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Cloth Christmas Gift Bags

I know how to wrap presents pretty damn well. My mother taught me at an early age; it was a skill she learned from her parents’ generally-evil housekeeper, who occasionally passed along useful information from her former job as a department store clerk in the 1940s. And hey, now I work near that same building as a store clerk (excuse me, sales consultant). And I wrap presents there. They look very pretty.

But my environmentalist self never liked that heap of paper left over on Christmas morning. OMG THOSE POOR TREES. Thus, I was delighted a few years ago when my mother began making cloth gift bags. She got the idea from a friend who gushed about the obvious benefits:

·         No mess

·         Nothing to throw away

·         Almost no wrapping time or effort required

·         The bags look pretty together

·         No need to buy paper again and again

My mother picked out several pretty holiday-patterned fabrics and sewed several sizes of bags. They’re incredibly easy to sew- just rectangles sewn together with two options for closure. You can sew in a loop at the top for a drawstring and use durable ribbons as drawstrings, or keep it even more simple and do what my mom did: just sew two of those same ribbons on a side seam near the top so that the top can be bunched up and tied together. The bags range in size from CD-holding to breadbox-holding (just kidding, I don’t even know what a breadbox looks like). One could get fancy and sew them into all sorts of shapes. My mom is a gifted seamstress, but you don’t have to be. You could be me and make these.

It’s lovely to see the different-sized bags waiting under the tree. Sometimes we nestle the smaller ones into the tree branches. And wrapping? You just pick out the right-sized bag from the stack, dump the gift in and tie it up. No cutting, no folding, no re-cutting, no taping, no giving up and starting over. Usually we slip a tag onto the ribbon or use a “to-from” sticker label.

These bags have held up very well for the last few years and I see no reason why they won’t last at least a few decades. Of course, those tempted to take a peek will just LOVE this but the more restrained among us smugly celebrate the eco-friendly simplicity.

When giving gifts outside my family, I still wrap them sometimes, though it’s often in newspaper. I’m also partial to paper gift bags (I went on a weird buying spree around 2006 and the damn things still pop up all the time), or just hiding it somewhere and making them play “Hot and Cold”. But I’m thinking of making some non-holiday-specific cloth bags of my own and the recipients can Pay It Forward, starring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey.

You can read more from Kati Garringer-Maccabe here and here.