Published on September 25th, 2012 | by Julie Finn


Bags and Boxes that You Can Build out of Recycled Materials

recycled gift bags

Need a gift bag, or a box of exactly a certain size? Check out my personal collection of my favorite templates and patterns for DIY bags and boxes of all shapes and sizes, along with my suggestions for what recycled or scrap materials would be best to make each from.

It’s just that easy to craft packaging materials that are big on personality and way, way low (free is low, right?) on cost.

Envelopes into Gift Bags: This envelope gift bag tutorial from How About Orange works best with those non-standard sized envelopes that you get with greeting cards. If you craft upcycled greeting cards, too, however, you can use the envelopes that come with bills or junk mail, or the sleeves that your Netflix discs come in to make these bags.

record album cover boxes

Record Album Covers into Boxes

Record Album Covers into Boxes: Old record album covers are made of such sturdy cardboard that they’re easy to upcycle into sturdy cardboard boxes; you can also make/re-size boxes using food packaging, old game boxes, or any recycled cardboard at all.

Scrap Fabric into Drawstring Bags: Even small waste bits of fabric can be sewn into a drawstring bag perfect for a necklace or a gift card; for a bigger drawstring bag, try upcycling a T-shirt!

Newspapers into Gift Bags: Although the site is written in Vietnamese (use Google Translate if you can’t read Vietnamese yourself), you’ll find that these instructions for making a gift bag from newspaper are easy to follow, especially since you don’t have to download, print, cut out, and trace any patterns! This gift bag will work with any thin paper, such as book or comic book pages.

Fabric into Takeaway Boxes: Since the fabric for this takeaway box (pattern and tutorial from Mad Cat Art Studio) must be reinforced with interfacing, you can upcycle the fabric for it from any source–T-shirts, dresses or skirts, vintage sheets, or even coffee and flour sacks. You could also construct the box out of thin cardboard, punching holes around the edges and lacing the sides of the box together by hand.

Book Pages into Padded Envelopes: To mail something fragile, don’t settle for plain manilla–Swirly Thoughts instead teaches you how to make custom-sized DIY padded envelopes from sturdy book pages and bubble wrap (save your bubble wrap whenever it’s mailed to you instead of popping it all, and you can pull this material from stash). Use thick paper for this project–picture book pages, wallpaper samples, or old posters/used posterboard.

Brown Paper Bags into Favor Bags: Brown paper bags, stamped or embellished and then sewn on the sewing machine, can be sewn into favor bags perfect for holding candy or other small trinkets. Part of the fun is in ripping the bag open to get to the gift! Use medium-weight paper, such as book pages or glossy magazine pages.

Folgers Canisters into Personalized Gift Containers: My Papa buys his coffee in the giant plastic Folgers canister, so every time I visit I snag his empties and use the Folgers Canister Template Creator to redecorate the container for my own purposes. Wouldn’t it be awesome if every manufacturer of gross plastic packaging at the very least had a program like this to encourage re-use? If you’re handy at creating your own templates, you can make any canister, tub, or re-sealable food container unrecognizable by transforming it with your own papers and embellishments–then fill it with fudge.

Recycled Paper into Envelopes of Any Size: The fun of this envelope-making tutorial is that it teaches you how to disassemble an existing envelope to use as a template for your own envelope–brilliant, right? You can make envelopes out of absolutely any paper–newspaper, stash scrapbook paper, comic book pages, book pages, magazine pages, stash wrapping paper, etc.

If you have any favorite templates for bags, boxes, or other upcycled packaging, I’d love to add it to my list–put the link in the Comments section below.

Image Credit: gift bags image via Shutterstock

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

3 Responses to Bags and Boxes that You Can Build out of Recycled Materials

  1. Wow! Thanks for all the templates and great ideas! Last year we stopped buying cards and gift bags and started making everything ourselves. It’s been a wonderful journey. My daughter loves creating birthday cards for our family members and we’ve saved interesting images from magazines and greeting cards to dress up reusable paper gift bags and envelopes for packages. We’ll use these templates to take our gifts and cards to the next level! Thanks so much!

  2. Marion BE says:

    Spray-on starch is another great way to stiffen fabric for a box. Iron it dry if you’re impatient.

  3. Noreen says:

    I love all your creative gift wrap ideas and links.
    I made a series of small gift boxes that can use recycled greeting cards.


    These bags are all made from envelopes.


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