My daughter's birthday is coming up this Saturday, so I thought now's an excellent time to share what I've been doing the last two years or so to wrap our gifts. First of all, wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, ribbon, all that stuff both costs too much and takes up too much space. According to Hallmark, people in the US spend on average 3.2 billion per year on wrapping paper. Add to that all the videos and posts I've seen on organizing your wrapping station (let alone the fact that people have wrapping stations). Or how about how much time is spent wrapping gifts, especially around the holidays? How much of it ends up in landfills?
My solution is cheap, it takes up very little space, it's eco-friendly and wrapping gifts is a matter of putting it in a bag and tying the ribbon into a bow. There are so many different ways to make gift bags (and I promise to make tutorials for other variations in the future), this is probably one of the easiest ones to make.
One of the areas in the thrift store that I like to check every time I go are the sheets, because it's a great way to get fabric cheap to use in projects, especially if you find some great prints. This is a Minnie Mouse Boutique flat sheet that I found a few months ago and purchased for about $2. Depending on what time you go, you might find holiday prints closer to the holidays. I also found another flat sheet with Mickey Mouse and crew flying around in a hot air balloon, which I'll likely use for gift bags for my son. Depending on the size, you can get at least four large-to-giant gift bags out of it, more if you need smaller ones.
First, I folded the sheet in half lengthwise twice to make it easier to cut (make sure the edges are lined up). This first one (a giant bag) I cut at 32 inches long. Leave the hem at the top of the sheet intact. If you're using a print that's directional, you'll want to make sure that both sides are facing in the right direction.
I cut the ends off the hem at the top to open up the loop. With this one I'm not worried about hemming the loop; instead I'll apply fray check when I'm done. Fold the fabric so the right sides are facing each other. You can choose to pin the sides together at this time to make sure they don't shift on you while you're sewing.
Time to sew! I didn't bother cutting the hems off the edges, that way it will help keep the fabric from fraying inside the bag. I like to start at the top just below the loop opening (do not sew this closed) and work my way down the side. At the corner stop without lifting the needle, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric and continue on to the end. If you started at the bottom corner (where it folds), the fabric might not line up when you got to the edge. This way you know the edges are lined up.
To apply the fray check to the edges, roll up a thin piece of cardboard and stick it inside the loop. This will keep the sides from sticking to each other. Allow it to dry for 15-30 minutes (or follow the instructions on the bottle).
While that's drying, get to work on another bag. Since this one doesn't have a loop at the top, we need to add one. Fold the edge in about 1/4 inch and sew three inches down. Repeat on the other side if it's not a hemmed edge (this one the other side was hemmed so I didn't need to).
The next thing you're going to want to do is fold the edge over wrong sides facing so the sewed end lines up and pin that across the top. In this case I made the loop opening about an inch and a quarter. Sew the loop along the bottom, careful not to sew on the pins. Then, same as before, flip the fabric so the right sides are facing. Starting at the bottom of the loop and sew down the edge, turn the corner and sew to the end.
To measure out the ribbon, you want it to be double the length of the top plus an extra 6-10 inches. If you make it exactly double, you won't have enough ribbon at the end to knot it together, and you don't want it getting lost inside the loop.
Pin a safety pin through one end of the ribbon to help you thread it through the loop. When you get through the other end, knot the two ends of the ribbon together. By now the fray check on the other bag should be done, so put the ribbon through on the other one as well.
And that's it! The bags are done. I was able to quickly remove the gifts from the boxes and throw them in the bags even with my daughter running around nearby. Since she's turning four, I have a feeling she'll still enjoy Minnie Mouse for quite a number of years, so as far as something to wrap her gifts in next year, I'm set. Even if the bag is too big (like the one in front) the extra fabric flops over. I still have enough fabric left over to make at least three or four more bags, which I can then use an extra one to wrap a gift for one of her friends.
Here's a picture of the bag folded up. These take up very little storage space, so you don't need to devote an entire closet to your gift wrapping supplies.
I wanted to share this picture in case you were wondering what Christmas looks like with fabric gift bags. This is from two years ago, when I decided to replace our wrapping paper with fabric. These ended up being a bit more up front, since I bought fabric prints from a fabric store to make it festive. As you can see, there are a few different ones in there, including two quilted ones (for books), embroidered felt envelopes for gift cards, and even fabric gift tags for our family members. I have chalkboard ones I use for other people. Since we use the want/need/wear/read method for gift-giving, the number of bags we need won't really change. I have one roll of reversible gift wrap that I use for friends/outside family (though at some point I hope to have enough gift bags for them too) as well as gifts that are far too large for a bag. A handy tip: stick to dark/opaque material. If you want to use white, line it with muslin (it's cheap) so the bag isn't see-thru.
Gift-giving occasions are hectic (and expensive) enough as it is, so why not make it easier on yourself?