Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about more environmentally friendly gift-wrap options, with lots of creative ideas from my commenters (saving and reusing old wrapping, not wrapping Santa gifts, using bath towels). The following year, I made a great big pile of gift bags, using fabric from my stash, Goodwill, and a discount fabric store. Those bags had some problems--they were mostly too short, and the ribbons were located too close to the top. Since then, I've added a few more bags to my stash every year or two using fat quarters. I've found the fat quarter makes a bag the perfect size for most gifts (a book, a shirt, a medium-sized toy), so that along with a few very large bags and a few very small ones, I've got a range to meet most of our wrapping needs. They're super fast and easy to make.
Fat Quarter Gift Bag
1 fat quarter in festive fabric
1 piece of ribbon about 12-18 inches long
Step 1: Fold your fat quarter in half, right sides together
Step 2: Fold the ribbon in half and lay it on the inside of your folded fabric about four inches down from the top, so that the ribbon ends extend inside the fabric and the folded end sticks out past the edge about 1/2 inch. Pin in place. (Note: this is the only pin I use, but if you are more meticulous than I am, you might want to pin along the side and bottom edges of your fabric.
Step 3: Starting next to the fold, sew along the bottom edge of the bag using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. One-half inch from the edge, stop with your needle down. Lift your presser foot, turn the fabric 90 degrees and sew up the side, back-tacking over the ribbon for extra stability.
Step 4: Hem the top edge. This is a good opportunity to practice using your hemmer foot. I know I could use all the practice I can get.
Turn your bag right-side-out and that's it!
Here are this year's new bags.
When you're ready to wrap, just punch a hole in your gift tag and slide it onto the ribbon.
Full confession: I still buy a couple rolls of wrapping paper every year. C prefers using it, and I use it for the Santa gifts (although Santa is starting to lose his relevance around here, I'm afraid). But I love how the gift bags make it much faster and easier to both wrap and clean up; and they require much less storage area than both paper gift bags (which I am incapable of throwing away) and reclaimed wrapping paper. I hope that in a few years, these are all we'll be using--and that I'll have given enough away that they're all we'll get back, too!