If you have people in your church who are willing to go through their closets and donate old t-shirts to the VBS program, this day pack is a neat option which can be decorated to any theme. Since the craft classes in our church VBS are only twenty minutes long, this craft can span two to three crafting periods. This means a different craft is not required each night–a real advantage in terms of preparation!
The first thing to do is to make a pattern. I took a piece of poster board and cut a fifteen-by-twelve-inch rectangle which I used to help me cut the shirts to the same size. The idea is to cut a rectangle of fabric from the front and back of the shirt with the hem of the t-shirt as the edge of one of the short sides of the pattern. Watching for stains, I tried to put one long edge of the pattern on a side fold so that I would only have stitch up two sides instead of three, but this did not work out for every shirt. Sometimes I had to refold the shirt so that I could cut out the sections under the sleeves where I would not run into logos or other images on the front and back. Extra-large shirts had enough fabric for me to cut two packs each even though I was allowing for an additional quarter-inch seam allowance as I cut around the pattern.
I did not do anything fancy in stitching the edges. I made straight seams and then finished off the raw edges. I also made small slits in the sides of the t-shirt hem (see photo at right), that would now function as the casing at the top of the bag. (You can put Fray Check on them if you feel it is important.) The only other preparation required is to cut two 2-yard-long pieces of some type of cording that will fit through the hem of the t-shirt for each pack. I used bulky size six yarn for this because it was the cheapest option I could find, but if your church can afford it, nylon laundry line would be better. Some of these options will require that you do something to keep the ends of the cord from unraveling, i.e. using tape or melting the ends with a candle.
The crafting part for the kids is in the decorating. I cut down some pizza box lids and other scrap cardboard to insert into the packs and protect the back of the pack from paint. Then I allowed the kids to use stencils, stamps, and fabric paint to decorate the front. You could also use fabric crayons or markers, depending on the age of the kids.
The second night, I had the kids turn the packs inside-out and place a triangle of duct tape on the bottom two corners, front and back. Then they turned the pack back right-side-out. I gave each student a large safety pin to attach to his cord to run through the casing at the top. One cord goes in, goes all the way around, and comes out on the same side that it entered the casting, then the other cord does the same on the opposite side. See the pictures on my fused shopping bag day packs for clarity.
The final step is to use an ice pick to punch a hole though the taped corner sections of the pack and allow the student to thread both of his cords through with a yarn needle. Then have him tie the two cords together in an overhand knot to keep them from slipping back through the hole.
This is a picture of my sample pack. I know it is more elaborate than most students can manage in twenty minutes, but I like to let them see what is possible!