Cloth Gift Bags

Somehow, I always end up being the person responsible for wrapping everyone else’s Christmas presents.  Numerous years ago, after my latest rant concerning the perils of winkled wrapping paper, tangled ribbons, dull scissors, and uncooperative tape dispensers, a friend of mine mentioned that her mother used to make reusable cloth gift bags to wrap the family’s presents in.  I figured I could give it a try, and now, almost a decade later, I am still using those same gift bags every year.  Not only are they really easy to use and look festive, but I also feel great about myself and the planet when come Christmas morning I am folding up and tucking away gift bags for next year instead of hauling trash bags full of wrapping paper out to the trash bins – gifts come in enough packaging as it is.

Bag Sizes

Since you want to be able to reuse the bags each year, and to use them to wrap up a range of different sized and shaped gifts, I decided to sew the bags in three distinct sizes.  This worked out really well with the smallest size fitting anything larger then a stocking stuffer to anything smaller then a shirt box.  Below is a list of the fabric needed for each size, and examples of what might fit in each of the differently sized bags.

  • Small – A Fat Quarter (or a quarter of a yard) – Perfect for wrapping something the size of a mug, a book, or a DVD.
  • Medium – A Half of a Yard – The perfect size for a shirt box, a board game, or a shoe box.
  • Large – A Full Yard – I only use about one or two of these a year for something like a large kitchen appliance or the bulky winter coat.

Ribbon

I use ribbons to tie closed my gift bags.  Match the length of the ribbon with the size of the bag.  I have used all kinds of cloth ribbons including strips of tulle, basic grosgrain, glitter coated, and even wired ribbons.  I have learned that the key to using wired ribbon is that when you store the bags you need to make sure that the ribbon is laid flat and not scrunched up.  The advantage to using non-wired ribbon is that you can iron out the ribbon when it gets wrinkled.

Tip:  Brush the ribbon ends with clear nail polish to keep them from fraying.

Drawstring Bag

This is a basic drawstring bag for those oddly shaped gifts.  Most of my smaller gift bags are in the drawstring design.

  1. Fold the fabric piece in half inside-out, so that the wrong sides of the fabric are facing outward.
  2. Sew the bottom of the bag together.
  3. Sew along the side that is still open – leave about 2″ (for a ribbon that is 3/4″ wide: 1″ for a ribbon that is 1/4″ wide) of the seam open at the top of the bag.
  4. Separate the open seam and fold the edges over onto themselves forming a “V”.
  5. Stitch each folded side of the seam.
  6. Fold the top of the bag over leaving enough space for the ribbon.
  7. Pin the ribbon into the folded top of the bag.
  8. Sew the top, but make sure you do not sew over the ribbon.
  9. Remove the pins.
  10. Flip the bag right-side out and draw the ribbon ends together.

Square or Rectangular Bags

This is a bag designed to fit square or rectangularly shaped gifts.  Most of my medium and large sized bags were made in this design.  This bag design works best if you either sew two ribbons into each side of the bag (for a double tie, an example can be seen in the featured picture) or one large ribbon down the middle (an example can be seen in the picture below).

  1. Fold the fabric piece in half inside-out, so that the wrong sides of the fabric are facing outward.
  2. Pin one (two pieces if you are making a double tie placed at about 1/3 and 2/3 for the way across the bottom of the bag) piece of ribbon to the bottom of the bag so that the ribbon is centered in the middle of the bag and sandwiched between the two right-sides of fabric.
  3. Sew the bottom of the bag, including the pinned ribbon.
  4. Sew back over the ribbon twice to make sure that it is well attached.
  5. Sew the side(s) of the bag.
  6. Fold over the hem at the top of the bag.
  7. Pin the second ribbon to the center of the hem on one side of the top of the bag.
  8. Sew the hem, including the pinned ribbon.  Make sure you do not sew over the first ribbon.
  9. Sew back over the second ribbon twice to make sure that it is well attached.
  10. Flip the bag right-side out.
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