Thursday, May 6, 2010

DIY Paper gift bags - upcycled, cheap and pretty darn cute

Packaging is the bane of my small business existence. It's expensive, mostly boring and mostly made of cheap or un-recyclable materials (packaged in yet more crappy non-recyclable materials) which is especially painful considering most of it will end up in the trash on arrival.

I was going to go with wrapping the items in tissue paper and placing them in simple brown paper bags stamped with my logo but apparently they don't sell paper bags in Montreal anymore. So in an effort to, as proposed by, 'DIYour-own-damn-self' I made my own. They turned out so cool I've horded some of the cuter ones for myself (to, like, look at and squeal or whatever..)

Books or magazine pages are the perfect size and shape (rectangular) for making these: you can find lots of used ones for cheap and chances are you already have lots at home, some of which would greatly benefit mankind if they're used for anything but reading (Reader's Digest condensed novels anyone?). My favorite is vintage childrens books with their colorful illustrations. You can be really cheap and buy the sad broken ones in the bargain bin which is where I found this one which is ironically about an injured chipmunk. Don't cry little chipmunk, I will save you! And make a gift bag out of your paper corpse...

Other materials:
*Tape (glue stick if you also happen to have it)
*Finger nail, butter knife, or other hard flat stick thingie to make those folds extra crisp.
*Best of all, no template!

Note - It's better to avoid reading the instructions I provided which barely make sense to me and just focus on the pictures, much less confusing :P

1 Fold your paper to join both short sides in the middle. I use tape on the entire length but you can also use a glue stick if you make sure to have one side overlap.

2 Folding what will be the bottom of the bag. The size of the tab folded will be equivalent to the size of the bottom of the bag. I like to fold the bottom 1.5 inch since anything smaller tends to be difficult to work with once you get to the smaller folds.

3 What's going on here? Basically you want to fold open that tab you just made and end up with two triangles at either end. You want to make sure to align the crease in the middle of the triangle with the fold made previously. Here's one fold completed:

4 Both folds completed:

5 This is where it starts looking familiar. Fold the top and bottom edges to meet in the center making sure all the creases are perfectly aligned.

6 I prefer not to overlap the pieces which tends to distort the shape of the bag so I use tape along the length of the completed bottom. Make sure there isn't any space between the edges so you don't end up taping the bottom to the inside of the bag.

7 The next step is getting the neat folds going up and down the bag. Fold one of the outer edges inwards making sure the points align and the width is constant (perpendicular) on the entire length or your bag may become a 'work of art'.

8 Turn the bag over and fold the same edge you've been working on in the opposite direction. Repeat with the other edge.

9 Now gently pop open the bag. You will have to play around with the creases to get them folding in the right directions. The center crease should fold inwards.

 Once completed you should be able to fold it like this. Neato!

Voila! Cute paper bags with retro woodland animals.

Here's another version with a slightly different bottom:
Here's another version that skips step 1 by using envelopes:


  1. Wow! Your bags look fantastic and I think anyone who is conscious about the environment would love to receive their purchase in one :)

  2. I love this! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love it!! What a great idea, and how cute would those be to package up a mothers day gift or party favors!

  4. This is awesome! i booked marked it to use for later

  5. careful - it's addictive! When I first learned how to make one I stayed up till 1 am making these:)

  6. Love this little tutorial!
    I already have the perfect material for it - old huge size atlas!
    I think it would look great made with maps!

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. yay! thanks again, my friend and I picked up a bunch of cool old books from the thrift store and we're making a bunch of bags :)

  8. Excellent! Some other ideas are using old score books and seed catalogs!

  9. wonderful! My 6 yr old is recently into origami & I can't wait to try this with him

  10. This is amazing. I thought it'd be a bit difficult first try but it's surprisingly simple!
    Thanks for the tutorial :)

  11. Wow so nice! I like this site.Keep it working every day.

  12. That's awesome! Thank you for posting instructions.

  13. Cool! Thanks for sharing, going to give this a try!

  14. These are fabulous, such a great way to re-cycle. Have put your link on my blog. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I love these bags and wanted to let you know I mentioned them in an article I wrote as the San Francisco Recycling Examiner. Here's the link.

    Once again, great work!

  16. greetings, dear skeptis,
    just made a rather pleasing newspaper gift-bag from your easy-to-follow pictures; thank you & bless you! yours were the simplest, most useful instructions after i tried google's top 3 diy gift bag results. merci, again! (:

  17. Just did this with a page of a Target mailer ad. Thank you so much for the tutorial. It's awesome :)

  18. Oh this is so lovely! Thanks for the great tutorial, I'll be using this for birthdays and random gifts.

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  20. Calendar pages are great because the picture is already in landscape. :)