Reducing the Toll

Formerly cuffs, now gift bags
Formerly cuffs, now gift bags

I constantly try to find ways to reduce the huge environmental toll from holiday-related purchases. I have harped about this for years. One way is using gift bags. The fabric may not be terribly environmentally friendly to make in factories in Korea, but once the fabric is here and made into gift bags, they can be used them over and over. Fabric gift bags reduce the amount of paper we use during the holidays.

I practice what I preach and see so many advantages for using gift bags. The biggest negative is actually having to make them before you can use them. I have made gift bags to fit certain gifts in the middle of wrapping. They don’t take much time, can be as complicated as you like and are customizable. The biggest bonus is you get to see your holiday favorite fabrics over and over without actually having to make a holiday quilt.

Lush Gift Bag
Lush Gift Bag

Here is the tutorial using French seams to prevent raveling.


  • Machine in good working order
  • fabric (any kind of fabric to fit your holiday works well)
  • thread
  • ribbon
  • basic sewing supplies

I press a double hem* on one side of a relevant size piece of fabric** and finish it with a decorative stitch. As a bonus, this is a good way to get to know the resources, e.g. time and thread, required to use your decorative stitches.

Once done, I fold the piece in half, wrong sides together, aligning the hem at the top. I put a piece of ribbon, folded in half, inside the piece. The fold of the ribbon will be sticking of the side a little bit and is placed about a quarter of the way down the side.

I sew down the side, starting with the hem. I sew less than a quarter inch from the side. I reinforce the start, the the ribbon and the end by backstitching over it a few times. Then I turn the bag wrong side out.

Trim any stray threads along your tiny seam allowance.


Once pressed, I sew again using a larger seam allowance to cover the raw edges. Make sure the ribbon closure stays out of the way. This completely encloses the raw edge.

Turn the bag right side out and press again. Your bag is ready to use.

I love using gift bags for gifts. Besides the fact that I am terrible at wrapping gifts with paper, I intensely dislike wrapping gifts with paper, tape and ribbon. The fabric feels so much nicer in my hands. If a tag falls off the gift you can easily open it, look in and re-tie. No harm done to a beautiful wrapping job.

*Note: I often use the selvedge instead of hemming to speed up the process.

**Note on fabric sizes: I make the most basic gift bags with a fat quarter, but also use half yards and yards, depending on the size needed. I have also pieced fabric together to wrap larger and smaller gifts, but generally like to use standard sizes and then put the gift into whatever bag size works. Leftover fabric from making pillowcases are good to use as well.


Author: JayeL

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

%d bloggers like this: