Friday, November 30, 2012

How to make reusable fabric gift bags

Earlier this week, I shared that most wrapping papers are not recyclable, due to the poor quality of the paper fibers.  I know that no matter how simple we try to make Christmas, there is still a pile of wrapping paper in the garbage by the end of the giving season. The same is true of birthday parties for my kiddos.
What if you had NO wrapping paper to throw away? Wouldn't that be refreshing?! Well, that is a fairly easy goal to achieve! Just make your OWN gift bags, and share them with family and friends, as well. It's simple. And even more inexpensive if you shop the clearance racks at the fabric store Here's how to make a gift bag:
1.            Purchase and prepare your supplies for a large drawstring bag. You will need 1/2 yard of sturdy cotton fabric with thread to match. Also, purchase 3 yards of matching cord or ribbon. Wash your fabric through a medium heat cycle in the washing machine and then dry it on medium; this will allow for shrinkage before you start your project.
o      Don’t want to purchase fabric? Old cotton dress shirts, kitchen towels, cloth napkins, and solid-colored t-shirts also make a great fabric stock for a gift bag.
2.            Cut your fabric. You will need two pieces of fabric, cut to the same dimensions. If you want a medium-size bag, cut two rectangles 13 inches wide and 17 inches long.
3.            Pin the two sides and bottom of the drawstring bag fabric, right sides facing together. Leave a 1 1/4-inch open area at the top of each seam on both sides of the bag. Sew over the pinned area with a 1/2-inch seam.
4.            Press the seams open with a steam iron, if you want. Or, zig zag over them to prevent fraying.
5.            Press 1/4 inch under on both top sides. Press another 1 inch under, also. Pin both sides in place.
6.            Sew both top areas over the pins, close to the inside fold. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each side for extra strength. This will form two tubes that will hold the cord (draw string).
7.            Cut the purchased cord in half. Each half should measure 1 1/2 feet. Attach a large safety pin to one end of a cord piece. Use the safety pin to guide the cord through one side of the fabric tube. Even out the cord and tie them together over the top of the drawstring bag. Repeat with the opposite side. Open right sides out. Insert your gift!
8.            Option 2 for the closure: Don’t want to sew in a cord? At step 5, Press 1/4 inch under on both top sides. Press another 1 inch under, also. Pin both sides in place. Stitch close to the lower fold all the way around the top.
o      Open the bag right sides out. Tack a ribbon or cord at its center point to the side seam. Insert gift. Tie the bag closed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Celebrate the season without "trashing" your home

The holidays are such a great time to share laughter, encouragement, and love with family and friends. Chances are your calendar is already filling up with get-togethers for the holiday season. In addition to our increased socializing, our waste increases over the holiday season as well. According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – about 1 million extra tons.

So, while you are still in the early planning stages, consider these simple tips to help you celebrate the season without “trashing” your home and your budget.
1.      Nix the cheap wrapping paper. While the bright colors are pretty, it’s not a very economical or environmentally sound choice. Most wrapping papers are not recyclable curbside, due to the poor quality of the fiber used to make the paper. Instead, create your own wrappings!
a.      Buy a roll or two of brown “shipping” paper. Use markers or paints and stencils to decorate the wrap. Make bows out of fabric or sturdy ribbon, which can be used year to year.
b.      Make fabric gift bags.  These bags are simple and can be used over and over from year to year.

2.      Avoid paper plates and plastic utensils. Pull out your good dishes. No matter how small or simple the gathering, bringing out the good dishes always makes the event feel a bit more festive. Remember, paper plates and plastic utensils are not recyclable.

3.      Be thoughtful in your gift giving. Rather than buying more “stuff” with more packaging, think about experience gifts, such as tickets to a play or museum, a gift certificate for a massage, a certificate to a locally owned restaurant, even a certificate for free babysitting. We don’t often purchase such gifts for ourselves, so the thought will be appreciated.

4.      Plan your menu around what is available locally. Cook only for the amount you will be serving. Package up leftovers and send them home with your guests. Or, freeze your leftovers and save them for another meal.
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