Thursday, November 25, 2010

christmas countdown: how to make a reusable fabric gift bag.

Ever since I can remember, my friend Jennifer has found creative ways to wrap gifts that did not include using store bought wrapping paper.  She wrote this post on her personal website a few years ago, and I loved it so much, I asked her if she would let me republish here on my blog.  Lucky for us - she said "of course!!" 

How To Make A Reusable Fabric Gift Bag - by my friend Jennifer
I have a raging hatred of wrapping paper. Not wrapping paper on gifts that others have given me, of course. That would be in the "Gift Horse in the Mouth" category of social behaviour. However, for gifts that I am giving to others, I am loathe to use wrapping paper. This hatred dates back to the early nineties when environmentalism was almost as chic as it is now. My family was pretty into the whole thing and we started wrapping most of our Christmas presents in newspaper.

My attitude towards conventional wrapping paper has not changed, though I have graduated from newspaper to re-usable gift bags that I make all by myself. I make the bags every year and give them all away. The people who get them give them away the following year and it goes on like that. The only drawback is my having to make a new crop of bags every year, often when I am just getting sick of sewing quilts and other gifts.
Anyway, a few people have asked about the making of the bags so I have prepared this short tutorial to demonstrate how crazy-easy it is. A set of these bags actually makes a nice gift on its own, especially if you use really pretty fabric. I did this for the Octopus Books staff gift exchange this year and it was a hit. (Right, Lisa?)

So first, and most importantly, figure out which 1970's childhood Christmas album you're going to listen to while you sew:
What to listen to?
So maybe you have a bunch of fabric scraps already littering your sewing table? Pick out a chunk of fabric big enough to surround whatever it is you'd like to wrap. If you have and want to use ribbons or twine, pick some that matches.
Now fold the piece of fabric over your gift to make sure you have enough. You'll want to make sure to leave extra fabric at the top so you're able to tie the bag shut. Then cut your fabric to the appropriate size.
(I have a fancy rotary cutter and ruler, but you can just cut it with fabric scissors. This does not need to be exact. It is a very forgiving project.)
Next you'll want to fold over the hem around what will be the mouth of the bag. I like to use my pinking shears on the edge so it frays less, but this isn't totally necessary. You could also fold it over twice if you didn't want a raw edge on the inside of the bag.
Then, sew the hem into place.
Okay! Now you'll need to fold your fabric in half with the "right sides" together. If you want to have ribbon attached to the bag, you'll need to sandwich your ribbon in the fabric with the edge sticking out a little so it gets sewn into the seam. Like this:

Pin it! Pin it all! This will make sewing it so much easier. I hate pinning, it doesn't mesh well with my complete lack of patience with everything, however I have been sewing for many years and must admit that pinning saves time in the long run because it ensures that your fabric will not go all wonky when you are sewing it.
You're almost done. Now just sew along the edges you've pinned. Make sure you back stitch at the beginning and end of the seam to keep the whole thing from falling apart after multiple uses. It would defeat the purpose of making re-usable bags.
Now you have a bag!
And you can put your gift in it and tie it up tight.
I often make these bags without the ribbon attached and then just tie them closed with whatever pretty ribbon or twine that I have hanging around. However, the ribbon being attached makes it even nicer if you have the time and wherewithal to include it.

Good luck! Here's to garbageless Christmases of the future!


  1. Anonymous10:55 a.m.

    Jen, I still use one of these that contained, I think, my Xmas decoration. It now holds other treasures very nicely!


  2. I have the one in the last picture!

  3. Thanks a lot for the tutorial, i really like this a lot, the last year i put this in practice because i didn't have to much money for gif in Christmas and i save a lot of money doing this.