How to make reusable gift bags with fabric

This week, our Jill of All Trades, Jill Washburn, shows us how to make reusable gift pouches or bags. 

They can be made in virtually any size to custom fit the gift. They can be part of the gift or you can make an assortment of sizes and keep them from year to year as reusable gift wrap. PLUS, they making gift wrapping super-easy!

To start, pick out a fabric that you like. Jill used a red plaid wool blend fabric that was really intended for suiting.

She says that you could also use felt, polar fleece, flannel, calico, or nearly any other fabric you like. Sheer fabrics might be trickier, Jill says.  


Cut your squares or rectangles in the intended sizes and iron mid-weight fusible facing to the back of each square. Jill recommends ironing on the facing first and then cutting the excess off, rather than trying to line up the squares exactly after they’ve been cut.  

Once that is done, put your fabric pieces together with right sides facing in. Determine whichever edge is going to have the zipper and sew a seam down that edge. Jill always uses a bright contrasting thread and large stitches so that the seam will be easy to rip out once the zipper is in place. Jill recommends pressing the seam open to make putting the zipper in easier.  

Next, lay your zipper (face down) over the pressed-open seam, lining up the center of the zipper over the center of the seam.  

Change your sewing machine foot to a zipper foot and your thread to the color that matched your fabric. Remember, says Jill, to change your stitch size back to normal, as well. Sew along the length of the zipper about halfway between the zipper teeth and the edge of the zipper tape. Cross over at the end of the fabric and go up the other side of the zipper in the same fashion. You should be done!  Now all you have to do is carefully cut the threads of your temporary seam to expose the zipper. A seam ripper makes that super easy. Test it out to make sure it works.

With that done, you can now line up and sew the remaining 3 sides of your pouch. That should be super simple. Once that’s done, turn it right side out. You may need to push a pencil tip or scissor tip into the corners to get them squared off nicely.

Jill sometimes puts a little bit of ribbon through the zipper key for a decorative effect. Or, she says, you can attach a tassel or small pom-pom.


You can use the same fabric and attach the same fusible facing to the back of it. Instead of a zipper, you can used a fabric glue and turn what would be the top edges of your pouch/bag in a little bit and glue them down. 

Jill says that you can also glue the end of some ribbon in, about halfway across on each side. You will use this to tie the bag closed when it’s done. Once you fold and glue the edges, you will need to let them dry.  You may want to weight it down while it’s drying. The glue that Jill chose took several hours to dry completely, but there are many options for fabric adhesives, including some that are iron-on.

Once the top edges are done, put the right sides together, as if you’re going to sew them. You can then glue the edges or, as Jill discovered, it’s way faster to staple them. You can just staple repeatedly, keeping the staples end-to-end. It’s nearly like sewing it. Jill says that you may need to gently hammer the back sides of the staples to ensure that they grip really well.  

Once that’s done, just flip your bag right side out. You’re ready to fill it and tie it closed. Jill has made a whole collection of these to make gift wrapping fast, easy and beautiful at her house.


To watch Jill take you through the process, click on the video player above.