quick and easy tutorial: mini coloring tote

My kiddo needed a gift to bring to her preschool for a gift exchange. The price limit was around $2 which didn't leave a whole lot of options. Instead of raiding the Target Dollar Spot, I found small coloring books at Walgreens 2/$1 and made a little tote to hold them! I added a few crayons to finish it off. It is an easy project that doesn't use a lot of supplies, making it inexpensive as well. So, if you find yourself in need of a cheap and easy handmade gift for little ones, here ya go:

The coloring books I picked up are about 7.75" tall and 5.25" wide. The dimensions below are sized to fit this size coloring book/pad  and 4 crayons. If you need to change the size of your tote, it's really easy to do! {notes on that at the bottom}

*I used cotton twill as a lining to make the bag sturdier. The lining isn't necessary though. Leave that off if you want to speed up the process!

Step One: Pressing

Take one of your main fabric pieces and fold the top short edge down by 1/2 an inch and press. Then fold down another inch and press. Do the same with your other main piece. Lay both pieces right side down and place your lining pieces on top. Line the bottom of the lining pieces up with the bottom of your main pieces. Fold the flaps you created over the lining and press. This gives you a nice finished edge for the top of your tote. Set aside.

Next, grab your strap pieces. Fold one in half  lengthwise (wrong sides touching) and press. Open the strap back up and fold both sides in to meet the crease. Press again. Repeat with other strap.

Finally, grab your pocket piece and fold it in half wrong sides touching. Press. The folded edge will be the top of your pocket.

Your pieces should look like the photo below :)

Step Two: Topstitching

Top stitch along both the top and bottom edges of the flaps. I did two lines of stitching along both edges for a more finished look. Set those aside.

Grab your pocket piece and topstitch along the folded edge. Again, I did two lines just because I felt like being fancy. Next, starting with the open side of your strap pieces, sew along both long edges. Sew anywhere from 1/8" to 1/4" from the edges. You'll be sewing along the very edge of the straps when you attach them to the tote pieces so just leave yourself room for that.

Step 3: Fun with your fabric marking pen

Measure 2" from the bottom of whichever main piece you'd like to use as the front of your tote and mark a line across the entire piece.

Next, mark a line across the bottom of your pocket piece (1/4" from the raw edge). Line up the raw edge of  the pocket piece with the line you drew on your tote piece. Make sure the pocket is centered and pin in place. Sew along the line you drew on your pocket.

Fold up the pocket and press. Edgestitch along the very bottom edge of the pocket and along both sides. Now, grab your ruler and line up it along the left side of the pocket. Make marks at the 2 inch, 3 inch, and 4 inch spots to create stitch lines. Sew along the lines you drew to create the crayon slots. I like to sew from the bottom of the pocket to the top, making sure to backstitch at both points of every line.

Step 4: Attaching straps

Basically, you want the outside edges of the straps to line up with the outer edges of your pocket piece. The bottom edges of your strap will of course line up with the bottom of your tote. Pin in place. I used the front tote piece as a guide for placing my straps on the back part of the tote. Starting at the bottom of the tote, stitch as close to the edge of your straps as possible. I originally planned to sew all the way around to the other side and realized that was just crazy! Instead, when you get to the topmost line of stitching on your tote piece, leave your needle down, pivot, and stitch across and then down in the other direction. {See the 3rd photo below}

If you want to reinforce the straps, sew an X at the top of each one before going on to the next step.

Step 5: Sewing the tote

Once your straps are sewn in place, place your tote pieces together {right sides touching} and pin. Make sure your straps match up at the bottom of the tote pieces.  I hate pinning so I used 2 binder clips instead. Sew across the bottom using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Serge, ziz zag stitch, or pink the seam. Finally, sew along both sides of the tote {3/8 inch seam allowance here too}, from the bottom to the top. Finish your seams, turn bag right side out, and press. All finished! Now stuff that tote with goodies, slap a bow on it, and call it a day :)

How to resize the pattern for smaller/larger coloring books:

Simple! Measure your coloring books and determine what the finished size of your tote needs to be {I made my tote a bit wider and shorter than the coloring books}. If you're going to use a 3/8" seam allowance like I did, add .75" to the width and 2" to the height of your main tote piece measurements. For the lining, use the same measurements, but subtract 1.5" from the height. To determine the length of your handles, I used a piece of ribbon to get an idea of how long they needed to be. For the pocket piece, just keep in mind that each crayon slot is 1" wide and you'll need to add 2" to the total width. For example, if you are making a wider tote and would like 6 crayon slots, your pocket piece should be 8" wide.

*for personal use only, thanks!

Make sure to add photos of your totes to my Flickr pool! I'd love to see what you come up with.

*note on the paper doll fabric I used: I bought it some time ago at a local quilt shop. Info from the selvedge:
Pattern# 5702 Hoodie's Collection for Blank Quilting 2009 ~ Cutie Pie


  1. Super cute!!! Great gift idea! You rock! ;)

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  2. That's adorable! I love all those wallets you just made as well!

  3. uhh...SO cute! i love the crayons on the outside! and that fabric as well. A-dorable.

  4. Brilliant, was just wondering what to do for my son's secret santa next week... How clever you are!

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  5. I looks so cute! I´m going to try it one of this days!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. so so cute! I know I tend to say that a lot, but really, I love little gifts like this. Looks very professional and useful, love that!

  7. whatever kid ended up with that major-ly scored!

  8. A lovely gift and a great tutorial, thank you.

  9. I LOVE this idea, so creative!!


  10. How neat! I think this would be a great party favor. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Very cute! These would make good gift bags too!! Totally love the fabric you used - where did you get it?

  12. very cute. and by "very" i mean VERY! also, great tutorial. i reeeally stink at writing them!!

  13. 1 question: I made a similar tote with the handle stitched to the outside. Only problem was that when filled with stuff, the handles pulled on the outside of the bag, causing the very top to kind of sag/fold in on itself. Does that make sense? Should I restitch them closer to the top? Thanks for any insight! :)

  14. Wow!! This is adorable, and you make it look soo easy...

    I bet whichever kid got it, loved it! Nice work :)

    A.Co @ A.Co est. 1984

  15. What a great tutorial! I'm totally making this as Christmas gifts for my husbands young cousins!

  16. I am your newest follower. I had a great time hopping around your blog.My kids can't agree when working with crayons. This is the perfect to separate everyone's crayons. Great tutorials.

  17. Thank you for this tutorial! I didnt know what to make my friend's little girl for christmas, so i whipped one of these up, so simple! The directions were great, and she LOVED it! Thanks again!

  18. Love this idea, Vanessa! We're sharing it today on our blog as part of our Christmas Craft Roundup! http://bit.ly/GBPcraftychristmas

  19. Very cute! Thanks for taking the time to make this tutorial and sharing!

  20. How cute! I am in love with the fabric you used.
    I'm going to make one of these for my niece. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  21. this makes you the hero of my day. i can't wait to get some ME time in my craft space to bring this thing to life!

  22. I have to send you a huge thank you! It was this site along with this exact tutorial almost a year ago that started my insane business/charity/crafting days that I have endured for almost a year. It has been therapeutic through a rough year, and I have raised so much money and helped others while helping myself. Please visit my blog to further understand the impact you have made in so many. Thank you. www.craftingforchiari.blogspot.com

  23. Just wanted to drop in and let you know that I shared a link to your tutorial! You can take a peek here: http://www.craftymumma.com/

    Gab xx

  24. came from PB...totally love this idea!

  25. This is fabulous!!! Hope you don't mind, but I'm pinning and hope to make for Christmas presents this year.

  26. I just made this for my little girl. Thanks a lot for giving the great tutorial!!

  27. So cute! I'm going to make these for my three little ones for our summer trip to the beach. The car ride will be so much quieter if they each have their own special art bag. Thanks for the great instructions! simplelivingbasics.blogspot.com

  28. Thank you so much for this! I am a beginner and am making two of these for my girls for Christmas! I will post pictures when they are done! Thanks again!


  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. I am off to buy fabric for this project I love it !!!!!

  31. Many thanks for this beautiful tutorial! I have a scrap of the same fabric, it suits this project beautifully.

  32. Que maravilhoso o seu blog,apaixonei com a dica da Bolsinha,fofinha de mais!!

  33. Thank you so much for the great tutorial. I sewed one up for my niece and have plans to sew a larger one for my daughter. Thanks again! Wishing you a safe and happy holiday.

  34. Thank you so much for this idea and tutorial. I'm doing a "no money spent" birthday party for my 7 year old and now I can raid my stash to make these for party favors! Instead of coloring books I'm putting home made play dough, a cookie decorated by the party girl and a matching headband in each bag. I may spend enough to buy colored pencils or markers but we will create our own notebooks. Thanks again, I truly appreciate that you took the time to show is how :)

  35. What a cute idea. And your tutorial is just great too. A lovely gift and quite easy to make following your clear instructions. Thank you for sharing;)

  36. My 2 1/2 year old may make it through a Church service with this in tow! I have the perfect construction equipment fabric for it! Thank you for sharing this great tutorial!

  37. This is so cute! Great job on the tutorial. Very easy to follow. Thanks for sharing!

  38. Super cute I made a few of these for our school craft stall.

  39. Thank you for such helpful advice. It is so wonderful of you to share your knowledge. I for one can use all the help available out there. I want to talk you about Baby books for boys. It is essential to know the character and the passions of the person before purchasing the existing because sometimes, Customised gifts to buy a existing that is more in range with something that they might like for themselves. They do not focus on the recipient's needs and wants. So, before purchasing anything do some research about the person?

  40. This is so sweet! I was looking around for a birthday gift for a sweet little girl, and this will be perfect! Thank you!


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