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.

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).


Rose Becke5 years ago


Carol R.
Carol R5 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Thanks for the tip.

Robert O.
Robert O5 years ago

Thank you Annie.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Nice idea. Thanks for posting.

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Mari Basque
Mari 's7 years ago

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

Mari Basque
Mari 's7 years ago

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

gail d.
gail dair7 years ago

thanks for sharing

carole hagen
.8 years ago

This is fun to do!