'Tis The Season to Re-Purpose!

You might think that with all this holiday celebrating I haven't had time to make stuff out of garbage and scraps. You would be WRONG! I'm not just talking about my cheap and easy wreath, either. 

What's my mystery trashy craft project? Making reusable gift bags from random fabric! I read this blog post on Choose to Thrive and decided that I, too, could and should make reusable fabric gift bags. So, faster than you can say "Why are you doing that? You know you can just buy wrapping paper, right?" I got my kiester to the thrift stores to round up my supplies.

According to my inspiration post (which I highly recommend you read, because she can ACTUALLY SEW) you can use just about any fabric you want: clothes, linens, scrap fabric, etc. However, I am a novice seamstress so I stuck to fabric (shirts and linens) that have the maximum amount of finished edges so I didn't have to, you know, finish them myself. As you can see from my handy little diagram, I sourced my materials from many different thrift store departments.

The easiest thrifted-fabric-to-gift bag is the pillowcase. Buy a pillow case and tie it shut with a ribbon. Done and done. I did go the extra mile by tacking the ribbon to the pillow case - strenuous I know. This isn't really necessary, but it keeps the ribbon from getting lost when the gift is opened. Honestly, it took me longer to Photoshop this diagram that it did to actually finish my pillow cases.
Shirts are only slightly more advanced. I ran a line of stitching across the top of the shirt to create the closure (bottom) of the bag, making sure to start just below the armpits. To get a little more room in my gift bag sometimes I curved my line toward the collar, as shown in the diagram. The existing finished hem of the shirt will be the opening (top) of the gift bag. Then I just added a ribbon, like on the pillow case. Again, I know almost nothing about sewing or constructing garments. This seam would undoubtedly fall apart with frequent washing or regular use, but for this purpose it will probably be OK.
 Here is one of the gift bags I made using the above method, both closed and open.

 I could have broken out the sewing machine for attaching the ribbon, but I'm still lazy. Why use a sewing machine when a whip stitch will do? Bonus: if the ribbon gets all wrinkled and gross after a while, I can easily snip it off and replace it.

 The last type of fabric I used was something flat and square like a napkin or place mat. The napkin can either be tied furoshiki style...

... or tied with a ribbon...

... which is tacked onto the napkin like so:

As for gift tags, I go the cheap and easy DIY route with those, too. Each tag is a rectangle (about the size of a business card) cut from card stock with the corners trimmed with my corner rounder. I use a mini-hole punch and some baker's twine to make a hang loop and then I hand write the inscription. A regular hole punch would work just fine, but I have a small one so that's what I use. Then I just run the ribbon through the hang loop before I tie the bow.

The one thing I haven't told you is WHY I am doing this. I have multiple (equally crazy) reasons:

1) I don't enjoy wrapping presents. It's not like I despise the act of wrapping presents - I'm fairly good at it - I'm just not the sort of person that delights in finding the perfect wrapping paper, crafting the perfect bow or adding the perfect finishing touches. Plus, it makes me sad to see all that effort ripped apart in seconds. I would rather sew a few dozen gift bags once than have to wrap presents year after year.

2) Wrapping presents in paper is INCREDIBLY wasteful. The paper, the tape, the boxes, the bows - so much stuff! Many people have made an effort to switch to fabric shopping bags because it's wasteful to bring home plastic or paper grocery bags. To me, wrapping gifts is no different. Buying paper gift bags is better, but you still need tissue paper to hide the gift. By using fabric wrapping materials I am keeping wrapping paper out of landfills and recycling centers AND I am giving new life to thrift store items.

3) It helps me save money. In total I spent $30 on thrifted fabric and $5 on ribbon. That's not change you can dig out of the couch, but I feel it's on par with what others spend on paper/bows/tags/etc. BUT if I get use those bags again next year, my cost moving forward will be $0, unless I have to replace some ribbons down the line.

4) I like to be weird. I am that person that gets a kick out of saying "oh, I made that" even if it earns me an odd look. I often make things I could easily buy, but that's the fun of it. I like that my pile of presents looks different from everyone else's. Plus, I get a smug satisfaction knowing I wrapped a gift in about 10 seconds - put gift in bag, tie bow. Easy peasy.

Of course, the one down side to this hair-brained scheme is the possibility that someone will keep or *gasp* throw away one of my bags. To prevent this, I am not using a fabric bag for anyone whose gift will be dropped off and opened without me being there. In those circumstances I will either use a paper gift bag, saved from gifts we received in years past, or a brown paper lunch bag. Don't feel too bad for my friends, I jazzed up the lunch bag with a stamp and some ribbon. For those opening gifts with me, I have already dropped hints like "... that's the nice thing, I can take the bags back and re-use them next year." So I've indicated I'd like them back without having to say "I'm glad you like your gift, now hand over my bag." But I will totally keep you guys in the loop if this whole thing blows up in my face and all of my bags get trashed. And not in the fun, drank-too-much-eggnog sense.

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