DIY: How to Make Gift Bags from Shopping Bags

Gift bag made using a shopping bag
Gift bag made using a shopping bag

I am not big on DIY projects because I am not terribly arty or crafty, and just between you n me, I don’t have the patience. But this DIY craft project of making gift bags by repurposing paper bags is close to my heart. I plan to upcycle paper or cloth shopping bags, and use them as gift bags for giving presents on birthdays and other special occasions. In fact recently we made a Disney plane-themed gift bag for one of Devansh’s friends who likes Dusty. This sudden interest in such a crafty activity wasn’t spurred by me wanting to unleash my creativity but by a series of fires at the dumping ground, which is around 6 kilometers away from my place. It took the fire brigade more than a couple of days to douse that fire which spewed toxic fumes in areas many kilometers away. We could see grey skyline filled with smog for nearly a week.

Now in big metros like Mumbai fires to dumping grounds are accidental but in smaller towns or villages, garbage is systematically being burnt or left to lie unattended on the outskirts. We either blame the civic authorities or turn our heads to the other side for a few seconds as we speed past these spots in our cars. Even I did the same all these years. But the of fires in the Deonar Dumping Ground that caused kids and even quite a few of us adults in the area to develop respiratory problems got me thinking about my role in this waste management disaster. Sure it is the duty of the civic authorities to manage waste effectively but what lands up in waste is ours.

Now I do my tiny bit towards reducing my environmental impact. Like separating wet and dry garbage at home. (Luckily in my society wet waste is collected and made into compost.) From the dry waste, I keep aside cardboard packaging boxes, plastic containers of cosmetics, shampoos etc, plastic bags and give them to my local scrapwala, so that they get recycled. I carry my own bag when I go out grocery or vegetable shopping. On most days I carry my own water bottle so that I don’t have to buy bottled water. (On some days I forget. 😳 ) Now I want to do something more to reduce the plastic waste my house generates and hence this DIY project of upcycling shopping bags.

Gift bag made using a shopping bag

Gift bag with warli design made using a shopping bag

How to make gift bags from shopping bags?

I hope I have egged you on enough to want to recycle shopping bags. So now lets get down to business.

What do you need?

  • Well shopping bags obviously. 🙂

Collect all the paper or cloth shopping bags you have. These days most brands have got ecoconscious and give us paper bags instead of plastic. The bag in this pic is a cloth one and I stuck some mirrors on it using fabric glue.

  • Craft supplies like glue, colors, and craft paper (ideally that are lying around the house)

I would say don’t buy anything new. Try and use what is lying around in the house—colors, stickers, sequins… I used all the craft material that was left over after doing Devansh’s school assignments. Buying more craft material kind of beats the purpose of trying to be eco-friendly.

Material for gift bag creation

  • Some amount of creativity and loads of bravery

I never thought I was good at art and craft but I found out just how bad I was when I tried decorating the paper bags using water and poster colors. 🙄 I thought it would be cool to do spray painting on the Fab India bag using a toothbrush but that experiment didn’t go too well. Then on the other side of the same bag I tried stamping using leaves. Well, I didn’t quite manage to get the complete shape of leaves on the bag. But I could salvage the design by going abstract. Moral of the story? If like me you’re not naturally gifted in the art department don’t be disheartened you can manage to create something nice if you’re willing to experiment. Gift bag done with colorful stamps using a leaf

  • Nifty googling skills

Do a Google Image Search using keywords like  “brown paper gift bag designs” and you’ll get tonnes of ideas for decorating your paper bag. Or if you have an idea, you can look up art designs for inspiration. For example, Kalpesh thought of drawing a warli design and so we looked up for simple images that Kalpesh could draw on craft paper.Two gift bags with warli design

  • Software like photoshop for creating images

Now this is purely optional. But if you have photoshop or GIMP, creating images on your own instead of using the ones available on the Internet can be fun. Kalpesh created the birdie design with the “birdthday” text using Photoshop.Gift bag using computer graphic design

  • Color printer

A color printer certainly helps if you want to stick images of specific cartoon characters on the bags. You will also need the printer to take printouts of the images you create in photoshop or GIMP. If possible, you should print on the blank side of the printed papers lying around the house instead of using a brand new one. For the plane cutouts I used new paper but I used the blank side of a printed leaflet on the bag with the abstract paint

So there you have it. Now go have fun making some cool gift bags with your kids, unleash your creativity, be adventurous and create some awesome designs. The child in you will enjoy this fun recycling activity and your child will reap the benefit of a better planet.

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