DIY Christmas Surprise Bag

Monday, December 3, 2012

A few weeks ago I was asked to join a Christmas decorating collaboration with Shannon from AKA Design as well as six other fab bloggers. We are each sharing our own Christmas craft / project on our own blogs  and then the brains-behind-it-all, Shannon, is going to be creating a free digital download with all of the contributions for all of our readers to use. Fun, right? 

Even before I was asked to take part in this little blogging adventure, I knew that this year I wanted to make a little Christmas surprise bag for Cooper.

Let me give you a quick explanation first. When my brother and I were growing up, our Mom not only set out stockings for us on Christmas morning, but she always set out a special little bag too. Sometimes they were hung on the Christmas tree, sometimes they were hung on the same hooks as our stockings, and sometimes they were hidden inside of our stockings. We always looked forward to finding that tiny little surprise that was tucked inside each of our bags. Since it's Cooper's first Christmas this year I thought we could start this cute little tradition with him as well.

The great part about this project is that you can tweak it to suit your needs. For example, you could make a few tiny bags and tie them around some bottles of wine for holiday hostess gifts, you could make a set of 'grown-up versions' and use one at each place setting for your guests at Christmas dinner, they would make cute little teacher gifts with a few Lindt chocolates in each one (trust me, teachers like good quality chocolate), or you could make bigger versions and use them to wrap gifts rather than using traditional wrapping paper. The possibilities are endless! 

I had brilliant plans to make three bags (one for Coops, one for Alex, and one for MEEEEEEE) but alas I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the last seven days and so I only had time to make one so far. 

Oh yeah, one more thing. You do NOT need to be an experienced sewer to do this project! I am totally self-taught and with a baby in tow, I had to throw my perfectionistic and meticulous crafting ways out the window. I cut corners and eyeballed it and whattayaknow it still turned out ridiculously cute. Well, in my humble opinion anyway. ;)


- two contrasting fabrics (I bought 1/2 a meter of each and had tonnes left over)
- button(s) (I used a large, wooden one)
- needle and thread 
- twine or ribbon (I used twine)
- sewing machine
- fabric scissors
- measuring tape
- iron / ironing board
- fabric glue (optional)
- Fray Check
- tape
- safety pin


{Please forgive the terrible tutorial photos, they were taken at midnight last night in between baby awakenings.}

1. Determine the finished size of your surprise bag and cut out two fabric pieces adding a half inch seam allowance on the sides and bottom, and a one inch seam allowance at the top. I wanted my finished bag to be quite small: 4 inches by 5 1/2 inches.

2. Fold the top of each fabric piece over a half inch (onto the wrong side) and press with an iron. (Other people would probably use fabric chalk to mark their fabric but alas I could not find mine and so I improvised with a black pen.)

3. Fold over the top of each fabric piece another half inch to create a finished edge. Press with an iron.

4. With your sewing machine, sew two straight lines along the top and bottom of each fold. Make sure to sew the lines close to each edges of each fold so that you create two small pockets for your ribbon or twine to go through. I used a contrasting color of thread (white) only because I forgot to buy some green to match my fabric. Whoopsie!

Trim the loose threads at each end but don't worry about them looking unfinished because they will be sewn into the bag later on.

5. Cut out a Christmas tree shape (or your desired shape) from your contrasting fabric. Adhere the cut-out to the good side of one of your fabric pieces using fabric glue. (If you don't have fabric glue you can adhere the cut-out with pins instead.) When choosing the size of your fabric cut-out, make sure to take into account the half inch seam allowances on each side and bottom of the bag. Also, don't place your shape too close to the top of the bag as it will get scrunched up when you pull in the drawstring! 

6. Using your sewing machine, sew a straight line all around the edge of your fabric shape. Using a needle, pull your leftover thread through to the wrong side of your fabric. Tie the threads off and trim. Ruffle up the edges of your shape a little. 

7. Cut a long piece of your twine or ribbon. Tape one end and attach a safety pin.

8. Pull the safety pin / twine / ribbon through the little pocket you created at the top of your fabric piece. 

9. Repeat with another piece of twine / ribbon and your second piece of fabric. 

10. Using a pair of sharp scissors, create a small notch/hole at the end of one of your 'pockets' to pull the taped end of your twine/ribbon through. Make sure to create the notch at least 3/4 of an inch from the edge because you will be sewing the bag together using a half inch seam allowance. (This will be the end of the twine that you pull to close your bag.) Repeat with the other 'pocket'. Don't forget that you want the notches and loose pieces of twine to match up when you place your fabric pieces together. 

Dab some Fray Check around the small opening that you created to seal the fabric fibers and prevent them from fraying. Trim any loose threads around the small opening.

11. Match up the good sides of your fabric so that you can sew them together. (The wrong sides should be facing out.) Using your sewing machine, sew a straight stitch along the sides and bottom of your bag half an inch from the edge using your half inch seam allowance. IMPORTANT: You will be sewing the twine / ribbon into your bag on one side (see the right side of my photograph) and you will NOT be sewing the twine into the bag on the other side where you pulled your twine / ribbon through the opening (see the left side of my photograph). I used small pieces of tape to keep the twine in place so that I wouldn't sew them by accident!  

12. Trim the excess twine / ribbon where you sewed it into the bag. Trim your seam allowances so that they are nice and tidy. Snip any loose threads that might be hanging around.  

13. Turn your bag inside out and tighten the strings to give you an idea of how long to cut them. Tie your twine or ribbon ends together and trim.  

14. For the final touch, hand sew a button onto the top of your Christmas tree cut-out in place of a "star". (I used a few dabs of fabric glue as well, just to be on the safe side since buttons can be choking hazards for little ones.)

Well, there you have it. A tiny Christmas surprise bag.

Now comes the fun part: choosing the special surprise to go in the bag for Cooper on Christmas morning! 

{Note #1: I am aware that there are several other ways and many tutorials on how to make the "drawstring" part of the bag. My way was me winging it because at 1:00 a.m. none of the tutorials  made sense to me! Haha!}

{Note #2: If you choose to use twine as I did, the rough texture of the string will make it harder to pull the drawstrings in and out rather than if you used a smooth ribbon.}

{Note #3: I chose somewhat neutral fabrics and colors for my project so that the bag would coordinate with our other decor, however you could always use bright reds and greens if you so desired!}

If you are looking for some more DIY Christmas inspiration, please take a few minutes and check out the projects by these awesome bloggers:

And stay tuned for the PDF download with all of our Christmas projects in one place that should be available within the next few days!

P.S. I typed half of this post with one finger while trying to wrangle the Coopster to sleep. Impressive? Yes, I know. ;)
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  1. Super cute - love this! Take care, Laura

  2. This is a fantastic tradition and I love that you're carrying it on with your kids.

  3. So cute!! Love this idea. What an adorable tradition!!!

  4. Very cute. Love the button! And what a fun tradition to carry on.


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