28 December 2010

Gift Bags

For many years now, we've used fabric bags for our Christmas and birthday gifts within our immediate family (ie we don't give them away, but reuse them). Using these bags saves on paper wrapping, sticky tape, and wrapping time. They are super easy and fast to make, and I thought you might like to see how it's done!


• Decorative fabric, this can be Christmas fabric, kiddy print fabric, old sheets, recycled shirts, use whatever you have to hand. A soft polyester / cotton fabric works best, you don't want to use anything sheer or too stiff. You'll want to make a range of bag sizes, from little (jewellery!) to huge (for those kiddy toys!), so fabric scraps of nearly any size will work well.

• Ribbon or cording to tie the bags closed. You can even use plaited yarn or knit i-cord for this.

• Sewing thread.


Step 1 : Cut your fabric to twice the size you want your bag. I don't measure anything, I just fold the fabric in half to get the rough size I'm after, and cut to size. The fold can either be on the side of the bag, or the base, it doesn't matter.

Step 2 : Get the cord for the tie closure, and fold it in half. You want a decent amount of ribbon or cord, so you can tie a pretty bow. Place the folded ribbon on the side of the bag, far enough down from the top of the bag to give a nice ruffled effect when the bag is tied shut - roughly 1/4 of the total height of the bag (or so).

Step 3: Fold the fabric over so right sides are together, and pin the 2 sides to be sewn together, catching in the looped end of the cord in the side seam as shown below. Sew the seams. I usually sew over the ribbon bit a few times for extra strength.

Step 4 : trim the corners of the bag. You can finish the seams if you like, but honestly, I don't bother - the bag isn't going to get that much wear and tear, or even need washing much.

Step 5 : Fold the top edge of the bag over twice to make a narrow hem, iron it if you're so inclined (I don't bother, and just finger press it), pin, and sew.

Step 6 : Turn the bag right side out, give it a firm shake, turn out the corners, you can even iron it if you're really getting carried away, and you're done! It really is that quick - about 10 minutes to make 1 bag from scratch.

After filling your bag with the gift, tie the ribbon to close it, and pin on a name tag or add one with a hole punched in it over the ribbon tie.

Some more ideas :

• For children's gifts - dinosaur fabric, animal fabric, brightly coloured sheets, stripes, there are a million great kid print fabrics out there. (Make sure you tie their bags with double knots to stop peeking under the Christmas tree!)

• Make small bags from exquisite quilting fabrics.

• Make the top of a bag out of calico or some other plain fabric, and add a band or base of a fancy or panel print fabric.

• Make personalised bags for your family, with their names cut out of fabric or embroidered on, if you're into appliqué or embroidery.

• Make a drawstring closure instead of just stitching in the ribbon if you're feeling extravagant.

• Have two different fabrics for the front and back of the bag.

• Raid your local op shop for old clothes and linen which are decorative and of the right sort of weight and drape, and chop them up for your bags.

• Get your kids to draw Christmas / birthday pictures with fabric markers / crayons onto plain calico, set their artwork (usually this means ironing the fabric), and then use the fabric to make some bags.

• Make enough bags that you can give them away with gifts to friends and family, and spread the "gift bag" love!


  1. This is the best idea - simple at the same time as thoughtful and useful. Brilliant.

  2. I have a friend who does this, and I just saw one of her bag's at my parents' on Christmas. So cool!

  3. What a great (and ecologically sound) idea. I realized this year that I really don't like wrapping presents. Especially when there's more than one. This would save me lots of time and aggravation.

  4. Brilliant! I love the idea of these being used over and over and passed around. I think I'll start it among my friends next year!

  5. That could be a way of using up some of mr fabric stash! So simple but so clever :)

  6. 'My' fabric stash. I do not assign genders to my stashes. Just in case anyone was wondering how loony I actually am!

  7. I love this idea! I am definitely copying it for next year!

  8. This is a great idea - I want to share it with my friends. Like Sheep Rustler said, so simple but so clever!

  9. Such a clever thing to do ... wish this thought had occurred to me before Christmas! My kids got Santa sacks, but this would be great for other gifts ...


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