last-minute teacher’s tote bag

family, free patterns, sewing

8 finished-tote

Here in the US it’s the end of the school year in many areas and many parents are trying to decide if they are going to organize a pool to combine their money with that from other parents for a class gift for the teacher or if they’re going to give an individual gift.

I haven’t figured out the whole teacher’s gift thing. I’ve heard that teachers really just want gift cards for buying supplies but if there are twenty-some kids in the class and everyone gives gift cards, isn’t that an awful lot of gift cards? Our daughter is in a Spanish-immersion program at our local public school so at Christmas we made loans in the teacher’s honor through Kiva to a number of cooperatives in Spanish-speaking countries, which she seemed to truly appreciate, but I want to do something more personal for her at the year-end.

It’s a hard call. I don’t want to make something that she doesn’t want or need but somehow giving her a plastic-version of cash is somehow a downer to me. I think the reason that I’m so resistant to the gift-card thing is that I want to give her something that will help sustain her enthusiasm for teaching. Teaching can be an exhausting profession and I want her to hold onto her patience and dedication. I know that it’s not realistic to expect that my little year-end gift has that kind of power but I do think that there is something very sincere about a handmade gift.

So this year I started thinking about a tote bag. I’m so hoping that this isn’t in the coffee mug category of gifts that teachers most hate to receive but I think it’s hard to have too many tote bags. (Let the record reflect that my husband does not agree with this statement.) Anyway, a tote bag it is.


To make it special I asked our daughter to draw a portrait of her teacher on paper. Then we scanned it and printed it out on photo transfer fabric sheets and started sewing. I chose a tan canvas for the main part of the bag because I was envisioning this tote bag getting a lot of wear and tear and thought the color would be fine in all seasons. (Let the record also reflect that my daughter wishes it were hot pink.)


My end-of-school-year gift to you is a free download of the pattern for the bag because I’m hoping that you too had a teacher worthy of your creative efforts.

8 thoughts on “last-minute teacher’s tote bag

  1. You have the BEST ideas! (I am currently doing the Guy’s quilt in APQ for my brother!) I love this bag and I love the story. My son has an IEP and a teacher who works VERY hard with him. This is a great gift for her. I think I will fill it with supplies that I know she buys out of her pocket. OH! and BTW tell your husband that no, you CAN’T have too many bags!

  2. I laughed at the comment about how many tote bags is enough. My closet is overflowing with tote bags, but each time I try to weed out the ones I don’t use, I can’t bring myself to do it. Each has an origin that I remember, and I enjoy being reminded of this when I look at them.

  3. I can’t believe people give teachers gift cards for supplies! Supplies can be given separately but a teacher gift should be for the teacher. So says my mom who has taught since who-knows-how-long.

    Handmade bags have become my go-to gift as well, as my daughter is handicapped and has an army of teachers, aides and therapists looking after her. I could never afford something nice for so many people. About a month before school is out I ask them all for their favorite colors and then consider each one’s style based on what I have seen them wear all year.

    Here is the first batch I made a few years ago:

    and here is the latest, and much larger, crop:

    I really love your including your daughter’s original art!

  4. As a teacher, I think your idea is wonderful. I too agree that you can never have too many tote bags (and my husband would also disagree with that statement!). For my daughter’s preschool teachers I made them tiny totes for the holidays, then put a gift card inside them to the local coffee shop or pizza place (for that morning pick me up, or dinner on a night when it’s crazy). For teacher appreciate week in May our daycare made a giving tree for the teachers – supply wishlists were filled by the parents. Thanks for the wonderful inspirations!

  5. Hi,
    As a teacher in the UK even just a thank you card would mean a lot to me. Giving a teacher a gift here is not considered necessary as the parents believe that we are being paid to do a job and that is the end of it. So personally having loads of bags would not be problem as I would use them to store my project UFO’s. The effort that you all put into teacher gifts is a gift in itself and very thoughtful. Find out if they have a hobby, cooking = a nice tea towel, corchet = ball of cotton yarn for making dishcloths etc. I someone gave me a nice crochet hook (even a charity shop one) I would be in paradise as it is the thought that counts.

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