If I Can Sew This, So Can You: DIY Reusable Gift Bags

Thanks to my stellar friend Lys, I learned to sew last year. I've probably sewn less than 10 times total, but I now know how to thread my sewing machine (actually my sister's friend's sewing machine) and sew a straight line. I may have forgotten how to thread the machine actually, since I haven't sewn since my baby was born (over a year ago), but I have the instructions and am confident I can figure it out again!

One of the best things I did with these new skillz is make reusable fabric gift bags. Mostly I used free cast offs and scraps from Lys' extensive stash, which is why, while all the fabrics are nifty, they don't really coordinate. But I did buy a little bit of holiday fabric to make Christmas gift bags. A little splurge. Fabric is expensive even on sale! I bought several fabrics that were just green or just red so that I could cleverly use these for birthdays as well.

These bags are about as easy a sewing project as it gets. And fast. I whipped up 20+ bags in little more than a hour. This season, my fabric bags are done early enough to be used as wrapping for my Children's Book Advent Calendar! Here is how I did it.

Instructions by a Sewing Novice for How to Sew Gift Bags
  1. Cut out fabric, double the size of the bag.
  2. Fold the fabric in half, wrong side out, and sew along two of the edges. Don't sew the side you want to be the opening. Leave the folded side as is.
  3. Now finish off the opening of the bag. Fold over the only unconnected side one or two times (your choice!) towards the inside of the bag (wrong side of fabric). Then sew down that folded part (don't sew the bag closed!).
  4. Turn right side out, ta-da you are done!

One side folded (top), two sides sewn with simple stitch (left and bottom),
one side folded over once and sewn like a hem (right).

This edge I only folded over once.
This edge I folded over twice -- very fancy of me.
Notice the totally unfinished edge of the inside side of the bag.

A finished bag.

If you are a real seamstress, you probably have many scraps already at the ready. Or you could sew up some of those old receiving blankets, t-shirts, or buy and cut up a table cloth from a thrift store. I made them in a bunch of different sizes. I wish I'd made a few more big ones and a few less small ones, but overall, I did pretty well.

I wrap presents mostly two ways with these bags. The simplest way is to use it just like a bag and tie off the top with a ribbon.

The other way is to use it more like wrapping paper. This works especially well with books and things that barely fit inside (so that you don't have enough bag left to tie on top). I fold over the excess, and then wrap with a ribbon both directions.

Back side

All tied up and ready to go. No tape needed.

I am extremely pleased with these bags. Let me tell you why.

Compared to wrapping paper and paper gift bags, reusable bags are:
  • Cheaper (in the long run)
  • Faster and easier to wrap gifts with
  • Easier to reuse
  • More durable -- those gift bags only last so long when you reuse them
  • WAY simpler clean up (my favorite part)

When small children open gifts wrapped in wrapping paper or paper gift bags, there usually isn't much to salvage afterwards for reuse. Just tiny shreds of wrapping paper and tissue paper to corral into the recycling bin. But now, with fabric gift bags, I don't have to deal with that. And no more folding used tissue paper and gift bags or wrapping paper from gifts opened by adults either. It's true I fold up the fabric gift bags after, but it's easier than folding up tissue paper or paper gift bags. And you could absolutely get away with tossing fabric bags in a container without folding.

The simpler clean up is the best part. You can have all these gifts.

And afterwards end up with this.

Yep, I reuse the ribbons. I guess rolling those up is a little bit of work (I put them all in one of the smaller fabric bags together). I find storing the fabric bags and ribbons a lot less of a hassle than storing paper gift bags and tissue paper.

Although these bags were easy enough to make, I'm still not interested in giving them away. I use them for family celebrations, or a gift you are going to open at my house (so I can have my bag back). If you get a gift from me in a bag I've sewn, I really like you. How do I wrap gifts for non-family members? I reuse disposable gift wrap like paper gift bags and tissue paper.

No Sew Solutions
For very large gifts, try using a pillow case! No sewing necessary! And keep your eye out for free reusable gift bags, like those bags that sheets come in. You can also just use pieces of fabric as wrapping without sewing it into a bag. Just wrap up the gift as you would with paper, use a little tape to help hold in place if necessary, and close up with a ribbon tied up both directions.  You could buy some fabric and cut up with pinking shears (to prevent fraying), or use thin dish towels, old receiving blankets, and small blankets as is. The bags are a little easier to use though, in my opinion, even if you use the bag more like wrapping paper than like a gift bag. Of course, you can also buy reusable fabric gift bags if you want to.

Read about 9 more easy and eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts in this post.

What do you think? Could you sew these? 

For more great ideas on being green and saving green during the holidays, 
visit my Green Holidays page (continually updated).

This post is dedicated to Lys. Thanks for teaching me to sew!

This post is part of
Works for Me Wednesday


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