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Making Nature Print Gift Bags

Making Nature Print Gift Bags

The mountain of discarded holiday gift wrap just seems to get bigger every year. But you can create your own beautiful, reusable gift bags decorated with materials found in nature instead of buying wrapping paper, often laden with toxic dyes, which will just end up in a landfill.

This makes a great Thanksgiving holiday project to do with (or without) your children. The process is a lot of fun and the results are quite beautiful–and very eco-friendly, since you can use them over and over again. Here’s how to do it:

These instructions are for small gift bags made from envelopes, but you can purchase larger plain gift bags and decorate them using the same method.

You will need:

old sheet or towel
any size or shape envelope
craft glue, if needed
hole punch
2 pieces of ribbon or raffia, each about 15 inches long
flowers or leaves
ink pad, watercolor paints, or markers
small dish of soapy water (for printing with watercolors)
paintbrushes (for printing with watercolors)
several sheets of scrap paper

1. Cover your work area with a sheet or towel. Seal the envelope first (just lick and seal!) or use glue, if necessary.

2. Turning the envelope lengthwise, use a ruler to measure 1/2 inch, then cut about 1/2 inch off one end. If the envelope is square, just cut a little bit off one end.

3. Use the hole punch to make two sets of holes about 1/2 inch from the top (cut) edge. Tie the ribbon through the holes for handles.

4. Practice printing the flowers or leaves with an ink pad on a piece of scrap paper to be sure your plants will work. For directions on using ink pads or watercolors to print with natural materials, go to Two Ways to Make Your Own Gift Wrap.

5. Create a pleasing design on the bag with the leaves. Print each of the flowers and leaves using the directions from the article above. After you finish, allow the ink to dry.

Read more: Crafts & Design, Crafts & Hobbies

Adapted from Nature's Art Box, by Laura C. Miller (Storey Books, 2003). Copyright (c) 2003 by Laura C. Miller. Reprinted by permission of Storey Books.
Adapted from Nature's Art Box, by Laura C. Miller (Storey Books, 2003).

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Nature's Art Box

From t-shirts to twig baskets, 65 cool projects for crafty kids to make with natural materials you can find now


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9:48PM PST on Jan 17, 2013


7:30AM PST on Dec 26, 2012


5:56AM PST on Dec 10, 2012

Thanks for the tip.

6:15PM PST on Dec 9, 2012

Thank you Annie.

1:04PM PDT on Mar 20, 2012

Nice idea. Thanks for posting.

4:42AM PST on Dec 15, 2010

Thanks for the info.

3:08AM PST on Dec 15, 2010

Also it is so much easier unwrapping with cloth and the cloth is so decorative!

3:07AM PST on Dec 15, 2010

We use the same cloth every year and it has great meaning after seeing it through all this time.

1:07AM PDT on May 25, 2010

thanks for sharing

8:47AM PST on Mar 11, 2010

This is fun to do!

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