Make Your Own Gift Bags

by Kelly · 24 comments

in A Frugal Home,Series

I love presents. Don’t you? And I’m still just childish enough to admit that I prefer receiving presents to giving them. Not that I don’t like to give presents- I do!- but there’s such a thrill in the discovery of unwrapping the package to see what’s inside.

Except. As I’ve become more environmentally and economically aware over the past few years, I’ve also become aware that I’m spending money on something that is going to be useful for about two minutes before being ripped to shreds and thrown away. Thus a new (holiday) resolution: This year I’m going to be making as many reusable gift bags as possible.

Gift bags are fairly easy to make, they are nothing more than a fabric pouch. They are a perfect project for beginner sewers, as all you need to do is sew five straight lines. Choose a colorful sturdy fabric, one hundred percent cotton is best. If you are making bags for a specific holiday you might want to choose themed fabric, or you could choose a more child-pleasing print for your kids’ gifts. Make sure to pre-wash your fabric!

Then, cut out different sized pieces of fabric for your different sized bags. I’m going to be making lots of DVD sized bags this year as well as some larger bags for kid toys. You want the bag to be at least 4 inches wider and 6 inches longer than the object which it is going to hold, to account for seam allowance and the width of the object as well as to give enough room to tie a ribbon on. A bag large enough to hold a DVD for example, would require two pieces of fabric, each sized 9.5 inches by 13.5 inches.

Stitch a top hem for the opening of the bag: fold the fabric on one of the narrow sides over 1/2 inch, and then over again 1/2 inch, so that the cut end is completely contained. Pin the hem into place, then stitch a straight or zig-zag seam. Repeat for the second piece of fabric.

Then place the right sides of the fabric together, (don’t forget to put the opening, hemmed ends at the same end). Pin together and then stitch around the 3 unhemmed sides to make a bag. Turn inside out. Et voila! A cloth bag for wrapping presents!

You can either sew a ribbon on or leave it off. I prefer not to sew the ribbon on, as it then gives me a bit more leeway in the size of the present to be wrapped. I plan on making some for our family’s gifts this year, in a variety of plain colors like black, red, green and blue. While it might take more effort to stitch up a few of these than simply wrapping paper around a present, this project is good both for the environment and my pocketbook.

I have not included pictures of the different steps in this project because (ahem) I haven’t made any of these bags yet. The picture above is of my cloth diaper wet bags, which I made using the exact same process. Yes, I am a procrastinator, on the other hand, we’re in the middle of midterms at school right now! If you have made gift bags, I’d love to see a picture of them!

Have you ever made a reusable fabric gift bag? How did your family like them?

This project is part of Holidays *by hand* a six part handcrafted holiday fair.


1 Rachel October 29, 2008

What a great idea! I’ll definitely be using some of these this year. We also save paper bags we get from some stores and re-decorate them as holiday bags or cut them up to use as wrapping paper.

2 yvonne October 29, 2008

This is a phenomennal idea. I did it out of necessity 4 years ago. When we all got together for the holidays it was 75 presents worth of paper and my mom was trying to burn the paper.
I work in a furniture store. I use the faric samples. Check with your local furniture stores. They will be pulling samples in the next month, most stores throw them away. I also bought holiday fabric after the holidays at a fraction of the cost.
Keep up the great work. I love your blog!!

3 TheRoadtoHobbiton October 29, 2008

I totally LOVE this idea! I HATE spending money on wrapping paper, but I like gifts to look nice too. I’m going to print out your instructions and try it out!
Great for the environment too!!!!!

As soon as I figure out how to add links to my blog at I am going to link to this!

TheRoadtoHobbiton´s last blog post..72 Ideas to Simplify My Life

4 Holly October 29, 2008

I have made some cloth gift bags to hold baby shower gifts, and they have been very well received. I made them part of the gift. I usually box the bottom and reinforce the bag with interfacing so it is a little sturdier…it stands up nice and straight in the pile of gifts that way, like a paper gift bag would. I also received a gift in a reusable bag once – it was a sturdy plastic – and I really appreciated it. I still use that bag.

Holly´s last blog post..Curiosity

5 Kelly October 29, 2008

@Sarah H,
Stay tuned for friday’s post, in which I answer your qestion and propose an alternative!

6 Kelly October 29, 2008

Links are pretty easy to do- you highlight the text you want to link to by clicking on it and dragging the mouse while holding down the clicker and then you look for the little symbol that looks like an earth with a belt, just above the box in which you write your posts, and click on that. Then you paste in the address to which you want to link and click on save. Easy-peasy! There’s a great blog called blogging basics 101 which answers all kinds of questions like this one. And check out my other blog

7 Sarah H. October 29, 2008

I like this idea! I think that wrapping paper and store-bought gift bags are so wasteful, not to mention expensive! But I have a question, will you just ask the recipient for the reusable gift bag back so you can use it again with another gift? Or will you let the recipient keep it since it is part of the gift 'package'? I understand that immediate family (like spouse or kids) won't 'keep' the bag of course…I guess I am talking more about gifts you give to non-family.

8 Vintage Mommy October 29, 2008

Kelly, I’m thinking of making the gift bags themselves be a gift. I know I have some friends who would love to receive a set in different sizes. I’m not great w/the sewing machine, but I think I can tackle this one!

Vintage Mommy´s last blog post..Only Children: Lucky or Lonely?

9 Jane October 30, 2008

Last year I made dozens of gift bags out of my sister in law’s bridesmaids dresses. Most of the bridesmaids were happy to hand over the dress they would never wear again.

Jane´s last blog post..Who Says "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?"

10 Lauren October 30, 2008

I did this one year for bottles of wine (we bought a case) and they made great gifts. To make them as re-usable as possible I made plain red ones. I tied with a green ribbon for Xmas but I know my mother-in-law used a different color ribbon and gave it away in the spring.

11 Kelly October 30, 2008

That’s ingenious! I bet the gift bags were much prettier than the dresses (don’t tell your sister)…

12 Courtney October 30, 2008

LOVE this idea! I am definitely a beginning sewer, so I think this would be a fun a little project. Can’t wait to see more details on Friday!

Courtney´s last blog post..Things I saw today

13 JessTrev October 30, 2008

Ah, serendipity! I just started a sewing class, was thinking this would be a perfect project, and here you go giving me instructions! Thank you!

JessTrev´s last blog post..Birth Control: Voting Green

14 Nicki S October 30, 2008

I’ve received gifts in these bags before and was thrilled just to receive the bag. I reused them the following Christmas and got the same reaction. You can’t go wrong with them. Great idea!

Nicki S´s last blog post..Over-Scheduling: The Well-Intentioned Thief

15 Julie October 31, 2008

Fantastic idea…I love it!

Julie´s last blog post..Vote For Weimaraners!

16 Gidget November 2, 2008

Great idea! I think I’m going to do something along these lines too.

Gidget´s last blog post..It’s the Absolute Ultimate!! #11~ Sweet Potato Solutions

17 PlanningQueen November 4, 2008

Such a great idea. Thanks for the tutorial.

PlanningQueen´s last blog post..10 Top Posts For October

18 jodi @ bpr November 4, 2008

great idea – I’m hoping to try some of these type bags this year – if I can just come up with enough time! 🙂 thanks for all the encouragement for a homemade Christmas! just what we needed!

jodi @ bpr´s last blog post..Sewing up a Homemade Holiday

19 Kate November 4, 2008

What a great idea…I like that after the person unwraps their gift, they also have a bag to use!!

Kate´s last blog post..Holidays by Hand – Sewing

20 Amy Jo November 5, 2008

I have made a few fabric gift bags in the past. But this is a good reminder to think about it again this year (before it gets too late to do it)

Amy Jo´s last blog post..Did you vote?

21 Katie February 23, 2009

After reading, 15-20 years ago, about the tons of gift wrap that goes into landfills every holiday season–because most of the wrapping paper can't be recycled and shouldn't be burned in your home fireplace–I started sewing gift bags, too. Mostly I make them to fit the individual gift, with a pleat at the bottom to make it roomy. I use holiday prints, solids, sometimes 2 layers of fabric–net or tulle over another fabric. They're always well received and I encourage the recipient to "pass it on"!

22 candygiftbaskets November 21, 2009

I have done this before and use them to stuff spa products to be given away to female colleagues and my gfs. The great thing about this gift bags is that you can save on the wrappers and the boxes. You can recycle them too.
.-= candygiftbaskets´s last blog ..Over the Hill 40th Bouquet of Cookies =-.

23 Lynn December 8, 2009

I made a bunch of these a few years ago, out of muslin, and stamped or stenciled designs on them. Some of them I lined with plastic so I could put cookies or other edibles inside. Thanks for the reminder!

24 Katie December 9, 2009

I’ve been making reusable gift bags for about 20 years. Ever since I heard about the multiple thousands of tons of wrapping paper that goes into the waste stream after Christmas each year. I make them out of all sorts of fabrics and tie them with lovely contrasting ribbons. The bag is part of the gift, as far as I’m concerned. I encourage the recipient to pass it on. Then I get to buy more lovely fabrics for next year….

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