24 - 2008

Making reusable gift bags

I kicked off Christmas Eve day by whipping up some gift bags from the materials I bought at Goodwill last week. In 1 hour and 15 minutes, I made 10 bags — here’s how I did it.

If you don’t have the time or desire to make these before your holiday giving, check out thrift stores and giveaways for *post-holiday* deals on these items, and make some in January. Put them away with your wrapping supplies and be prepared next year.

You will need materials to make into bags (fabric, pillowcases, blankets, pajamas, or whatever you find), thread, matching cloth ribbon (about 1 yard per bag) and a sewing machine, unless you are very industrious. Pillowcase bags could be hand-sewn without too much psychic pain.

First, at the top are a few packages under our tree, made from a pillowcase and a pillow sham I cut in half. And here’s a glimpse of a couple of bags I made from two pillowcases:

I attached the ribbons with a zig-zag stitch on the seam of the pillowcase:

The first 5 bags I made from a pair of flannel holiday pajama pants from Goodwill. They were a size XL with an elastic waist (with little stretch left) and a missing drawstring:

First, I cut the pants. I wanted some smaller, squarish bags, so I cut off each leg and then cut the legs in half. If you wanted longer bags (for wine bottles or a similar shape), you could use the whole leg.

Then, I sewed the bags. I turned each leg section inside out and sewed a hem across the bottom. At the cuffs, I simply sewed across on the outside of the right side.

Next, I cut a length of ribbon about 3 times the width of the bag. (Be sure to cut the ribbon ends at an angle to reduce unraveling.)

The next step, completing the top of the bag, can be completed two ways.

  1. You can just sew a hem and then attach the ribbon to the outside seam, as I did with the pillowcases. To do that, keep the bag wrong side out. Fold the top edge over twice. Then stitch close to the fold farthest from the top edge of the bag (i.e., not right on that edge). Turn right side out and stitch on the ribbon.
  2. Or you can make a channel for a drawstring. Because I felt like flirting with stitchy danger, I inserted the ribbon and sewed the hem (for the drawstring channel) with the ribbon already inside. If you try this, be forewarned that if you catch the ribbon in the needle, you will need to rip out those stitches and-re-sew. Be sure to leave an opening for the ribbon to emerge.

Turn the bag right side out and tie knots in the ends of the ribbons, so the ribbon cannot slide back into the channel.

Voila! One bag completed.

Then I did the same thing on the other parts of the pants.

I didn’t do a drawstring on all of them — on some, I simply stitched ribbon on.

Those bags look like this when they are tied up:

In about 45 minutes, I had finished all the bags, including the top of the pants. For those, I snipped off the area where the leg seams met and stitched across the bottom to make a wide, floppy bag.

Then I did a similar process with a table runner …

… and a double-sided flannel blanket I had found at the thrift store. All told, we have 10 new bags now.

Just in time for me to finish my gift wrapping tonight! Happy holidays, everyone.

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