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Crafting for a Cause: Cricut Backpacks for Foster Care

In this post, I am going to share a full step by step tutorial (with video) on how to use your Cricut machine, the Cricut EasyPress, and some iron-on to make two adorable backpack to donate to the Blue Ribbon Project for little ones entering the Foster Care program.

Mermaid and pirate backpacks


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cricut. All opinions are 100% mine.


As a mother, I don't think there's anything more heart wrenching than little kids in need. And while I love teaching our little boys to be helpful, to give to others in need. I didn't really think how I (and we as a family) could be more involved in giving. And what better cause that the little ones that are entering Foster Care.

Did you know that there are approximately 440,000 children in Foster Care nationwide? I certainly did not know the number was this high!

When most children enter Foster Care, it’s an emergency situation. Children can be taken from their homes with as little as the clothes on their backs. And to add insult to injury, children are given trash bags to carry the few belongings that they may have.

That’s where we come in! I've teamed up with Cricut to provide personalized backpacks for those children entering Foster Care. And bring awareness to The Blue Ribbon Project and their Backpacks of Love program.

And if you want to craft with me and donate as well, I have a full step-by-step tutorial of the backpacks I am creating!

(Before things got crazy, and we were able to go shop) We took a family shopping day and went to get everything that the Blue Ribbon Project website has listed as the needed items for little ones, my boys and husband had such a great time picking things for the little ones. And I, as the mom of 3 boys, had the best time picking the girliest things for my girl backpack.

pirate full mermaid full

My boys were the ones that picked the themes of each pack and helped me come up with ideas for the designs. I used only images from Design Space, so you could download the exact files from my project!

Let’s craft something special that will not only provide a way for these children to carry their precious belongings but will hopefully provide comfort during a very difficult transition. 

I've divided the post into two sections, the boy backpack: Pirate-themed and the girl backpack: Mermaid-themed.

So let's jump into it!



backpacks materials

For both backpacks I used the same tools:


The cut files

I set up two projects (one for each design) so that you can load the edited versions of the files I used to create these backpacks.



Pirate backpack

For the Pirate backpack this is the exact list of iron-on vinyl I used:

  1. Everyday iron-on Basics sampler(white and black – skeleton & hat)
  2. Yellow color iron-on (back of the hat)
  3. Red color iron-on (bandana)
  4. Foil-Chrome color foil iron-on (sword and back skull)
  5. The black backpack


Mermaid backpack

For the Mermaid design, this is the exact list of the iron-on-colors I used:

  1. Neon-pink color iron-on (hair)
  2. Blush color  iron-on (face)
  3. Gold color glitter iron-on mesh star (hairclip & back-shell)
  4. Holographic iron-on sampler – Miami ( tail and side splashes)
  5. The teal backpack






Since this is such a visual tutorial, I created a video, so that you can see first hand how I made the embellishments for the backpacks.  

I tried to cover most things with the most detail as possible, but I did speed up on most boring or time-consuming parts, so it would not be boring =]





1 Remove the labels

I used the seam ripper from my Sewing Kit, to take the front labels of both backpacks off, the process is super simple, but make sure to be careful so you don't damage the canvas.

Also, you will see big holes from the thread that was holing the labels, this is normal, and most times they get smaller after washing. BUT don't worry, because we will cover almost all of that surface.

remove labels


2Load the files

In the video, I share a little bit of the behind the scenes (or should I say in-screen, because it's the screen recording) of how I created the designs for these backpacks using little parts of different designs available in Design Space using my Cricut Acess subscription.

If you don't have a subscription, you would need to purchase the separate files in order to see my edited version. I tried to use as many free files as possible, but I wanted to let you guys know just in case.

I set them into separate projects so that if you like only one of them, you can select that particular design without having to have both of them together.


pirate design space


My oldest boy Conner gave me the idea of making a skeleton Pirate, but all the skeletons that I found in Design Space, looked pretty scary. I wanted something more on the “cute” side, so I mixed and cut a couple of the available files in order to create the artwork for the backpacks.


mermaid design space

My middle and youngest boys, Collin and copper, were the ones that decided that we would make a Mermaid for the little girl, they were obsessed with the “Little Mermaid” that week, so I think they match perfectly!


3Measure the pieces

While the files that are in the projects are measured for these backpacks, if you are using a different design, you might need to measure your pieces to make sure everything fits where it's supposed to =] 

measuring backpacks


4Cut the pieces

Since we are working with iron-on, there are some things that we have to keep in mind that are not the same as when we work with vinyl. We have to remember to place the iron-on shiny side down (the shiny side is the carrier) on the mat and leave the matte side up (or if you peel the corner, set the material side, not the clear side on the top)

design space cutting mats


We also have to remember to mirror the artwork on all mats, you can easily do this by clicking the “mirror” toggle in Design Space. 

Everything will be separated by mat (and color) so you can load the colors depending on the prompts.


cutting machine 


5Weeding the iron-on

 To weed all the pieces, I used my Cricut BrightPad, but this is completely optional. I also used the weeding tool from my toolset.

I want to point out that while I mostly use the BrigthPad for lettering and calligraphy, I just really like how easy it is to see the lines with the BrightPad.

weeding brightpad




6Add a base to press

For the size of backpacks I am using, the big 20×16″ EasyPress Mat because it fits perfectly folded on the inside, and the small 8×10″ fits in the front pocket.  Pressing the vinyl with the mats inside game me so much confidence when pressing, I used to press iron-on with towels and it seemed like I always managed to mess them up!

add easypress mat



7Align the pieces in the backpacks

For some projects, free-pressing is the best way to go, but since these designs are pretty symmetrical, making sure they are center is pretty important.

So I like using my sewing ruler to measure and make sure that my vinyl pieces are where they are supposed to =]


measuring the backpacks



8Pressing the design

Pressing the pieces is pretty straightforward, but if you want o see step by step of how I made both of the backpacks, you can check my video right here.


pressing the iron on pressing the iron on

Depending on the kind of vinyl you use, it could be a cold-peel or a hot-peel, what this means is that for some kinds of iron-on, you will need to wait before peeling the carrier sheet (this is the cold-peel) and other brands (or kinds) are hot-peel, and you can peel off as soon as you are done pressing.




For the Pirate skeleton, I wanted him to hold the sword on the side of the backpack, and I am so happy with how it came out!

close up close up pirate backpacks


I also wanted to add a little detail in the back, since I did a shell on the back of the mermaid one. This skull looked so cool!

back of pirate




mermaid final




Here is how the Backpacks look once we loaded them with all the goodies listed on the Blue Ribbon Project website. I had so much fun pinking all the girly stuff and the boys with my husband picked all of the boy's stuff =]

Again, if you want to donate, just check the project right here!

full backpack pirate full backpack mermaid


backpack on wall


I had so much fun making these backpacks and I love that we did all the shopping for the contents as a family and made a day out of it =]

Thanks to Cricut again for allowing me to craft for a cause and for teaming up with me to bring awareness to the Blue Ribbon Project.

Pinterest images cricut backpacks

cricut backpacks

cricut backpacks

cricut backpacks

Keep creating!


Sunday 9th of May 2021

hi i wanted to buy a cricut machine for our school sweatshirts to do it my self for cheaper do you need experience or is it hard to learn???

Joy Kelley

Tuesday 1st of June 2021


Some machines have a little bit of a learning curve, I think the easiest of all is the Cricut Joy. But once you understand the software all machines are easy to use =]

I hope that helps!

Afiya T

Monday 8th of June 2020

I love this!! Can this be done with lunch bags as well??

Joy Kelley

Wednesday 10th of June 2020

Yes! of course! You would just have to re-size the artwork =] If your lunch bag is made out of fabric you can use the same iron-on I recommend if they are plastic or metal, you can use regular permanent vinyl instead.

All the luck with your project! xo, Joy -

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