My future self will thank me


(Note: This is a little out of order, because I’d really planned to follow up my last post with one about my goals for 2016. But, since one of those goals is not to waste momentum, I’m going to get this up now, and then circle back around.)


When I was growing up, the vast majority of the Christmas gifts under the tree weren’t “wrapped” in the traditional sense. Yes, when all was said and done, we had plenty of wrapping paper to put in the recycling bin at the end of Christmas day, but for the most part, the gifts from my parents were wrapped in fabric bags my mum had made and reused every year. I don’t know when she first started using them, but I can’t remember a Christmas without them, so I must have been very young.

The concept is pretty simple, really. They’re just basic drawstring bags — unlined, no fancy seam finishing — in a variety of sizes and Christmasy prints. Every once in a while new ones would appear, but mostly it was the same ones, year after year, and they say Christmas to me as much as any ornament on the tree or special meal. Every year, after everything is unwrapped, my mum collects all the bags, folds them up, and puts them away for the next year. No one gets to keep them, and there’s no counting at the end of the day. A few years ago, though, my mum made new ones for my middle sister and I, and they were part of our Christmas gift that year: the beginning of our very own set, for the families were starting.


Every year, I use those bags she made me to wrap my gifts for my family — L and I use them for each other, and I use them for my sisters and parents — and there is perhaps nothing more fitting than placing a hand-knit item or specially-chosen present into a handmade bag. Even people who have never had a gift wrapped that way before love it. L’s dad came to spend the holidays with us this year and loved his Christmas bag so much I felt a little bad asking for it back.


All of which brings me to the point of this post: Back in October, when L and I were in Toronto for a wedding, I went to the shop to buy some fabric for my own set of gift bags. In the summer, Cotton + Steel released a Christmas-themed fabric collection (Tinsel, it’s awesome) and I took that as my cue. I bought fabric in three prints so I could start building a collection of bags of my own — ones that could maybe be part of the gift in some special cases.

I then waited for a free weekend afternoon to materialize so I could set about bag making.


But, of course, free afternoons don’t really offer themselves up. Especially when you’re in the thick of Christmas knitting and exploring a new city and seem to be working all the time. Christmas arrived and my fabric was still sitting in the closet (not a disaster, since I had lots of other bags to use) and it wasn’t until Boxing Day that I finally had a day with nothing planned that had to be done. I cut all the bags and sewed up half of them, and you know, I felt pretty good about it.


Today, we’re going to undecorated the tree and put all our Christmas things away for another year. I was thinking that I could just put away the cut-out bags as they are (I finished the bulk of them, after all), but then I thought about how busy the holidays were this year, and I realized that it’s not going to be any different next year. If anything, it’s going to be busier. So I decided to just take an hour (that’s all it’s going to take, if I’m honest with myself) and sew them all up. My future self will be so happy they’re done and ready to go next Christmas. Thirteen bags, ready to be filled — it’s practically an early gift for myself!


16 thoughts on “My future self will thank me

  1. Heidi

    This is such a nice idea. I love that it comes from your mom and that you are continuing it. From the pictures it’s hard to tell how big they are. Do you make a variety of sizes? Do you make a squared off bottom? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      All good questions! I don’t bother with squared-off bottoms since you never know what you might put in them. They are a variety of sizes, though. The ones pictured are all quite different. In knitting terms: the dark one is the biggest and would fit an adult sweater, the snow globe one is quite small and fits a pair of socks, and the pink one is a medium size and fits two skeins of worsted-weight yarn (or a good-sized book). I made a few different sizes in each print.

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      I think it’s applicable to any gift giving, really. I might have to go through some of the quilting cotton prints I loved too much to pass up and make some more bags for birthdays and baby showers (the main events, these days).

  2. Julia

    THIS. Is the most AMAZING idea I have EVER heard about wrapping/giving gifts.

    Your mother is a genius, please tell her that.

    I can’t sew, but it would be worth a thought … It doesn’t seem to be hard …

  3. knittedblissjc

    that is such a beautiful idea!! I love the reusable Christmas bags, what a wonderful tradition handed down from your mom. My family reuses lidded gift boxes that are pre-printed with Christmas themes on them (very easy to find at winners in November- December). I especially love that the gift bags don’t take up much storage space through the rest of the year, too. I never sew, but I would definitely sew some of these. Thanks for such a great idea!

  4. caityrosey

    My inlaws use drawsting cloth bags under their tree. I’ve been thinking of doing so too. I’m not much of a seamstress, but I could probably make drawstring bags with some practice.

  5. Mary Beth Long

    I love this idea so much that I ended a 20+ year sewing hiatus to order fabric and plan to make a big batch for next year. Thank you! And thanks for posting the fabric brand, too–those snow globes are fantastic!

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