Sew Simple Cloth Gift Bags

Holiday Cloth Gift Bags

We switched over to cloth gift bags several years ago.  I was inspired by my friend Katy, who grew up with cloth gift bags thanks to her crafty mom.

We mostly use our bags within our household so that we can keep reusing them.  I do give some gifts away in cloth bags and I hope those bags continue to be reused.  Many of my friends sew; I really hope this catches on!

How to Sew Simple Cloth Gift Bags

Materials for Making Cloth Gift Bags

Materials for making a cloth gift bag

Woven cotton is the best because it is abundant, inexpensive, and durable.  You probably have some in your stash.  You could also repurpose old button down shirts with a stain or a tear.  Of course, you could contribute to the economy and buy some fabric.  AVOID knit fabrics!  They’re stretchy and will sag once you put something inside the bag.  No one wants saggy bags, my friends!

Thread of any color you like.  You can go neutral with black and white, or go wild with all those spools of bright red or purple that got used once for a project, then tossed into the stash for a nebulous future.  AVOID anything that isn’t mercerized cotton or polyester thread unless you are experienced with them.  You can thank me later.

Ribbon.  I like grosgrain ribbon best for cloth gift bags.  It’s very sturdy and comes in a lot of colors and patterns.  I also use the inexpensive satin ribbon that comes in a lot of colors.  It frays more quickly at the end, but cutting the tips at an angle seems to help slow down that process.  AVOID paper ribbon (aka curling ribbon) or wired ribbon.  They just don’t last!

Tools for Making Cloth Gift Bags

Tools for making a cloth gift bag

  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors. If you don’t have a pair for fabric use only, now’s the time to start.  Seriously.  Paper makes scissors dull very quickly.  You can mark the handle with a handy reminder, like “Fabric Only” or “Don’t Even Think of It!”
  • Flexible measuring tape
  • Seam ripper. Just in case!

How to Sew Simple Cloth Gift Bags

Measure and cut two squares of fabric that are the same size.  I like my bags a little longer than they are wide because they need some room to gather at the top.  I think 12” x 18” is a good starting place, but you can make whatever size you need or have fabric for.

Cut out fabric for cloth gift bag

Put right sides together so your proto-bag is inside out.

Decide which end will be the opening — don’t sew that side!  Sew down one long side, across the bottom, and up the other long side.  Seam allowance doesn’t matter.

Sew up your cloth gift bag

Trim the corners.

Trim corners from inside of cloth gift bag

Fold the opening down about three-quarters of an inch.  Or whatever works for you.  If you’re a little fussy, you can pink the edges.  If you’re insufferable, you can do a fold over hem.  You can always iron down the hem (or pin it) if that makes it easier for you.

Sew the hem down with whatever stitch and thread color makes your day. This is your chance to play with those decorative stitches on our sewing machine!  Whee!

Hem your cloth gift bag

Turn bag right side out.

Cut a piece of coordinating ribbon that’s about 30” long.  Cut the ends at an angle, which looks tidy and prevents fraying.

Cut ribbon for gift bag

Find the halfway point in your ribbon length.   About two inches from the top of the bag, attach the middle of the ribbon to the bag at one of the side seams.  I sew over that spot with three or four passes since it gets tugged on a lot.

Attach ribbon to gift bag

Fill that bag with a lovely gift and tie it shut.  A nice piece of card stock  punched with a hold puncher makes a simple and lovely gift tag.  I thread it onto the ribbon while I’m tying the bag shut.

Make your own gift tags

For our gift tags, we’ve been gluing together old business cards, which are then really thick and weighty tags.  We’ve also artistically cut up old greeting cards to make tags.  Tags can be reused, depending on what you write on them.

Homemade cloth gift bag

Benefits of Cloth Gift Bags

  • They are so attractive and luxurious!
  • Cloth bags save money. After a one-time investment of effort and a little money, you will have all the gift bags you ever need for your household.
  • Cloth bags save time. It’s a lot faster to plop a gift into a bag and tie it shut!
  • Cloth bags reduce your carbon footprint.  Using less paper is better for the environment and produces less waste for your municipality to handle.  Could it reduce your taxes?  I don’t know, but maybe.
  • Cloth bags are quieter.  This one came as a surprise, but the first year we did cloth for Christmas was so peaceful and relaxing for me.  Loud noises overwhelm me — little did I realize how much I disliked all the ripping paper until it was gone, gone, gone.  For the record, our kids have yet to show any sign of mental anguish because they don’t get to rip everything open.  I think the moral superiority of cloth bags spared us that defect.

Who’s in?!

Do you use cloth gift bags already?  What do you like best about them?

And then there were two

project bags

There is some kind of Murphy’s Law at play here.

After years of window shopping and sighing over rigid heddle looms of any size — anything bigger than an inkle loom — a week after I learn how to string my new TIA, my mom (whom I speak to by phone every day and is intimately acquainted with my every craft, triumph, and travail) says, “Oh, would you be interested in another loom?  I’ve had this one at my house for a few years.  I didn’t know you’d be interested in it or I would have told you about it sooner.”

Um, YES!  But why didn’t we make this connection before?!

Meet loom #2, a 20″ Beca, solid cherry, made probably in the late 1970s:

Beka rigid heddle loom
Beka has a nasty old warp on her.

So in the space of three weeks, I have two modest-sized rigid heddle looms and plans to warp one of these ladies for some houndstooth.

I’ve also been sewing:

lined project bags
Abstract fabric art

The sewing has been a compulsion that I cannot explain.  Costumes, drawstring project bags, fabric dolls, doll clothes.  I think it is my internal frustrated quilter crying out for time and space to work.

lined project bags
A few of my pretty bags

Or maybe I just like to sew now.  (I can hear some of my friends gasping with surprise.)