Thursday, November 3, 2011

Christmas Fabric Gift Bag Tutorial

fold-over top gift bag with button and string closure

Recently I was chatting with a friend who mentioned that she is making a real effort this year to prepare for and enjoy the Christmas season.  I have been thinking about this, and like this attitude.   I recall some years when Christmas was so magical, and I loved the tree decorating and wrapping gifts, and baking.  Other years it has seemed less magical, and some things that should have been enjoyable didn't seem exciting any more.  I think that to "enjoy the season" is a frame of mind that I will cultivate this year.
In keeping with this resolution, I spent a couple of hours this morning sewing some fabric gift bags.  For the last few years, I've purchased lots of paper gift bags as well as wrapping paper.  This creates a lot of paper waste on Christmas morning.  If we use fabric gift bags, they can just be stored with the decorations and be available to use again and again!!! This has the added benefit of not having to stand in line buying more paper products, tape and bows.....
I certainly have lots of fabric leftovers so this should be  pretty low-cost venture!
I have prepared a pictorial step by step on how I made a basic fabric gift bag:

1. cut some rectangles of festive fabric to use as the outside of the bag.  You  can piece them to make your scraps larger or to make the bag prettier.
 2. cut a lining rectangle the same size as the outer fabric.  The lining can be another patterned fabric, or you can just use muslin.
 3.  If you want a padded bag, cut an additional rectangle of batting.  If you just want it a bit thicker, you can use a piece of flannel.  Or, you might just want to stick with using the 2 fabric layers.
 4. If you want to use some of your festive embellishment ribbons, get them out to have close at hand.
 5.  If you want to decorate the outside of the bag, do it now.  In this example, I am using a piece of flannel as interior batting for the bag and some ribbon for trim.  I sewed the trim to the outside of the bag and the flannel batting to help stabilize these 2 layers.  If you want to do any other decoration, do it now.
 6.  Fold the rectangles of outside fabric and lining in half vertically and sew seams up the sides.  (At his point they are looking like little pillow cases!)
NB!  Leave an opening 3 or 4 inches,  in one side seam of the Lining fabric.  I forgot to do this in the lining photo here, and had to un-pick part of the seam later.
 7. If you want a flat bag, skip this step.
If you want a "boxed" bottom to your bag, pull the corner of the bag so that the side seam is perpendicular to the bottom, and sew a seam across the point.  The farther in that you sew the seam determines the width of the base of the bag.
 sew these seams on both the lining and the outside.  Make them the same size.  Back-stitch the seam ends.
 trim away the extra fabric
8. Turn the lining right side out.  (Now you can see the opening in the side seam!
 9. Tuck the lining into the outside of the bag, matching the side seams. Pin.
 10.  Sew a the bag outside to the lining all the way around the top edge.
 11. pull out the lining from the bag and then reach through the opening and turn the whole thing right side out.
 12.  Push the corners of the base out nicely.  Sew the gap in the lining closed.  I just do this by machine since it won't show.  I don't know where my photo of this step went to.

13. Top-stitch around the top edge of the bag to keep the lining in place.
 14.  This bag was the right size for a wine bottle, so I tacked on an extra bit of ribbon to use as a closure.
 15. The full bag!
 16.  My assortment of gift bags:  in addition to the one show above, I made a flat one, a tall one that can fold over to close, and 2 shorter ones with boxed bottoms. 
 this one has a velcro closure.  It is quite difficult to machine stitch through velcro.
 this one has a magnetic snap closure.  a bit deluxe, but I had it on hand.  I would have like to have used some regular sew-on snaps, but didn't have any.
 I sewed a felt decoration to the flap to cover where the snap is.  This bag also features a flap variation that I found in an Art to Heart book called "12 Days of Christmas"
There are all sorts of variations and decorative things that you could do!!! Just have fun and use your imagination!  And enjoy thinking about what to put in them!


  1. Very cute bags. I am going to have to give these a try!

  2. the other thing about gift bags is that they can be part of the gift - if you make them like a tote bag or messenger bag or sponge bag.... and the fabric in the bag can reflect the contents...but that's too organized for me!

  3. Thanks for the Christmas pep talk, Michelle. I must start working on my attitude right now! I made many simple gift bags years ago which we re-used often, but there aren't very many left in my collection. Thanks for the inspiration to make some more.

  4. Loved the tutorial, but most of all your reminder to cultivate a festive/giving attitude. As an adult, for me, the fun of Christmas is in the anitcipation of the day - the making of the presents, baking, decorating - wrapping our family in love - which these gift bags do so well. As Tasha Tudor declared, "Take Joy!"

  5. Gorgeous! what a lovely gift bag, indeed it will add an additional value to the whole thing as the gift bag itself is already a nice stuff to keep with. Using a gift bag now a days is a must, well besides on making the whole gift stands out it can be reuse over and over again, actually I just got wrapped my gifts for my relatives for this coming Christmas, of course all wrapped with gift bags.


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