Guest Post: Reusable Fabric Gift Sacks – Perfect for Christmas!

Hi, I’m Erin from Fundamentals and Fripperies and I am so excited to be guest blogging at Thrive today.


I feel very honored to be asked because Thrive is one of my favorite blogs. I love seeing Nike continually rock what she’s got in such a creative and classy way. I feel a special kinship to her because I, too, get a thrill of satisfaction from making something awesome from nothing, and I, too, have my own dirty half dozen. I know how difficult it is to fit blogging into an already over-full family life, so she amazes me even more!

Gushing introductions aside–I want to tell you a sad story that you may be able to relate to.

Every Christmas, I start out gift wrapping with a happy heart and put all my love into each carefully tied bow and crisply folded corner. HOWever, about halfway through wrapping my family’s gifts, with other holiday demands starting to heat up, my evil inner martyr mother comes out. The wrapping gets uglier along with my mood, and I have a Scarlett O’Hara-like moment where I say, “I will never be stuck spending hours wrapping Christmas presents again.”

My husband’s solution to this problem (in addition to helping me wrap a few as long as I stop verbally abusing him long enough to pass him the scotch tape 🙂 ) is to suggest that we just stick the presents under the tree in the shopping bags and shipping boxes they came in. He reasons that the kids will still have something to undo, and we won’t have to do a thing. Problem solved.

Except, that it would look ugly.

Really, reallyugly.

And I am just shallow/proud/perfectionistic enough that I mind putting super ugly presents under the tree like I’ve given up all pretense of a beautiful

Luckily, there is a third option beyond becoming a wrapping paper martyr, and giving up on life. My very talented mother-in-law often gives gifts in personalized fabric gift bags. Also, a dear friend of mine wraps all her family’s gifts in fabric gift bags that an environmentally-conscious neighbor gave her as a gift many years ago.

Hmmm. I think re-useable, pretty, fabric gift bags are a good thing. And now finally, after years of meaning to make them, I have done it.

And, I am willing to give you all the benefit of my experience and wisdom with lots of lazy shortcuts and tips (you’re welcome 🙂 ).

To make your very own bags, you will need:
•a fabric stash to pilfer (oh, come on–you know you have one, too)
•and/or other fabric, such as pillowcases you don’t need, pillow covers, old sweaters, etc.
•ribbons, cords, old (clean!) shoelaces, etc.
•a sewing machine with thread

That’s it. Probably all stuff you have lying around.


Now, I am not one to re-invent the wheel. There are some great tutorials for making a drawstring bag here and here and probably lots of other places on the web as well. If you don’t already know how to make one, I suggest brushing up on the basics.

Then, using those tutorials (or your own awesome innate drawstring bag wisdom) as a basis, here are the shortcuts I’ve devised for making your bags more quickly and simply:

Lazy Shortcut #1:  Use pinking shears so you don’t have to zig-zag. These aren’t going to be used every day, so you don’t need to finish them perfectly, but you still don’t want your hard work to fray into un-useability.

Lazy Shortcut #2: Instead of making the casing for the bag and then feeding the ribbon or cording through, pin it into the casing when you fold the casing over (see above–my pins are holding both my ribbon and casing in place). Then sew your casing seam, taking care to keep a safe distance from your cording or ribbon. Then all you have to do is take out your pins, and Voila! You are ready to go!


Lazy Shortcut #3: Unless you really want a drawstring bag that has handles on either side, you can just leave the casing open on only one side of your bag and then tie it in a bow. It saves time and ribbon.


Lazy Shortcut #4: Another option is to make a buttonhole towards the top of your bag before you fold your casing over. Feed the ends of your ribbon through the buttonhole, then pin the rest into your casing. Sew the casing seam and unpin everything. You can close it by pulling on the ends of the
ribbon and tying it into a bow, or put the ribbon ends through a toggle or large bead–then you can just cinch it up. 

Lazy Shortcut #5: You don’t have to make a casing at all. Just make your bag with an open top (like a pillowcase) and tack some ribbon near the top. Then all you have to do is bring the ends around to the front and tie it in a bow. Just like this one below with the double-ribbon tie. Easy peasy.



If you don’t have a fabric stash (and if that is true, I pity you 🙂 ), I’ll bet you still have access to other free/cheap sources of fabric.

For example, I made a gift bag out of a thrift-store throw pillow cover I wasn’t using anymore.

I unzipped the zipper on the side and removed the pillow to add a gift …


… then I just used a zig-zag stitch to tack the ribbon on one side of the pillow cover, put the present in,
zipped up the side zipper and tied the bow.


So simple!

I made this one out of an old pillowcase. It was cute and soft, but it had shrunk, and just ended up
looking skimpy on the pillow.


However, with a cute black grosgrain ribbon tacked to the back and tied into a jaunty bow on the front, Santa couldn’t do any better :).

You probably have some unused pillowcases in your linen closet, but if not, most thrift stores in my area sell them for about $1. That’s less than a new throw-away gift bag.

Some other options I didn’t try yet, but that would work really well:

An old/shrunk crewneck sweater. Cut off the arms (which could probably be used to make small, thin gift bags, by the way), turn it inside out. Sew straight across the top from shoulder to shoulder, and up each side from the waistband to the seam you just created (closing up the arm holes). Trim to a 1/
2″ seam allowance on each seam and zig-zag to prevent fraying. Turn right-side out and add a ribbon. That would be so cute, especially if you used a holiday-themed sweater.

Made cut-offs last summer? Use the bottom part of the jeans/pants that you cut off! You end up with kind of a tube when you make cut-offs, so you could just turn this tube upside down, and sew a seam where the knee used to be. Turn right-side out and add a ribbon and you’re in business.

Really, the sky’s the limit in terms of places you can find fabric for this project.

Good luck, and may adorable fabric stash gift bags keep your evil martyr mother at bay this holiday season!


And hope you’ll stop by Fundamentals and Fripperies and say hi!



Thank you so much Erin! I’ve made my first bag for my family, too, and am sooooo excited at the thought of NOT being up at 1 am on Christmas morning swearing complaining about wrapping presents.

Erin is another amazing e-friend that I’ve been lucky to find in blogland. We have living in Utah and Washington in common besides chasing around six kids – it makes you close.  🙂

I love reading Erin’s blog because she’s awesome at pretty much everything:


kitchen and issaquah 021-1






December 2011 BLOG

Oh heck yeah CHECK.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s funny and real and inspiring and a total Craigslist-shopping rock star?


Well she is, so there’s four more reasons I hope you’ll stop by Fundamentals and Fripperies and visit Erin.

Happy forget-the-tape-and-paper Holidays!


7 thoughts on “Guest Post: Reusable Fabric Gift Sacks – Perfect for Christmas!”

  1. You know, every single Christmas for the past quarter of a century, I've been there, muttering and frustrated, at 3.00am, pretty sure this isn't what Christmas is supposed to be about….
    The nice man at the local dollar store ells me he doe a huge trade in bags and tissue, and not so much on the old wrapping paper. What I love about this idea is that you get a sack, and you can reuse it. or you give a gift in a sack and they get, let's face it TWO GIFTS!!!


  2. I could tell that we’re on the same interest and obsession. Good to know someone I could share my ideas. Looking forward to know and learn some more from you. I'll be glad to share my own thoughts to you soon. Thank you for sharing such valuable articles. More power!

  3. Loved this article.. And I intend on making lots of bags this summer [before the busy Christams season]..
    I have 4 grandaughters and last Christmas, I make each of them a Christmas bag and some doll clothes.. They were thrilled over the bags [as much as the clothes,ha]. But……….they took them home with them.ha.
    But so proud you thought of making my own bags and putting up each year.. Oh what a time saver, and oh how PRETTY!!
    Thanks for sharing..[bty..I love Niki's blog too]

Comments are closed.