Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to make gift bags!

Happy Tuesday, my readers! Today we have an old school friend of mine with us, to share some fabulous sewing tips! Be sure to check out her Etsy Shop as she is in the process of putting lots of fun things up!

Hello all, my name is Erin and Jennifer has so kindly asked me to do a guest post on her blog. I’m flattered and excited to share some of the things I have learned. In 2010, I graduated from The Art Institute of California, San Francisco with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. Since then I have been taking on all sorts of different projects – from hand-painted flags to wedding dresses! I’m currently splitting my time between crafting and working in an office a few days a week. My most favorite projects have been the ones where I repurpose an item, whether it is simply sprucing it up, or totally disassembling it and making it into something new.

With Christmas literally right around the corner, I had a special sewing request from my mom. She had purchased some wonderful soaps that are handmade locally here in northern California, and wanted to give them away in style. I was commissioned to sew up some small fabric pouches that the recipients could use indefinitely, even after the soaps were gone.

This project was great because it’s not only pretty basic and simple, but it also uses up scrap pieces of fabric…I have mounds of scraps that the frugal side of me cannot bear to throw away. I started out with one of my greatest tools – a two inch wide clear graphed ruler. Once I determined how large I wanted to make the pouches, I simply used my ruler to draw it out on a sheet of copy paper. I made it a 5x7 rectangle, then added an additional half inch to each side and the bottom, with an inch on the top, for the seam allowance.

Once it was drawn out, I cut out my pattern and decided on my fabrics. Then I went to my next greatest tool – my iron. It’s a good idea to keep it on standby, because the one thing that I will never forget from school is the way we were taught, “Sew, then press, then sew, then press!” I chose cotton fabrics and pressed them quickly before positioning my pattern on them. Here is a good time to think about how you are going to cut your pieces. Depending on how large of a scrap you are using, line up the selvage edges if possible, so you have a folded piece with two sides and you only have to cut once. (The selvage is the finished edge of the fabric that usually has the designer’s and/or printer’s marks on it.) I always position my patterns parallel to the selvage so I don’t mess up whatever print may be on the fabric. This doesn’t always pose a problem, but you want to be mindful of what direction the print runs.

Before you commit to a cut, find the spot on your scrap that will maximize your space. That’s another lesson learned from my schooling – you want to get the absolute most out of your fabric. Once I had my pattern in the best place, I pinned it and carefully cut out my pieces. I didn’t want to leave raw, cut edges inside the pouch when it was done - fabric can fray and get stringy and messy. Pinking shears and sergers are good ways to finish your raw edges, but I decided to use French seams. It takes a little extra time, but you are left with a nice clean seam inside that I personally prefer.

I took my two pieces and placed them together with their “right” sides (the sides you want to show) facing out. I pinned the sides and bottom and sewed with a straight stitch ¼” from the edge. I clipped my threads and then pressed my freshly sewn seams. Next, I used my scissors to trim the edges 1/8”, so I was left with 1/8” just above the seam. Then I turned the pouch inside out and again pinned the sides and bottom. I sewed another straight stitch ¼” from the edge. A quick press of those seams, and it was looking good. A French seam basically traps that raw edge inside so that it does not fray and get ratty. Next I kept the pouch inside out and folded the top edge down ¼” and pinned it in place. I ran another straight stitch right down the middle of that fold and pressed. Then I folded the top down again, this time ¾”, and pinned it. On my machine, I used a hem stitch to secure it, but a straight stitch right over the once you just sewed would be just fine.

After I pressed again, I turned everything right side out and prepped for the last step. My pouch measured about 5 inches across, although they can be as large or as small as you want them to be. I measured and eyeballed about where the center of that top hem was. I made two small marks with an ink pen and then used my seam ripper to make two small vertical slits for the ribbon closure to thread through, careful to only cut through only one layer of fabric. I used a ribbon that was 1/8” wide, so the slits did not have to be very large. I’d recommend either 1/8” or ¼” wide ribbon. I used my little thread clippers to clean up any edges, then clipped a safety pin through the end of my ribbon. I didn’t cut the ribbon, I just fed it off the spool, and pulled that safety pin through to the other slit. Once I had the ribbon threaded through, I eyed up how long I wanted the ribbon and trimmed the ends off.

Ta-da! A quick and easy gift bag that uses up leftover fabrics, can be any size you’d like, and is a personal touch to your gift-giving. Enjoy the holidays!!

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Erin! Be sure to check out her Etsy Shop which she is in the process of adding lots of fun things to and enjoy the step by step pictures below.

P.S. Please feel free to leave a comment for Erin below! Or you can email it to me and I will send it to her, I know she will appreciate them all!

Linking up to all the usual places, as well as Between Naps on the PorchToday's Creative Blog


  1. What a great gift to give and receive. Such a wonderful tutorial too. I am so glad you linked this fun idea up to Motivated Monday at BeColorful

  2. These are great! So easy to make, and fun for gifts, too. Thanks for linking up to I Made It! Monday. Can't wait to see what you (and your guest posters) make next.

  3. What pretty gift bags! I love using up bits of fabric. If you have a moment, I would be thrilled if you shared this on my Inspiration Board {link party}. I know my readers would love it.
    carolyn - homework

  4. What a great, simple (CUTE!) project!

    I would be thrilled if you would link this up at my second ever Feature Friday FREE-FOR-ALL...going on right now (we had almost 300 links last week...can you tell I'm excited??! : ))


    Would love to have you by for a visit!

    P.S. I'm a new follower. : )

    ~Abbie (www.fivedaysfiveways.com)


I love to hear what you have to say! Please make sure your blogger settings allow your email to be displayed, so I can respond to you! Nothing worse than getting a lovely comment and not being able to say thank you! {Jennifer}