Guest Post by the Super Amazing One Hundred Dollars a Month reader Mel
Inspired by Mavis’s annual goals, I learned to sew in 2017. In 2018, one of my goals was to build on that goal and sew reusable wrapping paper. I truly love wrapping presents, but it had gotten to the point where doing all the wrapping took a huge amount of time (like, days) and created a huge amount of mess, so I wanted an alternative that preserved the unwrapping element but was faster and a bit more ecofriendly.
So, I settled on sewing small, medium, and large fabric bags with built-in ties—and sewing enough of them that I wouldn’t sweat giving a few away for good each season. After all, it’s a time of good cheer, not grumbling annoyance, right?
- Fabric in opaque holiday prints or seasonal colors (I got mine on clearance and eBay. The amount needed depends on how big you want to make your bags.)
- Thread (one edge will show)
- Pins or sewing clips
- Twill Tape or Ribbon, preshrunk and color safe (long enough to wrap around the narrow end of your bag and also tie in a bow)
- Sewing Machine
- Gift tags (I used wooden gift tags)
- Cutting Mat and Rotary Blade (not strictly needed, but handy)
Making the Bag:
These are my instructions and tips, but more experienced sewers should totally chime in in the comments if there are better ideas. Here’s what I do:
Preparing the Fabric to Sew:
1. Wash, dry, and iron your fabric.
2. I’m not positive on this, but I think the bag needs to be a rectangle with the shorter end being the open end. Otherwise you won’t have enough fabric to gather it over the gift. So, either cut two equal sized rectangles of fabric OR fold over one big piece to create a rectangle. When determining size, the rectangle needs to be big enough to cover your gift, include ¼ inch seam allowance (or more) on three sides, and clearance on the open end of the bag for hemming and gathering). Place fabric with right sides facing.
3. With the twill tape folded in half, fit the fold into the edge of the bag, but put it a few inches down from the top of the bag to leave room to hem the top of the bag. The rest of the twill should be inside the fabric sandwich (see picture with step 4).
4. Pin or clip the sides of the bag that will be seams, but make sure the twill is only pinned in the one spot you want to sew it. You can run it up and out the top of the bag to help keep it out of the way. If you used two pieces of fabric, you’re pinning three sides here (two sides and a bottom). If you folded fabric, you’re only pinning two sides (one side and a bottom OR two sides depending on the fold).
1. Straight stitch the sides (removing the pins or clips as you go) using a ¼ inch seam allowance. Then go back and zigzag stitch so the fabric won’t fray. The color thread doesn’t matter on this step. You won’t see it.
2. Hem the top edge (fold it down, then down again and press with the iron) and then topstitch to hold in place. Again, make sure the twill is out of your way as you sew—tuck it down in the bag. You will see the thread on this step, so pick a coordinating color.
3. Turn the bag right side out and slide a wooden tag on the twill. Gather the twill around the top edge of the bag and tie a bow to close.
4. Laugh at your husband when he asks if you’re also going to finish the tree skirt this year as well. I mean really, don’t they understand about roll-over goals?
Tips and Variations:
- If your kids are tempted to peek, you can ziptie the bags before tying them with the twill. Just cut the zipties on Christmas Eve on your way up to bed.
- For younger kids, you can skip the bow and just tie the twill once loosely to make sure they can get it open without being frustrated.
- Assign everyone in the family their own fabric—consider not telling them which is theirs until Christmas morning.
- Use up scraps by making patchwork bags.
- Make one or two GIANT bags for that year when someone gets a bike. Or a picnic table. Ask me how I know.
- Use your stockings to make templates to sew stocking liner bags. Never wrap stocking gifts again—just tie the top of the liner.
- Buy birthday fabric and make a set of birthday bags, Easter fabric for Easter bags, etc.
- Put breakable gifts in bubble wrap and generic boxes first, then slide the boxes in the fabric bags.
- Use ribbon instead of twill, or make drawstring bags. You could also do snaps, Velcro, zippers, or buttons.
- Sew across the corners to make gusseted bags (I haven’t found this to be worth it).
- If you forget what is in a gift or need to open it for some reason, you can pop it open quickly and rewrap in an instant.
- These should be machine washable, depending on ribbon and fabric care instructions.
- You really don’t have to sew super well for these. Seams don’t have to be exactly straight. Call it rustic or charming and move on.