Have you made The Purl Bee's Twenty Minute Tote? You should. It's good.
We made a whole slew of them for Girl Scouts last year. Out of muslin with twill tape handles. Then the girls decorated them with paint pens. It was for the Art to Wear try-it. My co-leader and I each made half and the meeting where we colored them was a lot of fun. The bags were just the right size for bringing their Journey book back and forth to the meeting.
Friday, I was at Joann's buying birthday presents. We had two parties this weekend - one for a girl turning 5 and one for a girl turning 8. I got them the same thing as eachother. It met my criteria - when I showed it to my girls, one approved (art supplies, but not messy) and the other wanted it for herself. They each got: a set of 12 colored pencils, Crayola Color Sticks, a sheet of alphabet stickers, a sheet of cute animal stickers (both from the scrapbook department), and a pad of paper that had drawing, tracing and construction paper. I also picked up a remnant thinking I could sew a tote bag for each to put it in (I hate wrapping gifts. And I think Gift Bags are a great concept that everyone wants to reuse but no one does.) The remnant was 33" of a bright home-dec weight, 44" wide. I might have been delusional about how much time I had to make the totes. We had two soccer games before the first party on Saturday. Luckily we had some benign tropical weather and soccer was rained out.
I fussy cut the material so that the tree was kind of in the middle of the bag. I made the handles out of the material. (cut 2 - 3" x 33" strips for each bag, fold one edge in by 1/4" inch and sew it down the length of the material, fold the other edge in by 1/4" and sew it down. Then fold it in half and sew closed with a zig-zag. Top stitch the other edge with a zig zag. This is all to avoid having to turn it right side out. And ironing. That would have made it easier. I could have pressed each edge in by 1/4" and then just sew it shut.) I didn't feel like getting my straight pins out of my sewing box. The lesson I learned is that it is worth it to pin the handles in place on the first go-round. Otherwise you have three seams to rip out to re-align the handles.