Handmade Holiday Gift Bags

Handmade Holiday Gift Bags

With holiday travel quickly approaching, my level of anxiety usually skyrockets when I think about how to effectively pack my suitcase.  I’ve always struggled with how to bring beautifully wrapped presents with me without them getting smashed in my overstuffed, overweight bag.  I’ve tried wrapping the presents beforehand and packing them Tetris-style with my clothes to protect them; I’ve also tried bringing the paper separately and wrapping them once I arrive.  Regardless of my ninja packing skills, my gifts always end up looking a little like I had placed them in the dryer before giving them to those I love.  It’s disheartening because I find it doesn’t reflect the effort I put into finding the perfect gift for them.

In order to stop this delicate dance between my suitcase, my gifts, and myself this year, I’ve decided to make personalized fabric gift bags.  This eliminates the need for wrapping paper all together and gives my suitcase a much-needed rest.  It also cuts down on the waste of using all of that paper thus helping the environment.

Today, I’m going to share with you my tutorial for painted fabric drawstring bags.  I hope this will take away some of your travel headaches and make your gifts look as attractive on the outside as they are on the inside.   These bags can be customized any way you’d like by using different colors, fabrics, ribbons, sizes, etc. and can be reused for various occassions and purposes throughout the year.  The possibilities are endless, so I hope this idea will inspire you to make your own version for those on your list.

Let’s get started!

Materials Needed:
Fabric: Any type of fabric will work for these bags but you’ll need to think about how sturdy you want them to be.  For my bags I used Robert Kaufman’s Essex Yarn Dyed Linen in Black, Flax, Red, and White, and Aqua.  It’s 55% linen, 45% cotton, and really nice to work with.

Bag Size:
For this tutorial, I will be showing you how to make small gift bags that have a finished size of approximately 8 1/4″ x 7 1/4.” Therefore, you will need enough of your main fabric for two 8″ x 10″ rectangles.

I interfaced each of my pieces with Pellon 931 TD Fusible Midweight.  It helps make the bags sturdier and keeps the linen from fraying too much when you assemble them.

I used Martha Stewart’s Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Paint for these bags.  I’ve never used this brand of paint before, but found the colors to be pretty dreamy and the paint to be high-quality.  I’ve also used CraftSmart acrylic paint for other projects, which has a plethera of colors, and is less expensive than Martha’s.  Whatever you decide to use, I would recommend testing the paint on your fabric before starting.

The ribbon on all of the bags is 3/4″ twill/chevron stripe from May Arts. It’s available in a variety of pretty colors but I used turquoise, celery, and light blue for my bags.

Prepare Fabric Before Painting:

1. Cut two rectangles 8″ x 10″ out of your main fabric and two 8″ x 10″ rectangles out of your fusible mid-weight fleece (if you decide to use it).

2. Iron the fusible fleece to the wrong side of each of your main fabric pieces.  Make sure to put the dotty side of the interfacing against the wrong side of the fabric so it doesn’t stick to the iron.  I may or may not have ruined two irons by not paying attention to this.  I’ve found that starting in the middle of the fabric and pressing out to the sides slowly works best. DSC_0691
3. Put aside the rectangle for the back of your bag, unless you plan on painting both sides.

4. Optional: Mark your seam allowances (1/4″ around the sides and the bottom) and the drawstring channel (2 1/2″ down from the top) on the front of your bag before painting so you know where to paint your images.  That way they won’t get lost when you assemble your bag.  The bag is 8″ wide and 10″ tall.  Make sure your front piece is aligned correctly before marking. DSC_0736
Painting Methods:
I used three different methods to paint my bags: freezer paper, triangle stamps, and pouncers/daubers.  These are only some of the many ways to add paint to fabric, but I hope it gives you a place to start.

Option 1: Freezer Paper Stenciling:
Did you know that you can iron freezer paper directly onto fabric to create a stencil?  Whoever figured this out is brilliant.  It is one of my favorite ways to paint fabric and creates a nice, crisp image without a lot of seepage.  It also keeps your original stencils clean, which is a nice bonus. NEF_5195
Freezer Paper
Exacto Knife
1. Trace your shape/s onto freezer paper, shiny side down.

2. Cut the shape/s out with an Exacto knife or other cutting tool to create a negative image.

3. Iron your image directly onto your fabric, shiny side down.  Your freezer paper stencil will adhere to the fabric and prevent the paint from seeping outside of your shape.DSC_0757
4. Carefully paint inside your image.  I had to use two coats of paint on these bags to make the white stand out.DSC_0764
5. Peel the freezer paper off your fabric once your paint has completely dried. DSC_0766DSC_0772DSC_0908DSC_0839Option 2: Handmade Triangle Stamps:
I wanted to use simple shapes for these bags, so I decided to make triangle stamps using a linoleum cutter and a carve block.  You can also make stamps using materials you might already have in your home: erasers, potatoes, foam board, cork board, etc.  If you don’t want to make your own, store bought stamps would work great as well.NEF_5245
Speedball Linoleum Cutter
Speedball Speedy Curve Block
1. Using the knife blade on your linoleum cutter, carve triangles out of your carve block. I used a ruler to create different angles as I cut to make a variety of triangles.

2. Apply paint to your new stamps using a dauber or other tool.  DSC_0783
3. Stamp triangles directly onto your fabric in whatever designs you choose.DSC_0896 DSC_0893Option 3: Foam Pouncer and Dauber Painting
I love polka dots so I pounced and daubed (love those words) to my heart’s content on these three bags.  I used foam tools to help make the dots more uniform. NEF_5215NEF_5304Materials:
Foam Pouncers
Dauber Set
1. Apply paint to your pouncers and daubers.

2. Pounce and daub directly onto your fabric. If you gently twist the tools while you stamp, it can help make the dots more consistent.DSC_0787 DSC_0857
Once you let your paint completely dry (no cheating) you can start to assemble your bag/bags.  Woohoo!

Materials for Constructing your Drawstring Bag:
One 8″ x 10″ painted rectangle for the front of your bag
One 8″ x 10″ rectangle for the back of your bagDSC_0967
Two 32″ ribbons for the drawstrings.  To figure this out I quadrupled the length of the top of the bag (8″ x 4).  I wanted to have longer ribbons even when the bag wasn’t cinched.
*I used 3/4″ ribbon.  If you are using wider ribbon, you will have to adjust the drawstring channel accordingly.

Coordinating thread
Safety Pin
Chopstick (or other tool for poking out corners)

Directions for Making your Drawstring Bag:
1. Heat set the paint on your bag before assembling.  Place a cloth over the area you painted and iron. (Make sure to check the instructions on your brand of paint for more information)

2. Place your rectangles right sides together and pin around the sides and the bottom of the bag.

3. Mark 2 1/2″ down from the top of the bag on the left and right sides with a water-soluble pen to show where the drawstring channel will be.  Remember your bag is 8″ wide x 10″ tall so make sure it’s situated accordingly before making your marks. *If you are using ribbon wider than 3/4″ you will need to adjust your measurements here.DSC_0972
4. Sew around your bag with 1/4″ seam allowance, starting at one of the 2 1/2″ marks and ending at the other.  Backstitch at the beginning and end.DSC_0975
*The following directions will apply to ONE side of your bag only, then you will repeat the directions for the other side!
5. Fold the raw edges (above the 2 1/2″ marks) on the left and right side of your bag 1/4″ towards the wrong side of the fabric.  Press.DSC_0980
6. Edgestitch your raw edges on the left and right side to secure them in place.  Start at the top of the bag and stop at your 2 1/2″ mark.  Backstitch at the beginning and end.  *Tip: Use 1/4″ Wonder Tape to secure your raw edges before sewing them down.  It works so much better than having to pin them!DSC_0987DSC_1028
7. Fold the top edge of your bag 1/4″ towards the wrong side of the fabric.  Press. DSC_0995
8. Fold over again 1 1/4″ or until you meet your stitch line (your 2 1/2″ marks). DSC_1033
9. Pin along the bottom of the hem you’ve just made and edgestitch in place.  Backstitch at the beginning and end.  *Tip: I like to fold the back side of my bag back out of the way when I’m sewing to assure that I’m not going through both sides with my machine.DSC_1000DSC_1004
10. Repeat Steps 5-9 on the other side of your bag.  This will form the drawstring channel for your ribbon.

11. Zig-zag stitch the sides and bottom of your bag to finish off your edges and prevent them from fraying.  You can also use a serger for this step as well. (I wish I had one! Hint, Hint, Santa).  DSC_1034
12. Clip your corners, but be careful not to clip your straight stitches! DSC_1041
13. Turn your bag inside out and carefully poke out the corners.  I’ve found a chopstick works best for this.

Adding Ribbon to the Drawstring Channel:
14. Take one of your 32″ ribbons and attach a safety pin to one end of it.  This will make it easier to thread the ribbon through the channel.DSC_1009
15. Starting on one side, feed the ribbon through the top channel and around the back channel so it comes out on the same side that you started.  (For example: If you start on the left side of your bag, feed it through the top channel, around the back, and out again on the left side to meet the tail).DSC_1011DSC_1012
16. Tie your ribbon together at the ends.DSC_1016
17. Take your other 32″ ribbon and do the same thing but start on the opposite side as your first ribbon.  Tie it together at the ends.  You’ve created a drawstring!  *Tip: I added Fray Check to the ends of my ribbons so I could cut them bluntly.DSC_1017DSC_1022DSC_1023
You’re finished! Now give yourself a pat on the back and admire your beautiful bag.NEF_5178
I hope this tutorial has inspired you to want to create holiday gift bags of your own.  They are fun to make and will be gifts that keep on giving. I know they will help make my suitcase-packed gifts look as attractive on the outside as they do on the inside and reflect the love that I put into finding them. Happy Holidays and cheers to making gifts special for the loved ones on your list this year!NEF_5329NEF_5286


  • Suzie
    Posted at 14:10h, 21 December Reply

    These bags are just adorable…what a wonderful year round idea!

  • gift bags
    Posted at 13:15h, 04 January Reply

    I just really like these purses, you are so skilled. This is something I would really like to try to do.

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