{Eco-Tutorial} How To Make A Gift Bag

Here’s a tutorial from Jen of Winkydinks showing how to make a reusable gift bag. If you read Monday’s post about recycling paper you know how important it is to preserve trees.  These gift bags are a great way to reduce, reuse and save many trees in the process! You can make gift bags for any occasion just by changing the fabric you use.  Have some old clothing? You can use the fabric from recycled clothes. (You can find GREAT fabric in clothing at thrift stores.) All you need to do is to be able to cut and sew a straight line (and if I can do that, anyone can).

Reusable gift bags have become a new tradition in our family. We have some adorable prints and we can re-use them year after year. I was initially worried that the kids would be disappointed opening a bag, rather than ripping off paper, but they don’t seem to notice the difference (ages 6 and 3 1/2).  If you can sew a straight line, you can make these! Give it a try!

I don’t make them fancy: there are raw edges inside that fray and the hole that the ribbon comes out is not finished. You can make the look more professional by double rolling the hems (turning them under so there is no raw edge) or by using a serger.

Start by getting some inexpensive holiday fabric (make sure its thick enough you can’t see through it easily). 1 yard will yield 2-4 bags, depending on what size you want them to be.

1. Cut the fabric into a rectangle (so that when its folded, it is the end size you would like). Plan to have the fold on one SIDE of the bag.

2. Fold the long edge (what will be the top of the bag) over about 4″ towards the wrong side of the fabric. Sew along the inside edge.

3. Sew another seam about 1″ away from your initial seam (making a casing for the ribbon)

4. Fold the rectangle (right sides together) to make the bag shape, with the folded 4″ hem along the top.
5. Sew around the 2 sides of the bag, making sure to sew up to the ribbon casing, backstitch and cut the thread. Then start again on the the other side of the casing and continuing around the sides.

6. When you reach the first corner, stop the needle while its IN the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the fabric so you make a nice sharp 90 degree turn.

7. (OPTIONAL) When making a larger bag, I like to add bottom gussets. This allows more room for the item to sit in the bag and makes a cleaner presentation. It is completely optional though!
7a. To make the gusset, pull the bottom corner away from itself by using both hands, and pinch it so it is folded back on itself.

7b. Press it flat, and then sew a seam perpendicular to the original bottom seam.

7c. Trim away the excess

7d. Repeat on the other bottom corner, trying to match the distance of your seam to your first one.
7e. You wind up with the bottom of the bag looking like this when turned right side out:

8. Turn the bag right side out, and hook a saftey pin to the end of your ribbon, and start to feed it through one of the ribbon casing openings.

9. Push the safety pin along, scrunching up the fabric around it, then pulling it through more as you go. When you get out the other side, remove the safety pin and tie your two ribbon ends together to prevent them from pulling back through at some point. Then, pull the ribbon through the hole so that it is accessible from the outside of the bag.

10. Voila! Hand out your gift in ECO-STYLE and be proud of yourself!


  • You can also just put a straight 1″ hem at the top of your bag and feed the ribbon through. I like to add the extra fabric at the top so that when you cinch the bag closed it has a fluffy top, like this:
  • You can also make a bag so that the ribbon comes out both sides of the bag. To do this, plan to fold your fabric so the fold is at the bottom of the bag instead. Make two 4″ hems on the ends of your rectangle, fold in half so they come together and feed the ribbon through each side separately.
  • I like using grosgrain ribbon because you can singe the ends with a lighter (carefully!) and it will melt them so they don’t fray. Don’t hold the lighter there too long or the ends will turn black.
  • My next venture is to figure out some sort of semi-permanent tag design so that each year I don’t have to make up new hang tags.

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  1. This is really neat. I have lots of beautiful saris from India. Now I know what to do with them. Thanks for sharing. I am going to tweet it right now.

  2. I’ve also made them from pant legs using the bottom of the leg as the top of the bag, for truely minimal sewing!

  3. I’ve been doing something similar for a number of years and it works out well! I make it even simpler by just attaching ribbon in the side seam in the upper 1/4 of the bag and then wrapping the ribbon around the and tie.

    I’ve been trying to figure out a tag also to go with this and haven’t come up with anything yet… Any ideas?

  4. I think I can make this! Great for gift packaging. Thank you.

  5. These are so great that I’d be reluctant to give them away!
    You just reminded me to start making these NOW. I’m always sewing away until December 24th making these because I didn’t plan ahead. Thanks for the tute!!

    • I make them as part of my gifts now (if I’ve planned far enough ahead!). I bought some clearance holiday fabric this year and need to start making them – you’re right!