How to Make Reusable Cloth Gift Bags

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Back when my girls were younger my oldest daughter came up with the idea to make reusable cloth gift bags. They had fun making them together and we’ve kept up the tradition of using Christmas gift bags to wrap our presents in. Here’s the tutorial for how to make your own easy holiday gift bags for gift giving this season!

The 20-Year-Old Paper Gift Bag

Before you can fully understand why I’m so excited about these cloth gift bags, you have to understand the story of the 20-year-old paper gift bags. These gift bags are infamous for showing up every year.

I grew up in a family on a budget and while we never went without anything we needed, we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted (I’m very grateful for this). Many of my favorite gifts came from garage sales. My own kids even play with some of those things today. And then there was the gift bag…

The gift bag that kept on giving… itself.

My mom was great about not wasting things and filling up landfills before eco-friendly was trendy. She wouldn’t throw away a perfectly good gift bag (good for her) so they just kept being reused… year after year.

After Christmas mom would carefully fold up the bags and pack them away for the next year. Of course, this only worked with gifts we gave to other family members, but they had a system. They also saved bags from birthday parties and reused them to give birthday gifts.

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

I’m convinced they don’t make gift bags (or most things) like they used to because those gift bags lasted for years (and years and years). I didn’t realize just how long until I saw one a few years ago that I’d gotten for the first time as a child! That meant it was well over 20 years old and still kicking!

As impressive as it is that the bag lasted that long, I knew most paper gift bags wouldn’t these days. Our family has found reusable fabric gift bags are a much better option.

Reusable Cloth Gift Bags

Our family has used these cloth gift bags for years now. I love that they’re fully reusable, and high quality compared to the paper bags at the store. Surprisingly they weren’t even that much more expensive to make than the disposable versions. And if you can catch some Christmas sales you can probably find organic cotton fabric or muslin at a discount making them even more affordable.

Different Kinds of Bags To Make

While we use these bags for Christmas presents there are plenty of other options. You could make some with pastel colors for Easter gifts, or whip up a batch for birthdays and baby shower gifts. We have cotton bags, but making some with burlap would be cute too.

Make some tall gift pouches to gift as a wine bag with some healthier wine, or make some bigger ones that can double as storage bags. You can even make smaller bags to use as jewelry bags or as favor bags for party favors. I’ve even used some of the small organza bags to make my own naturally scented drawer fresheners before.

Why We Use Cloth Gift Bags

There are several great reasons to use cloth gift bags!

1. Reduce Waste

Holiday waste is a BIG problem and getting bigger!

Consider this, in the US alone, we use over 4 million pounds of gift wrap each year and much of this ends up in the landfill. There’s also an extra 2 billion pounds of garbage generated every week during the holiday season. Then there’s the over 1 billion holiday cards that also end up in the trash.

Reusable bags solve this problem… and you never have to buy expensive wrapping paper again!

2. Easier to Wrap (and Store)

Ever spent hours wrapping presents on Christmas Eve? With six kids and a lot of family members, there’s a lot of gift wrapping every year. Even though each person only gets one gift, it adds up. Hours spent meticulously wrapping, only for the kids to tear it off in 10 seconds!

These bags have cut my wrapping time in less than half. Just put the gifts in the bag, tie them with a ribbon and you’re done!

Also, no need to try to keep tubes of partially used wrapping paper from coming unrolled in the closet or attic. These just fold up after you use them and stay in a box until next year.

3. They Look Better

This one is completely subjective, but I really think these bags are cuter than most wrapping paper! Add a kraft paper gift tag to the ribbon or jute string and you’ve got a nice looking gift.

Want to Buy Them?

If you don’t have the time or desire to make these you can find some really nice drawstring gift bags online. Check out these festive large gift bags made with Christmas-themed fabric. Whatever you use, please consider using reusable options for wrapping gifts! Our over-crowded landfills will thank you.

How to Make Reusable Cloth Gift Bags

The only downside to these bags is the little bit of sewing they require, though they are a super-easy sewing project. My girls first made these when they were ages 3-8 and they loved working on this project! For an even easier no-sew option, try these DIY T-shirt bags that can double as shopping bags.

You Will Need:

  • Christmas Fabric of Choice: I really recommend supporting a local store and you can find some great deals on Christmas fabric after Christmas. We found some with snowflakes and a snowman on them, along with other seasonal fabrics. You could even go for red fabric to make it look like a mini Santa sack.
  • Pinking Shears:  Not absolutely necessary, but these pinking shears cut the edges of the fabric in a zig-zag so it won’t fray. This helps the bags last even longer and can eliminate the step of sewing a hem across the top if you don’t mind a zig-zag as the finished edge.
  • Sewing Machine: My girls got a heavy-duty sewing machine for Christmas one year and they’ve used it a lot. There are some less expensive options out there, but this one had great reviews and a good warranty. I also like that it’s heavy-duty enough to sew through denim, which has come in handy for some other projects. If you don’t have a machine, you can also hand sew, although it will take longer.
  • Ribbon: Instead of adding a drawstring we went with the easier option and decided to use a ribbon to close the bags. These can be plain or have holiday patterns on them. We reuse the ribbon along with the cloth gift bag.
cloth gift bags
5 from 1 vote

How to Make Reusable Cloth Gift Bags

Learn how to customize your own cloth gift bags to use as an alternative to disposable wrapping paper and gift bags.
Prep Time7 minutes
Active Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Yield: 1 bag
Author: Katie Wells



  • Decide how big you want to make your bag. Remember to make them taller than you think you’ll need so there's room to tie at the top. We made a bunch in varying sizes.
  • Cut the edges out. If you want a zig-zag top, then use the pinking shears to cut out the top.
  • Lay the right sides of the fabric together and pin the edges. It's important to put the right sides together so the finished product doesn’t show any seams. The girls learned this the hard way with one of their first projects and asked me to include the reminder!
  • Sew a 5/8 inch seam around three sides of the bag, leaving the top side open. You can actually sew any size seam since it won’t be seen.
  • If you plan to hem the top, fold it down, iron it, and pin it. Sew the seam and turn the bag inside out. The other option is to leave the zig-zag cut at the top.
  • If you don't want to hem the top, then just sew a straight seam around the top of the bag just below the cut area. This helps prevent it from fraying eventually.


To use your bag, place the gift inside and tie it closed with a decorative ribbon. 

What do you use to wrap gifts? Ever made a DIY wrapping like this?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


19 responses to “How to Make Reusable Cloth Gift Bags”

  1. Nana Avatar

    I buy cotton/polyester bandannas at the dollar store or order online by the dozen [often for less than a dollar each]. They come in many colors [red, blue, yellow, purple, turquoise, orange, green] and patterns [not just paisley any more], and don’t need ironing after laundering. For smallish gifts, Ijust pull up the corners, shape to gift and tie at the top with a ribbon or crocheted chain made by grandkids. For larger gifts, baste bandannas together with large stitches [goes faster and they are easier to snip apart when recycling]. Of course, edges are already hemmed and these can be used year-round for birthdays or other events.

  2. Ayshela Avatar

    Please tell your girls that if they want their bags to last for years and years, if they sew a zig zag stitch over the raw edges instead of using pinking shears that will keep them from fraying at all, even if something gets spilled on them and they have to be washed. =) Great idea to make the bags! I saw this post linked in a crafting group so it’s getting some awesome visibility.

  3. Jane Augenstein Avatar
    Jane Augenstein

    What a great idea! I too save gift bags to use over and over….until you can’t! Tell your girls they had a great idea and I will use it this Christmas! What creative daughters you have, thanks girls!!!

  4. Teneko Avatar

    This is a beautiful post and a beautiful idea! Thank you so much for sharing it.
    My family also re-use gift bags. I have been buying gift bags of all sorts on sale / clearance and now have a pretty good collection. We have been keeping them and rotating them around 4 different households now for years. We’ll see how they hold up.
    I just got a sewing machine for Xmas, so guess what I’ll be doing for next year? Yup, cloth bags with Xmas clearance fabric! Woohoo! Also, I know exactly what Barbara means about sewing machines not being made like they used to…Singer used to be a great brand. We had a vintage hand crank Singer I used growing up and it was all metal. They are now plastic and don’t have the reputation they used to. What a sad disposable society we live in. I am SO GRATEFUL for people like you that are encouraging more DIY, reusing, back to basics, and making it easier for the rest of us to (re)learn what used to be common knowledge!
    Everything old is new again. Bright Blessings to all in the season of light and hope. <3


  5. jan Avatar

    I made some bags last year after Christmas with Christmas themed fabric. I was going to use them to store shoes, but this year I was too tired and too depressed to wrap, so out they came and all the presents were wrapped in minutes. After Christmas I made about 13 or some more bags of various types and colors from my saved scraps, fabrics that I liked too much to throw away. I came out with some great bags. I put a casing in them and use a shoestring for the drawstring. Then I ran across a bag already made and edge finished, I had a brilliant idea to add several button holes across the top for inserting a ribbon for tying up. Some of the guests take the bags home with them, some people leave them. Either way I am happy.

  6. Melanie Avatar

    My mother made a bunch of these when I was a kid, easily over 20 (or 30!) years ago, and many of them are still around and look great! When I was younger I missed the tearing of paper, but eventually grew to appreciate the cloth bags for their unique beauty and practicality.

    I have wanted to make a set to actually give as a gift as well! I have a few friends who are trying to reduce their environmental footprint would appreciate such a gift I’m sure. I bet others do too!

    Thanks for sharing, and how wonderful this idea came from your little girl!

  7. Tammie Avatar

    What a great idea! And you’re right, if you grab the stuff on sale, it’s probably cheaper than a gift bag and so cute!

  8. Rachael Avatar

    I also grew up in a family that saved wrapping bags even tissue paper. When we got married, I told my new husband that we would be saving the wrapping and he was like, ‘well, that’s kinda weird, you get to explain that to my parents.’ About three years later, his family started saving wrapping. I am happy to say that I have not purchased a gift bag in ten years and still have a few wedding bags.

  9. Barbara Avatar

    Katie, this made me chuckle! I’ve been sewing bags like that since I was five….on my grandmother’s Featherweight Singer machine. (I’m 60 now…) The machine I use today is one I have had since I married 42 years ago. And it was well over 50 years old then!! You were saying about how things are not made as well these days, and sadly, that is so very true. You stated that your girls got a heavy duty sewing machine and being curious, I looked to see which one it was. I had to chuckle, as all of the ‘heavy duty’ features are the features that were standard on the machines of yesteryear!!! Mine, even as old as it is, works flawlessly and is indeed very heavy duty….denim, leather, you name it. I will be making bags, and tons of other stuff hopefully for many years to come. And teaching other hands to do the same! I love fabric gift bags for everything, year round…..simple things are so much nicer! Thanks for the lovely post!

  10. Sherry Avatar

    I bought a bunch of fabric, more than 5 years ago (I can’t remember exactly when), with the plan of making gift bags. I sewed 2 bags before I gave up. I’m just not a sewer. But the fabric hasn’t gone to waste. It’s cut to various sizes to accommodate any gift. I wrap gifts, using the fabric in the same way you would use paper. I then use a ribbon to tie around the package just like you would add ribbon to a paper-wrapped gift. It holds the fabric together very well.

    I have talked about making bags off and on over the years, but my daughter insists that she likes it better this way. Oh! I haven’t hemmed the edges or used pinking shears and the fabric has held up beautifully!

  11. Hallie Avatar

    This is my all time favorite post! I love that your smart girls came up with this idea and are skilled enough to sew it themselves. Thank you so much for sharing this experience.

  12. Barb Avatar

    I send a number of small gifts to great nieces and nephews and have been making gift bags for them for a few years now. I have a serger so it makes quick work of the bags and is really a lot of fun.

  13. Marie Brunk Avatar
    Marie Brunk

    Thank you girls for the great idea. I hope I can look for some Christmas fabric and sew them for the coming years. Actually, you could use these for other occasions too with the appropriate fabrics. Thanks for the instructions. Merry Christmas!

  14. Alexis Avatar

    I made a huge batch of fabric gift bags for Christmas a few years back and I love them. It is so easy to pop each gift in a bag and tie the ribbon (I attached ribbon to each bag so I can’t lose it. I still wrap gifts if the gift is leaving the house (I don’t want to lose my bags) but if someone is going to open a gift at my house they get it in a fabric gift sack.

    My number one suggestion is make sure you pick busy patterns if the fabric is not nice and thick or you can see images through the bag.

  15. Monica Avatar

    I used pillowcases for childrens gifts for years. If you dont sew, that an easy option. 2 gifts in one. When the kids tastes change from Thomas the train to Transformers, you can get them new ones. And who doesn’t need extra pillowcases?

  16. Linda Sand Avatar
    Linda Sand

    Way back in the 1970s we simply hemmed large pieces of cloth and used them to wrap gifts year after year.

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