its homemade look, so use your judgment and go with what you like!

Once your print is complete, leave it to dry for at least 24 hours. Toss all your veggie stamps in the trash as they are not good to keep, and you shouldn’t compost them with paint on them. Clean up and follow the instructions on your paint for finishing the print for daily use or washing, and then take your tote to the market!




If you have paint and time left over after you’ve finished your bag, keep playing! Try new patterns on dish towels, plain t-shirts or fabric to use in other crafts.

Sarah Carlisle is passionate about learning and making, and spends most of her time in Portland, OR running a creperie, growing food in a cooperative garden, participating in community kitchens, and creating and crafting at home. 

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