How to make cloth gift bags
The other day I had fun making a bunch of small bright bags using scrap fabric. As it gets closer to Christmas, I’ll be watching for good prices on remnants of Christmas fabric, but this time around I used fabric that I already had. I’ve made these bags before using drawstrings, but decided to make some with zippers since I had a bunch of zippers already.
I had fun choosing contrasting colors of zippers to go with my fabric. In most cases I cut the fabric to match whatever size zipper I had in the right color. The zippers were left over from a few years ago when I bought a large lot (100 or so?) on ebay — I think they were 25 cents each, or something like that.
This piece of fabric is a rectangle of about 7 inches by 12 inches. In the above picture I’ve already sewn a 7-inch zipper to one of the 7 inch edges of the fabric. The next step is to fold a half inch margin on the opposite short edge of the fabric, onto which I will be sewing the other side of the zipper.
Then line up the end of the zipper with the edge of the fabric. Unzip the zipper part way before you begin sewing.
If you want, you can pin the zipper in place to keep it from shimmying around as you sew. I’ve done a lot of sewing in my life, and I’m the impatient type, so I usually skip the pins, but they do make things easier, especially if you are new to sewing. Just don’t sew over the pins and break your needle!
Once you have your fabric and zipper lined up as shown, begin sewing the zipper at the top edge, remembering to go backward and forward a little bit at the start of the seam to make it strong. I used about a 3/8 inch seam for this.
Remember, you begin sewing with the zipper open. But once you get partway down the zipper, you’re going to need to close your zipper to be able to smoothly complete the rest of the seam. (Otherwise the zipper pull will get in the way and prevent you from making a straight seam– very frustrating.)
Lift the presser foot up, and gently ease the zipper tab up, past the presser foot, until the zipper is closed.
Now continue to sew the zipper on, taking care not to sew through any extra layers of fabric. Near the end of the zipper, the fabric will get a little bunched up. But go slowly and keep an eye on your fabric and you should be able to sew to the end of the zipper without attaching any wrong bits together.
(Word to the wise: You can totally avoid the bunched-up-fabric hassle if you make your bag out of TWO pieces of fabric instead of one, and then just sew a bottom seam while you’re sewing your sides!)
Once the zipper is attached, you’ll basically have a tube of fabric with open sides. Now all you need to do is sew the side seams.
Fold the tube in half. You can see in the picture below that the zipper is in my right hand, folded over onto itself lengthwise.
Sew the first side seam, taking care to line up the edges of the fabric. (If you’re trying to figure out what’s going on in the pictures, the zipper is now at the bottom of the picture, below.)
Again, you’re going to want to begin and end each seam with a few backwards and forwards stitches to keep the seam strong.
Before you begin sewing the second side seam, unzip the zipper partway. This will make it a heckuva lot easier to turn, once complete. Trust me.
Sew the second side seam, again taking care to line up edges neatly.
Once the second seam is complete, your bag is done. Trim any threads and turn the bag right side out.
Push the corners of the bag out firmly with your fingers or a chopstick to make them stand out crisp and square.
And there you have it– a bag that is perfect for wrapping a small book, art supplies, or a variety of other goodies.
This is one gift wrap that is sure to be saved!