Growing up, we reused our wrapping paper. We were trained from a young age to never tear into our presents. Instead, we were to carefully remove the tape and gently pull away the wrap. The pretty paper was then smoothed, folded, and stored for its next use. I guess this means we were recycling long before it was cool. We had one particular piece of Christmas wrap that made an appearance every year for as long as I can remember. It got a little smaller with each use, but we were always anxious to see who’s present would be wrapped in the pretty blue Silent Night paper.
It’s this background of recycling and re-use that leads to our various gift bag tutorials. They’re a perfect way to avoid wrapping paper entirely, instead creating a reusable bag that’s almost as much fun as the present inside – especially when made with lovely fabric combinations.
Gift bags are a quick project and a great way to mix and match colors from within a favorite collection or to customize the fabric to the gift recipient’s favorite colors, characters, or themes. Each of our bags uses two different coordinated prints.
We changed up the look of the standard closure with an eyelet-threaded drawstring. It looks super stylish but is actually super easy. The Dritz eyelets we used come in assorted colors, which is a fun way to up the embellishment factor.
We include a detailed eyelet placement guide below so you can perfectly place all 16 eyelets to create the best gathered top.
The body of our bag is designed to have quite a bit of stability to it, similar to a fancy paper gift bag you’d find in the store. If you’d prefer a slouchier look for your bag, you could eliminate the interfacing from the lining or switch from a mid-weight to a lightweight for both the exterior and lining interfacing.
Each bag finishes at approximately 10″ wide x 13″ high (a 10″ base and a 3″ accent band to gather) with a 2″ boxed corner.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot.
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Supplies shown are for ONE bag
- ½ – ¾ yard of 44″+ wide cotton fabric for the bag’s main exterior
NOTE: ½ yard is exactly wide enough to cut the four required 11″ panels side by side. If you’d like to fussy cut your panels, we recommend getting ¾ yard.
- ¼ yard of 44″+ wide cotton fabric for the bag’s top accent band
- ½ yard of 45″ mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon 809 Décor Bond
- 1¼ yards of thin cording (it has to fit through the eyelets); you could also use a long shoelace
- Sixteen 5/32″ eyelets – it’s best to get an eyelet kit so you have both the eyelets and the proper size tool to insert them; we used a Dritz 5/32″ Eyelet kit and got the 100 count Dritz 5/32″ Assorted Colors Refill package. Dritz also makes an Eyelet Plier Kit.
- Eyelet hole punch; we used a leather punch tool, you could also use tiny scissors or an awl to cut your holes.
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Tape measure
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the main exterior and lining panels, cut FOUR 12″ high x 11″ wide rectangles.
- From the fabric for the top accent band, cut ONE 7″ high x 21″ wide rectangle.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut FOUR 12″ x 11″ rectangles.
- Cut the cording into ONE 40-42″ length.
NOTE: The length depends on how big a bow you want to tie and how full the bag will be. It’s usually best to err on the long side and trim when finished if too long.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse one piece of interfacing to the wrong side of all four main fabric rectangles (the two exterior and the two lining pieces). The accent band does not get interfacing.
- Pin the front and back exterior pieces right sides together along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Repeat to pin and stitch the two lining pieces together.
Box the bottom corners of the exterior and the lining
- Our bag is designed to have 2″ sides and base. To create this width, we figured our corners at 1″.
- Measure and mark each corner. We marked both our 1″ square as well as the ½” seam allowance stitching line beyond the 1″ box. In other words, we drew a second 1½” box
- Cut out the 1″ corner squares along your drawn lines
- Press open all the seams.
- Flatten the corner. That larger box drawn above now becomes a stitching guide line.
- Double stitch the corner, using a ½” seam allowance.
- Trim back the seam allowance to ¼”.
- Repeat to create the opposite corner.
NOTE: If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
- Repeat to create matching corners in the bag lining.
- Turn the bag exterior right side out. Keep the bag lining wrong side out.
- Slip the bag lining inside the bag exterior, so the two are now wrong sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom corners.
- Measure to find the exact center along the top of the front and back panels. Mark these two center points. We cut a small notch at the center front and center back.
- Set the main bag aside.
Top accent band and eyelets
- Find the 7″ x 21″ accent band piece.
- Fold and press the piece in half (3½” x 21″), wrong sides together, to set a center crease.
- Unfold wrong side up, so the center crease line is visible, and place horizontally on your work surface.
- Along one long side, press up the raw edge ½”.
- Unfold the accent band again, including the ½” fold along the one side, and align the 7″ ends. Pin right sides together.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the ends together, creating a loop. Press the seam open.
- Test the fit of the loop to the top of the bag. If for any reason, the band does not lay flat and smooth against the body of the bag, rip out the seam and adjust it slightly larger or smaller to get a good fit.
- Fold in half to find the exact center and mark. Cut a small notch or place a pin to mark the center front point. The center back point is the seam.
- With the band folded along its original crease lines, turn it wrong side out so your eyelet marks with be made on the inside of the band.
- Starting at the marked center point, measure ½” to the left of center and place a pin. Then measure ½” to the right of center and place a pin. These two pin points to the left and right of center will become the two center front eyelets.
- Create an intersecting mark 1¼” down from the folded edge.
- From the right center eyelet, measure 1¼” to the right and 1¼” down from the folded edge and mark. Repeat an additional six times. You should end up with a total of EIGHT marked points to the right of center.
- Repeat to create the EIGHT marked points to the left of center.
- With the band still folded, punch a hole through both layers of the accent band at each of the sixteen marked points.
NOTE: You could use tiny scissors or an awl to make the eyelet holes, but a leather punch, what we chose, provides the cleanest, most uniform cut.
- Insert an eyelet into each hole, from the front to the back. Make sure the back of the eyelet is pushed all the way through both layers.
- Gently hammer into place, using the eyelet kit tool…
- … or press into place with a plier tool.
NOTE: Inserting an eyelet is very similar to inserting a grommet. The difference is that an eyelet is only one part while a grommet comes in two halves. If you are new to grommets and eyelets, take a look at our grommet tutorial for great step-by-step photos and instructions.
Attaching the band to the main bag to finish
- Find the bag (with the lining in place inside).
- Slide the accent band over the top of the bag so the band and bag are right sides together (which means the backs of the eyelets are facing up) and the raw edges are aligned.
- Align the center point of the band with the front center of the bag.
- Align the accent band seam with the back center of the bag.
- Fill in with pins all around.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch the accent band to the bag. This is a great time to use your free arm if you have one. In the photo below, we rolled our folded edge out of the way, which covered the eyelets.
- Pull the accent band up. Press the band up and press the seam allowance towards the band.
- If you rolled the inner folded edge of band out of the way as we did, unfold it back into its original position. The ½” folded edge should now cover the bag/band seam you just made.
- Pin this folded edge in place all the way around. Make sure you have covered the seam on the inside evenly.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the accent band in the top and bobbin.
- Working on the right side of the bag, topstitch the accent band in place all the way around, ¼” from the seam within the accent band. This will catch the inside folded edge.
- Wrap a piece of tape around one end of the cording to stiffen the end for easy threading.
- Thread the cording in and out through the eyelets all the way around.
- Trim the cording if needed. Tie a small knot in each end.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever