DIY Mini Tote Bags

I don't know if it's a normal toddler habit, but Merle hoards bags. Small bags in particular, like party favor bags or ditty bags from the dentist. She loves collecting random stuff from around the apartment (scrap paper, bottle caps, plastic figurines) and storing it in these miscellaneous bags. I've tried to get rid of some of the bags several times over the past few months, but she insists they're important and can't be thrown out. It generally ends in hysterical tears with the bags, which are essentially trash, staying. At any given moment she can list what's in each bag and where each bag is hidden (so Mommy won't take them away). One of the bags, a small plastic bag from the dentist, is over a year old (!!!!) and each birthday party Merle goes to results in another favor bag to add to her collection (ugh).

With Merle's birthday party coming up, I wanted her favor bags to truly be reusable, so that if she, or her friends, decide to keep the bag for a long time, it wouldn't become an eyesore. There are plenty of mini canvas bags available online, but they can get pricey when you need a lot of them. Instead I decided to make my own bags using felt. Felt is great because it's durable (read: kid friendly), doesn't fray (read: no surging needed), and it's inexpensive. The materials to make 24 bags cost around $5 or $0.21 per bag. To cut the felt down to size for all of the bags took less than five minutes. I chose to sew the bags, which couple of couple of hours with a toddler on my lap but it would have taken less time in peace. Felt responds well to fabric glue, so if sewing isn't your thing, using that would cut down the project time. Overall the project is simple and inexpensive, which is exactly what I look for in DIY party supplies. Speaking of party supplies, I have a big announcement coming tomorrow! Check back in Tuesday for more details :) For now, here's how I made the mini tote bags/reusable favor bags. 

Mini Tote Bags
Makes 24

4 9"x12" sheets secondary color craft felt (I used this and this)
Thread (decide whether you want it to match or contrast with the felt color)
Sewing machine (or needle for hand stitching)

Fold the large sheet of felt in half with plush sides facing inward. Using chalk, mark along the bottom of the felt in 5 1/2" increments four times. With a ruler, make a chalk line along the full width of the felt from the marks at the bottom. Cut along the lines. This will result in four long strips with a 5 1/2" width plus leftover material to be used for handles. From the end of each strip measure 6". Fold each of the long strips accordion style to create a series of 5 1/2" by 6" rectangles (6 rectangles per strip). Cut along the folds. This yields the body portion of all 24 bags. 

With the excess folded felt not cut into 5 1/2" segments, measure out 1" increments along the bottom and then extend the chalk lines the full width of the felt. Cut along the lines. Measure out 8 1/2" from the bottom of each strip and as before, accordion fold into 8 1/2" segments and cut along the folds. 

With each pair of 5 1/2" by 6" rectangles, line up the longer 1" by 8 1/2" strips roughly a half inch from the ends and a half inch inward. Pin the strip down on the unprinted or flat side of the felt for easy sewing and to ensure the handles on each half of the bag are even. Sew the handles to each body piece in a straight line, once forward and once backward. Flip each body piece over so the interior (or unprinted) sides are facing outward. Sew in a straight line along each side and the bottom. Turn the bag right side out. 

The next few steps are optional if you want to customize the front of the bag with a graphic to match a party theme or to match your child's interests. Trace the desired decorative image on one corner of the secondary sheets of felt with chalk. I used the heads of dinosaurs from my dinosaur coloring pages to match Merle's dinosaur themed birthday party. Fold the felt accordion style once or twice (depending on how sharp your scissors are) and cut out the traced image. Glue the graphic to the front of the bag. Ta da! The bag is ready for use. 

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