Minimalist Machinist: Sustainable gift wrapping and zero waste bag tutorial

Craft 07/12/2021

We’re so excited to present this scrap busting tutorial created by Rachael @MinimalistMachinist, created with the help of her DuoLamp and Halo Go Rechargeable lamps. This fabric gift bag is a great way to sustainably wrap your presents while doubling up as a zero waste bag which is a great gift in itself to your loved ones.

This is a scrap busting tutorial focused on using fabric remnants to create more sustainable gift wrapping. The gift wrap is made using a zero waste bag pattern and is designed to be reused again as a bag. Whether you follow the pattern to create a ‘zero waste’ bag or use off cuts of fabric you already have, I will show you some ways in which fabric gift bags can be used to create a special gift in addition to what’s wrapped inside.

The tutorial is beginner friendly and it assumes you have access to a sewing machine to complete the steps, although you are capable of making this bag by hand sewing alone. You only need to be able to sew in straight lines and have access to an iron for pressing. Finger pressing and pinning will suffice. Tools required are the free Zero Waste Rectangle Tie Bag pattern by RarelyIdle which can be found here and sewing machine/hand sewing equipment, pins, marking tool, tape measure/ruler, scissors, thread and the fabric you wish to use. I will demonstrate the french seamed finish as per the pattern, but you could also overlock the hems if you prefer. I finished one of my examples with a french bias binding and it worked really well.

The sew-a-long starts at a point where I assume you have read the pattern through once and have decided on the fabric you’re going to use. I am using a leftover linen remnant for this sew-a-long, but later in the tutorial I will show you some examples of other fabrics I have used (and created myself). Linen and cotton type fabrics work best as they press easily and don’t have too much bulk at the ties. I really prefer this pattern to other bento inspired bags as the ties are longer and the bag is deeper which makes it more useful once it’s served it’s purpose as gift wrapping.

Step 1

I start by cutting my rectangle from the remnant piece making sure the bottom edge is longer than my sides. If you’re following the pattern closely make sure you’re taking note of the suggested sizing. All the bags I have made using this pattern have been custom sizes as I have been using fabric I have in my stash. This means that none of my bags are truly ‘zero waste’.

Step 2

I then fold the fabric in half till the two shorter sides meet, right sides together.

Step 3

The fabric should be cut along this folded line. I took my ruler and cut my fabric from bottom left corner to top right corner.

Step 4

When unfolding the pieces you now have two right facing and two left facing triangles.

Step 5

Take a left and a right triangle and fold down the top ‘peak’ of both triangles by 1” / 2.5cm to the wrong sides and pin. Place them on top of each other so that the fabric is right sides together. Then continue to pin all the way along the long straight sides. Sew that seam at 5⁄8” / 16mm  seam allowance making sure the folded peaks are caught in the stitching.

Step 6

Unfold and press that seam open. Take the long edges of the seam you created with the last step and fold the unfinished raw edge of the fabric under towards the stitch line. Pin and press. Then edge stitch down (2mm away from the folded edge). This will encase the seams and leave no raw edges.

Step 7

I like to also ‘stay stitch’ the diagonal edges at this point. Because they are cut on the bias of the fabric and can stretch out of shape easily. I make sure I stay-stitch with a longer stitch length at ¼” / 6mm away from the edge. This stay-stitching helps with the hemming of these diagonal edges as the stitch line works as a guide for the fold, which saves you a lot of measuring later.

Fold the top of the triangle down ¼” / 6mm, and then again 1⁄2” (13mm) (if making a larger size – 1” / 2.5cm if smaller) and pin into place.

Step 8

The long diagonal edges of the triangles (which I hope you took my advice and stay-stitched) now need hemming. Fold ¼” / 6mm towards the wrong side of the fabric (at the stay stitched line), and again another ¼” / 6mm to hide the raw edges. Edge stitch this down in the same way you did the last seam. Making sure the peak is pinned neatly as this creates your ties. Do the same for both diagonal edges.

This is one half of your bag complete. Repeat the process for the other two triangles.

Step 9

Place one completed triangle overlapping the other, both right sides up and pin into place. I like to use my chalk and a ruler to mark on the front of the bag where the edge of the lower triangle is to help here. Edge stitch the two pieces together. I like to start at the bottom corner of one side and stitch up to the middle crossover point and back down to the other corner in one pass. If you have a label this is a nice point to add it to the inside or outside.

Step 10

Turn the bag over and repeat this process. Overlap one triangle over the other and pin into place. Make sure everything is lying flat, then mark and then edge stitch down.

Step 11

While the bag is still right side out. Stitch along the bottom straight edge at 1⁄4” / 6mm seam allowance.

Step 12

Turn the bag inside out and make sure the corners are properly pushed out and are neat right angles. Pin and press, then sew along the bottom edge again to encase the raw edges at 3⁄8” / 10mm seam allowance.

Step 13

Next we sew the corners of the bottom to make the bag 3D. Looking at the bottom seam of the bag, we pull the sides of the bag apart to give the bag depth. We take that bottom seam at one end and match it up to it’s side seam. This opens up the bottom to create a base. Pin it and make sure the two seams are aligned.

Depending on which size you’re making you mark, pin and sew this seam at different depths. Because all of my bags have been custom sizes I tend to pin and check I like the depth before sewing it down. Pin or tack it down with a long stitch then turn the bag right sides out to check whether you like the depth. When you do, sew that seam down.


Step 14

The construction of the bag is now complete! I like to add additional stitching at this point. Adding bar-tacks can help strengthen the crossover points and if you’ve chosen contrasting thread they can be a nice design feature too. Add those in whichever design you prefer. Here I have done one single long bartack on both sides of the bag. You could do a cross or horizontal line.

I like to add a bartack across the tie top to help keep that fold down too. Beware that folded areas can be hard to add dense stitching to, but pressing before doing it and taking it slow can reduce chances of any issues.

You can add other decorative stitching at this point. If you decide to decorate the entirety of the bag with stitching or paint I would suggest you do that before cutting the pattern. However you could easily add a note to your recipient “with love” or even stitch an initial straight onto the bag. I decided to add a small label into the tie.

Congratulations the sewing is done! Here are some ways I have used this pattern to make my fabric gift wrapping look special. As the pattern maker Rarely Idle says, It might be nice to think about how the fabric and bag match the enclosed gift. Or how the recipient might use the bag after the gift has been given. All of the bags I have made for this tutorial have been produced from my scraps. I haven’t bought any new materials for the wrapping and have sourced everything for these wrapping ideas from around my home.

For this example I added some foliage from my garden and a decoration with my daughters name on as a tag. I used green stitching onto the creamy linen to go along with the feel of nature. I can imagine her using this bag to carry around her animal toys. Because the gift wrapping is made from a usable bag pattern you can tie the handles tight for wrapping and securing. Or just at the ends to make a handle, or ‘hand bag’ as she would definitely call it.

For this little blue version I cut the bag from a toile of a jacquard print top I had tested. The triangles were cut from both the right and wrong side of the fabric creating a two tone effect. I imagine giving my son this bag filled with little dinosaurs. I used a decoration with his name on as a ‘gift tag’ and swapped out the tie for a cord. Adding a sew on patch to the outside of the bag with one of his favourite dinosaurs would work well too. I can imagine him using this to store his little collections of toys. It ties up securely or tied just at the top to make a small handle.

This large purple bag I created from some cotton drill I had leftover from a chore coat I had made. It was dyed from cream and I had excess from that project. I used black stitching to contrast with the cocoa brown of the dye. The top is tied off with some black twine and a small pine cone from my garden which I had added a fabric tag to. Adding ribbon in a complimentary colour makes this feel luxurious and chocolatey. The cotton is sturdy and strong and it would make a great market bag. The long straps are perfect to wear over your shoulder and it’s deep enough to fill with lots of items.

The last example I made my own fabric for. I quilted a rectangle the same size as a yellow piece of polyester I had picked up from my local sewing store’s remnants bin for £1. I backed it with some cotton leftover from a blouse I had made, and used an old fleece blanket as the internal wadding. I quilted a vertical stripe along the whole piece of fabric, and before I cut my triangles I marked the diagonal lines and stay-stitched those before cutting them out. I finished the edges using french bias binding for the diagonals and trimming the wadding and folding the excess fabric over the side seams to enclose the edges. I have added some press studs to allow extra options on how to close the bag as the ties can be bulky to tie more than once. When I made this I imagined it as a knitting / craft project bag, the quilting gives it enough structure to sit up nicely with the ties ‘peeled’ back. It sits open like a project bin. When not in use you can tie it up or fold over each edge and press stud the whole thing closed. I like this so much I will not be giving it away!


I hope I have inspired you to look at new ways you can use existing materials in your home to create beautiful, thoughtful and more sustainable ways to create gift wrapping. Good luck and make sure tag us with your makes @daylightcompanyeurope @minimalistmachinist @rarelyidle #ZWRectangleTieBag 



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