5-minute family gift bags step-by-step

design, eco-craft, fabric, family, general crafts, sewing

My least favorite part of Christmas morning is the trash bag next to the Christmas tree. Gift wrap that can be recycled is bad enough but metallic paper and plastic ribbon that’s going straight to the landfill is a downer to me. I hate the waste. I also dislike buying gift wrap. I don’t want to spend money on nice paper that will have such a short life and I curse cheap wrapping paper that rips on the corners of books.

I end up buying gift wrap for the gifts we mail but it’s hard to think about all of the energy that went into making that paper only to have it wadded up on the living room floor. Bill’s family growing up wrapped all of their gifts in newsprint. I don’t do that because the ink seems to get everywhere. [As an aside, Bill’s sister lives on a farm in France and really enjoys the sales circulars that come in the Sunday paper. She likes to see what’s in stores in the US and how much things cost compared to what they run in France. It’s also a little bit of her American Christmas in France so I will always wrap her gifts in the Target sales pages because I know that makes her happy.]

Anyway, last year I bought some Christmas-y novelty fabric and made a bunch of drawstring gift bags for the gifts we give within our immediate family. My idea was that it would be so much nicer to pull a gift out of a fabric bag and that if we made a few each year, we’d have enough eventually for a gift of any size. While these bags don’t have the pristine corners of wrapped boxes, there’s a homey quality to them that I really love. And you can’t imagine how fast it is to wrap the family gifts when all that’s involved is slipping them in a bag.

We even saved the muslin tags that we made for each other from last year because “Merry Christmas Bill Love, Weeks” works as well this year as it did last.

The trick with making drawstring bags is making them big enough. I like to put the gift on top of the fabric then add a few inches on three sides have a top edge that’s about 1/5 the length of the gift. [Note: I’ve wrapped Bill’s big gift in a piece of green fabric so he wouldn’t see what it is while I’m making the bag.]

This gift is big so I used the entire width of the fabric and left on the selvages. If you look closely at the above photo, you’ll notice that the fabric is folded in half so I know that it will be sufficiently big for this gift. I cut all of the fabric with a pinking blade so the bags won’t ravel in the wash, because at some point they’re going to seem dusty and I’ll want to throw them all in the wash. As always I prewashed all of the fabric before I began cutting.

Using a ruler to measure as you press, fold down the top of the bag by 1 1/2″ and press flat.

Stitch a straight line 1/4″ away from the pinked edge to form the drawstring channel. Tack at each end.

Fold the bag with right sides together and the top corners aligned. Begin sewing around the sides of the bag just below where the channel for the drawstring begins.

Turn the bag inside out. For the drawstring I used a scrap piece of binding that I sewed closed at each end and along its length. You could also use a long piece of ribbon. Just make sure it’s at least twice the width of the bag plus a few inches.

Insert the drawstring into the drawstring channel by attaching a safety pin to one end of the string and fishing it through until it comes out the other end.

Cut a small piece of muslin with a pinking blade for your gift tag. Write the recipient’s name on your gift tag with a Sharpie or fabric pen. Then rejoice that you’ll have this bag for many Christmases to come and it will be a cinch to pack up with your holiday decorations in January.

12 thoughts on “5-minute family gift bags step-by-step

  1. I have always wanted to do this, but never gotten around to it. But now I realize it’s because I always felt the need to make a whole bunch right away … love your idea to make a few each year until I end up with enough to eliminate almost all paper. I think I’ll start this week by making bags for the handful of presents still left to wrap and see what develops. Heaven knows I have plenty Christmas fabric LOL! Thanks for the push!

  2. What a great web site! I found you after reading another blog and they mentioned your site for these bags. I’m so glad I found you!! Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas. I’m bookmarking you now :)

    Have a wonderful Holiday :)

  3. OK…I thought you were sweet, a good environmentalist but I would NEVER do this. I use a little bit of paper and tend to wrap things in things. i.e. a loaf of bread in a dishtowel. However, I bought something for my son that wouldn’t fit in a box or any bag I had so I re-looked at the tutorial, whipped up a bag and put his gift in it. EASY PEASY! The best part is everyone notices it under the tree and I have to hang my head and tell them I was a doubter…but now, it’s all good! THANX!

  4. I made gift bags this year from fabric I had bought on sale last January, with the intention of making PJ’s for my kids and their cousins… that stack of fabric stared at me all year, making me feel guilty.
    I whipped up at least a dozen bags in one sitting, and I found that a bag made from approx fat quarter size cut made a good size bag for most of the gifts I was giving. I only had to make larger sized bags for my two preschoolers who were getting enormous Lego sets (and I wrapped the boxes in craft paper before slipping into the sack, so there would be no peeking!) and the sewing and slipping of ribbons through the casing actually took far less time than wrapping with paper and curling ribbon.
    I used only three different prints, and red ribbon for all, and the effect under the tree was pretty. Everyone loved their bags, and planned to use them to store ornaments etc through the year.

  5. Great idea! My husband has been very grinchy about using wrapping paper this year, so I mostly made bags for his gifts first and whoever else’s after. I skimmed the tutoria and winged it, having my mother run the drawstrings through the channel for me. :) For most of them I used packaged skinny double fold bias tape that I had on hand. Lessons learned: medium sized ric rac looks pretty, but is not a very user-friendly draw string, unless you make the channel a lot wider than the ricrac. Also, I’m planning to make some bags as needed in all-occasion or birthday-ish fabrics.

  6. I made gift bags this year. They kept the bags, so even though they may be helpful next year for them, I’ll have to make more bags. Luckily the fabric is on sale now.

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