Tips For Making Quickie Bags

DSCN1620I love making bags out of fabric. Their is just something fun out of it and the coolest part of making a bag is you can use left over scraps to create them with. No need to go out and buy fabric specifically to make a bag.

Bag making has probably become one of the most popular projects to create with fabric. Their are in fact so many bag tutorials on the web that I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this one, but, for the sake of perhaps a new idea, I’ve decided to share some ideas with you.

This is planned to be an ongoing tutorial. I will add to it as I make new bags in a different way.

When I make a bag, it’s almost always out of scraps. I have rarely purchased fabric to just make a bag with. I don’t normally pull fabric from my shelf to do it either. It’s a great way for me to delve into my scrap bags and find some fabric to make some bags with. Almost every gift I give these days also is given in a fabric bag. Unless I make a really large bag and yep I make those to, the bags are usually small in their nature.

This tutorial isn’t meant to give you cutting sizes, or any type of shapes in particular, as you make different sized bags, you just get to know the size that you need in order to accomodate your gift. Yes, you can measure your gift to be sure your bag will fit, if I make a bag that I am unsure of the size for, I will measure the gift, and then be a bit generous so I have some wiggle room. You have to think also about the top of the bag, so you have enough room to close the bag how you want it to close, you need to add a good 3 to 5 inches on the top of your bag depending on what you plan to place in it if your doing the traditional ribbon tied closure. You might think that 3 to 5 inches is alot of room, but it’s not when you have to consider the width of your gift. See what I mean here about room to close. If the gift itself is wide in it’s nature, it will be hard to pull in the top to close the bag with the ribbon, so please keep that in mind when your creating your bags. The wider the gift is, the more you need on top of the height of the gift to allow room for closing the bag up.

The following are the basics for making a bag:


This is just a scrap I had laying around. I pulled it out of my scrap bag that have christmas fabrics in them.


It needed to be ironed, so I gave it a little pressing with my iron.


I don’t normally cut sides up, I tear my fabric so that I have the straight of the grain. I don’t cut the top (where the opening will be) until after I have stitched up the sides. I do this to get a straight edge on the top of the bag.

I will finish the seams with a zigzag stitch, or a serger edge so that no raveling will occur down the road. I will however, iron open the top 1-inch of my seams at the top of the bag. My reason for doing this is because when you let the seams to go one side, and close the top off, the bag will have “pointies” at those spots because the seams are ironed to one side of the bag. If you open your seams at the top and iron them open, then stitch that hem down, you will not have any “pointies”.

If you want your bag lined, you will need 2 of the same sized pieces of fabric. Stitch the sides of the lining together leaving an opening that you know will be large enough to get it turned inside out with. Be sure to cut your straight edge on the top along with your other piece (Outside piece of bag) so you get the same size of bag. I usually lay the two on top of each other, insuring the bottoms match up, then I cut off the top to be sure I get a straight edge going across the top of the bag. When your making large bags, you may want to measure from the bottom of the bag, to insure that your keeping the top at the same size around the circumference of the bag also.


Once you have the top edge cut, I take the top edge, roll it under about 1/2-inch and then again, so that no raw edges will show when I stitch it down. Some people like to iron the turned under edge to make it easier to sew, but an experienced seamstress can do this without having to iron the turned edge. I do not iron, I just turn it as I go, keeping the edge lined up on one of the lines on my plate on the sewing machine. I use my omnigrid 1×6 ruler to help me be sure I have turned under the two 1/2-inches. As your stitching along, the edge just naturally starts to fold over.

M_41949_29529One of my favorite tools for making bags is my 1×6-inch Omnigrid Ruler.


You don’t leave any openings on this stitchout, you are merely hemming the top part of the bag so no raw edges are showing.


Now if you don’t want to do anything else to the bag, you can turn it inside out…


and it’s ready for some ribbon and your gift. However… if you want to add some additional features, think about squaring off the bottom so the bag will have a better chance of standing up on it’s own. As you can see above, it will stand, but it won’t be long before the bag lays to the ground.


Squaring up the bottom of bags is easy to do, and I do this 99% of the time when I am making bags. I don’t do it to make the bag stand up, I do it to allow a less gift shaped look to the bag itself. Have you ever used a bag for instance where the bottom wasn’t squared up and then put a box in the bag only to have the box take over the shape of the bag? This is why I square off the bag, it’s less likely to have your gift take over the shape of the bag if you square off the bottom.

To square it off, you want to stitch with the bag still right sides together (not turned inside out in other words) and take one of the bottom points of the bag and open it into a triangular shape with your fingers.


Measure from the point in at about how big you want your squared edge to be. Most small bags need no more than 1 1/2-inches from the point in to create the squared effect. The larger the bag, the bigger the triangle should be.

Measure both sides and mark  them so it’s easy to line them up when you stitch across the the bottom of the triangle.


Stitch one side at a time, you can chain stitch these if your so inclined. I do not cut my flaps, I just leave them in, allowing for the later possibility that they may need to be restitched, thus you can do so easily. If they are cut off, you will have a harder time down the road to restitch them due to raveling and such from the cut edges.


The image above just shows both sides stitched with the triangle


I do apologize for the blurriness of this image, but I think you can see how much nicer it is to add that edge to your bags. They stand up much better than before also. To me, even tho I know they aren’t, they just seem a bit more roomier and you won’t see that gift taking over the shape of the bag either.


If you came to this image from the link in the text above, this link will take you back to where you were.

As I said, this is a basic bag, no frillies, just the basics, We are ready to add our gift and close the bag now.

When I make my closures, I will take a hair scrunchie, I use these around my thread spools like Madeira that have no way to close off the thread.


These amazing little babies are so cool to get the ribbon on easily when you have no encased holder for the ribbon on your bag.


To add the pony tail holder, just scrunch up your opening, hold it like a ponytail in your hair, and wrap the ponytail holder over several times. Now take your ribbon and make your first knot around the opening.


As you can see I have my knot, and my ponytail holder still in place. I can now take the ponytail holder off, and leave the ribbon in place.


By doing it this way, it’s easier than fussing with the top to get the ribbon around it, and you can shape your little top better also. Create your bow and your good to go.


Cool Eh!!


When I’ve cut my ribbon to long, I will usually make a double bow. I haven’t knotted this twice, I just make the first bow slightly small, then wrap a second bow. I can then play with the bows to make them look more uniform or until I am happy with the look.

Enclosures for Ribbons

 Making a closure for your ribbon only adds a few minutes to the creation of your back. I’ve seen bags closed many ways, with buttons and button holds, zippers, ribbons, weaved ribbons thru little holes in the bags, there are just many ways to close a bag.

Traditionally, people tend to use a little closure like addon to close a bag.

You don’t need a strip of fabric any wider than 2-inches to do this. You do need to cut it at the circumference of your bag, so it could be 2-x 10 if the circumference of your bag is 10-inches around. When I’m making quickie bags, I cheat. Plain and simple, I just tear a strip at 2 1/2-inches wide, cut it to 2-inches, then fold in half wrong sides together and iron. I then measure from the top of the bag, to about 1 and 1/2-inches down from the top, not the hemline stitch. The further down from the top you measure, the more “gathered” top you will have. This is something to keep in mind when your cutting your bag size in the first place.


Before I iron the strip of fabric in half, I turned under the edge I will start stitching with, so I have no raw edges showing on the outside.


I measure from the top of the bag, not the turned over hem line we did earlier.


I then mark the bag area every few inches or sew round the bag.


I know this example looks off, but I stitched this wrong the first time and had to take it out.

However, you stitch the strip by lining the raw edge of the strip along the line you marked. I usually stitch this at a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Because I don’t first cut a length, when I get to a few inches of the end, I then cut my length with a little extra, turn the edge under, and then stitch it down.

Once that is done, I then lightly iron with my mini clover iron the other side of the strip so it’s pulled up and over the raw edge. I then top stitch it into place.


You need to leave an opening when you do this, so your opening is going to be where ever you start your stitching, Start and top your Stitching right next to each other, not on top of each other. Both ends of the strip should come together evening or slightly off. Mine is slightly off in the picture, but noone is going to see it once the ribbon is in your bag. When these are just quickie gifts, I don’t fuss so much. When I want to impress, it’s perfect.


Because this is an enclosed ribbon, you will need to run the ribbons thru the enclosed area of your strip. I use a safety pin for this. I pin the ribbons into the pin, and then put the safety pin into the enclosure and work it thru to the other side.


Once your done, you can make your bow, fiddle with the top and wala, you’ve added another dimension to your quickie bag.

Other Ideas

Use old blocks you’ve made for fabric bags, you may want to seriously consider a lining for them, even use some fleece inside and quilt it then use a lining for the inside.

Use the decorative stitches on your machine to create your own fabric design by either using a solid fabric or a tone on tone type fabric print as your background.

Use a triangular or curved edge as your top.

You can also use a raveled edge on your top, no need to turn it under and hem it.

Fun fabrics print that look like a “card” are also fun to make bags with.

Use Cording instead of ribbons. I actually prefer cording, as it really pops and looks very professional.

This is an ongoing tutorial, I will add more images and ideas as I make more bags.


Ⓒ 2014 Tutorial written by Marian Pena
Ⓒ 2014 Images taken by Marian Pena

2 thoughts on “Tips For Making Quickie Bags

  1. Tganks for the ideas. Sometimes I just tack a length of ribbon on the back of the bag about 1/4 of the way from the top for the tie. To get a tight knot, wrap the ribbon around twice for the first part of the square knot and then do bunny ears. I make lots of fabric bags with remnants and stopped buying wrapping paper. I love making fabric bags with character fabric for baby showers or children’s birthdays. I sometimes find cool pillowcases at Goodwill for 50 cents or a dollar and convert them to laundry bags. I sew a button hole on each side of the cuff, cut open the buttonhole, fold the cuff in half, sew cuff close to make a casing, stitch the top of the casing, and run two drawstring through the casing.

    1. WoW, thanks for the great ideas… I loved reading your comment. I don’t get a chance to go to the thrift shops to often and most of the ones here carry only everything for the home except for clothing or sheets, and such. I will have to see what there is for shopping for towels, and cloths out there. I really haven’t explored much since we moved here. Sometimes I feel lucky to have just figured out where the Costco is. 🙂

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