Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Traditions: Fabric Gift Bags

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One of our best holiday traditions is our use of fabric gift bags instead of paper wrapping paper. Wrapping gifts in paper was a tedious, time-consuming process for me. It would take hours to cut the paper, to struggle to situate the paper on the gift (you know how wrapping paper always wants to roll back on itself), to rip the tape, to stick the tape... I hated it. I also felt a little bit sick watching all that paper go to waste. Even if we would recycle it or reuse it, I wanted to simplify the whole gift-wrapping process.

Enter the fabric gift bag. I had thought about making them for years, but never made the time, probably because I thought it would be too complicated, until one year I finally just did it. I bought half yard cuts in a variety of Christmas and winter themed fabric. I am not skilled at sewing structured objects, so I made the bags very simply. I folded the half-yard cuts in half, right sides together, selvedge to selvedge, and sewed a 1/4 inch seam up both raw sides. Then I folded the top edge down twice and sewed that hem, turned the bag right side out, and ta da, I had instant reusable gift wrap!

I toyed with the idea of making drawstring bags, but that was more sweat equity than I was willing to put in, so instead I simply cut 30 inch lengths of cord to tie around the sacks as a closure. Name tags are easy to attach, too. You can make your own tags using any method you like, or you can buy nice tags at the store.

I have both homemade and purchased tags, and we reuse those, too, year after year. Any tag on a string works well. You simply loop the sack cord through the string on the tag before tying the cord around the sack.

You can make the bags in any size you need. I made a variety of sizes, but the most useful size has been the half-yard bags, which turn out to be about 18x22 inches big. Clothes don't need to be boxed before wrapping; they just go right in the bag. Books stack up nicely, too. Even if the gift is much smaller than the capacity of an 18x22 bag, the sack still looks cute when it's tied shut.

Wrapping gifts now takes me about 30 minutes, as all I have to do is put the gifts into the bags and tie them shut. No more struggles with the paper, scissors, and tape! And, of course, no more waste.

The gift bags are so colorful under the tree every year. There's something about all those fabric sacks lined up that looks so cheerful and homey. I've been asked if my kids mind not being able to rip wrapping paper off their gifts in a mad frenzy. No, they don't mind. We've been using fabric bags since they were tots, so this is what they're used to. I suppose wrapping gifts this way makes it easier for them to sneak peeks before Christmas, but I don't think they do that. And if they do, well, they're just ruining their own Christmas morning!