How to make the easiest reusable fabric Christmas gift bags

We are all trying to take more care of the environment and reduce our waste. This is just as important at Christmas as any other time of the year. All over the world tons and tons of wrapping paper is thrown away each year. This doesn’t happen in our house, I’m afraid I’ve always been THAT person who goes round saving and smoothing paper after all the unwrapping has taken place! I keep paper in a bag in the wardrobe and have some pieces of fancy crinkly plastic style paper that has been used for at least 10 years now! The kids have always found it amusing that the same special piece of gold crinkly paper gets used over and over, although it does get a bit smaller each year as I trim off the edges if they rip with the tape.

But it seems most people are not paper savers like me (and my mother in law, bless her!) One great solution is to use a gift bag that can be used over and over. I reckon a simple fabric bag will last for 25 years easily, maybe longer. It’s only used once a year after all. Imagine if this became the norm. We all just pass the same selection of bags round and round our families and friendship groups. Zero waste; I love it! 

Today I’m joining the pinterest challenge, a monthly challenge where I join a group of my creative blogging friends and we have a rummage around our pinterest boards to pick out something we’ve pinned and actually have a go and make it happen. This month the theme is gift wrapping.

I checked out several pins from my Pinterest boards for making fabric bags with fabric and then tweaked the ideas to make my own version of a simple fabric gift bag. You can see my inspiration here, here and here.

There is some argument about raw materials to consider when creating more sustainable gift wrap. Buying a load of brand new cotton fabric to make reusable bags may not the the best solution. Some fabric suppliers have deadstock or over ordered fabrics from the textile trade which could be a good environmentally friendly option, or even better recycle something you already have and give it a new purpose. Old shirts or dresses would work really well but best of all is probably old bed linen. I was given an old Christmassy duvet cover and pillowcase set. The colours had run just a little in one area and a friend asked if I could do anything with it. I didn’t need asking twice! So much great fabric I was able to make a whole load of reusable bags. Check out a local charity shop or thrift store and see what you can find.

I was lucky that my fabric has a Christmas design but plain fabric would work just as well. I’ve got some ideas for embellishment of plain fabrics which I’ll share at the end.

I’ve made a lot of different drawstring bags over the years, in a number of different styles.

Any of these methods would work really well for a reusable gift bag but I thought I’d try to come up with a really simple idea so that you can really get a production line going and make a whole load of these.

If you have an overlocker or serger sewing machine you can make these bags even easier. This tutorial is for people with a basic sewing machine only, I’m going to assume if you have an overlocker/serger you are sufficiently knowledgeable as a sewer to know how to make a simple bag!

How to make a simple reusable fabric gift bag.

These bags can be made in any size. I’ll go through a basic mid sized bag just to show the process but remember you can size up or down as much as you like.

To make a bag that measures 21cm x 32cm (8.5” x 12.5”) you will need:

  • A piece of fabric - 47cm x 35.5cm (18.5” x 14”)

  • A length of ribbon, cord or bias binding - 83cm (33”)

Fold the fabric in half, wrong sides together and stitch down the side and along the bottom using a really narrow seam allowance, about 1/2 cm (2/8”)

Turn the bag wrong side out and smooth. you can press it flat with the iron at this point but to be honest I usually just finger press the seams flat. Stitch another line of stitches on the same side and bottom, this time using a larger seam allowance, 1cm or 4/8” should be about right.

This double way of stitching a hem is called a french seam. It’s nice and strong and hides any raw edges. This is what it looks like on the inside.

Turn your gift bag right side out and then turn a narrow double hem all around the top and stitch. Just flatten the french seam to one side or the other, it doesn’t matter which way it goes.

If you are using bias binding then fold a harrow hem in at the ends and then fold the bias binding in half lengthways and stitch all the way along to form a tie.

I made my own bias binding from the duvet cover fabric and didn’t cut it on the bias, there is no need for making ties like this. This seemed like the best zero waste option for me. I have a useful little gadget, a bias binding maker which I love and use all the time. Minerva Crafts sell them too, they come in different sizes but mine is the 2” wide which I find the most useful. You can use a length of ribbon or cord for your bags if you prefer.

Fold the tie in half to find the centre point and then stitch it to the seam of your bag, about 3cm (a little over 1”) from the top. Go back and forth with your stitches a couple of times to make it secure.

That’s it. Your reusable gift bag is complete. Told you it was easy!

You don’t have to fix the tie onto the bag like I’ve done here but it does mean it won’t get lost and make life a lot easier for people using the gift bag another time.

If you can’t get hold of large pieces of Christmas themed fabric like this duvet cover then you could make bags with plain fabric and just add a little patchwork Christmas fabric if you have some scraps. You could embroidery a Christmas motif or maybe stamp a design with a wooden block and some fabric paint. Or how about using fabric pens or paint to draw a design? With any sort of embellishment like this I’d suggest you add the design to the fabric before you sew it up into a bag. It’ll be much easier that way. Something like this hexagon patchwork motif is great for even tiny scraps of Christmas fabric, but you could keep it much simpler than this and just sew on a patch of patterned fabric.

a fabric christmas gift bag with patchwork motif

To make longer bags like these as bottle bags just start with fabric that measures approx 36cm x 45cm (14” x 17.5”) , then make the bags in the exact same way.

A collection of red and white Christmas gift bags made from fabric with a tie top

There you have it, really quick and easy to make fabric gift bags that can be used over and over again. Bung them in the washing machine between uses if you think they need it. If it becomes normal for us all to reuse bags like this every year just think of the paper wrapping that could be saved!

I’ve shared a few different low waste, more sustainable ways of wrapping gifts in the past, you might also be interested a some of these ideas too:

a collection of fabric reusable gift bags

how to make the easiest reusable gift bags tutorial


Treasures made from Yarn | Sew Crafty Crochet

Christmas Tree Lane | Sum of their Stories

Purple Hues and Me

Now let’s see what my creative friends have created for the Pinterest Challenge this month:

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