Paper Bag Crafts

Cyndee Kromminga
paper bag hanging pillow

Don't get rid of those paper grocery bags after emptying them, use them for your next craft project. Paper bags are an awesome craft supply as their color and texture can easily be manipulated into many faux-looking materials.

Monogram Hanging Pillow

Spruce up your teen's room or add a personalized touch to your entryway with a hanging monogrammed pillow made from a paper bag (pictured above). The color of the bag and the black accents give this pillow a sophisticated feel.

Things You Need:

  • Brown paper grocery bag
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pinking shears
  • 4" letter stencil
  • Black acrylic paint
  • Stencil brush
  • Craft glue
  • Stuffing
  • Clothespins
  • One yard black rick rack
  • Sewing machine
  • Black thread
  • Paper hole punch
  • 3/4 yard black lace trim or ribbon
  • Three assorted-size black buttons
  • Hot glue gun

What To Do:

  1. Cut open a brown paper grocery bag. Lay the bag flat with the wrong side facing up.
  2. Trace an 8" square on the bag and cut out.
  3. Turn the square with the right side facing up. Center a 4" letter stencil on the square. Using a stencil brush and black acrylic paint, stencil the letter onto the square. Allow the paint to dry.
  4. Turn the stenciled square with the wrong side facing up. Apply craft glue to the side and bottom edges. Do not apply glue to the top edge.
  5. Place the square on the wrong side of the remaining paper bag with the monogram facing up. Press the edges with your fingers to adhere the square to the bag. Using pinking shears, cut around the square. You now have a pocket with an opening at the top. Allow the glue to dry.
  6. Fill the pocket with stuffing. Do not overstuff. Apply craft glue to the inside top edge of the pocket. Pinch the opening closed and apply clothespins to hold while it is drying. Allow the glue to dry.
  7. Cut four, 8" pieces of black rick rack. With the right side of the pillow facing up, place one rick rack piece on one side edge. Using a sewing machine and black thread, top stitch the rick rack to the pillow. Repeat on the other edges with the remaining pieces of rick rack.
  8. Using a paper hole punch, punch holes in the top corners of the pillow, 1/2 inch from the corners. Cut a 27" length of black lace trim or black ribbon. Insert the ends from the back to the front of the pillow. Bring the ends up and together. Tie in an overhand knot approximately two inches from the ends.
  9. Hot glue three black buttons to the bottom-right corner of the pillow to finish.

Faux Metal Leaf Charm

Create an expensive-looking touch to your home decor or use it as a topper for a gift bag or wrapped package. The patina and texture of this charm will fool your friends into thinking it really is metal.

metal leaf charm

Things You Need:

  • Brown paper grocery bag
  • Silk or real leaf
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Craft wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Craft glue
  • Wood glue
  • Craft paintbrush
  • Candle
  • Paper towel
  • Sponge
  • Metallic acrylic paint

What To Do:

  1. Cut open a brown paper grocery bag. Lay the bag flat with the advertising side (outside) facing up.
  2. Lay a silk or real leaf on the bag and trace around it. Cut out the shape.
  3. Cut a 9" length of craft wire.
  4. Using a craft paintbrush, apply a thin layer of craft glue to the wrong side of the paper leaf (the outside, or the side with the advertising/printing). Using the remainder of the bag, place the wire on the wrong side. Lay the paper leaf with the glue side down over the wire. Position the wire to run down the center of the leaf and extend out the center bottom like a stem. Use your fingers to press and smooth out any bubbles. Allow the glue to dry.
  5. Cut around the leaf shape. Do not cut through the wire stem.
  6. Apply a thick layer of wood glue to one side of the leaf. Make sure the entire surface and the edges are covered.
  7. Light a candle. With the glue side facing down, hold the leaf over the candle flame. The glue will bubble and blacken. Watch closely: if a flame appears on the glue, quickly blow it out. Continue until the entire surface of the leaf has blackened and the bubbles have subsided into wrinkles. Apply a thick layer of wood glue to the other side of the leaf and repeat. Allow the leaf to cool and the glue under the black to harden.
  8. Wipe over the front and back of the leaf with a paper towel to remove soot and ash.
  9. Dip the corner of a sponge into metallic acrylic craft paint. Wipe the sponge over both sides of the leaf. Allow the paint to dry.

Faux Leather-Covered Storage

Everybody has shoeboxes and everybody needs extra storage, but shoebox storage rarely looks nice enough to display in the open. Keeping the frugal recycling nature of this project in mind, use a paper bag to transform a shoebox into a surface that resembles leather.

Faux Leather-Covered Storage

Things You Need:

  • Shoebox
  • Brown paper grocery bag
  • Mod Podge
  • Sponge brush
  • Scissors

What To Do:

  1. Cut open a brown paper grocery bag. Tear palm-size pieces from the bag. Wad each piece into tight balls. Unfold the balls and lay the pieces flat. The wrinkles will add texture and depth to the project, emphasizing the leather appearance.
  2. Remove the lid of the shoebox and set it aside. If the lid is attached, just open the lid. Place the shoebox with the bottom facing up. Apply Mod Podge to the back of a paper piece using a sponge brush. Apply Mod Podge to the bottom of the shoebox. Place the paper piece on the bottom of the box with the coated facing down. Apply another layer of Mod Podge over the paper. Use your fingers to smooth out any bubbles.
  3. Continue to add more paper pieces in the same way, overlapping the edges and allowing the pieces to extend over the edges of the box. Fold the pieces over the edges, adhering and smoothing to the shoebox sides. Use scissors to cut slits in the paper to wrap crisply over the corners. Allow the bottom of the box to dry.
  4. Turn the shoebox over with the opening facing up. Apply paper bag pieces to the sides of the box in the same way as the bottom. Fold the excess of the paper pieces to the inside of the box. Allow the sides to dry.
  5. Cover the lid in the same way as the bottom of the box. Allow both pieces to dry thoroughly before putting the lid on the box.

Tips and Suggestions

You don't need to be limited by the supplies and instructions for these projects. The following are a few substitution suggestions and tips for successful outcomes.

  • A leaf shape was used for the faux metal charm, but if leaves don't interest you, your cookie cutter collection probably has a shape that would look adorable in faux metal.
  • A cheap craft paintbrush is suggested for the faux metal project as the bristles are usually plastic and much easier to clean than pricier brushes.
  • Brown lunch bags can be substituted for the grocery bags in the decoupaged shoebox project, but they are much thinner. You will want to paint the shoebox to hide the design and writing on the box before covering with the bags.
  • Add a bit more color to the faux leather box by brushing on a stain of watered down acrylic paint in a color of your choice.
  • Rather than stenciling a monogram on the hanging pillow, paint or use a marker to write "Baby Sleeping." Change the colors of the trims and embellishments for a cute addition to the nursery door.

More Free Craft Projects

Whether you're looking for paper bag projects to give as gifts, decorate for the holidays or just keep for yourself, there are a number of free patterns and tutorials online to suit your needs.

  • Parties For Pennies decorated for a 4th of July barbeque using paper bags as the primary supply for several easy projects. The 4th of July bunting will motivate you to start saving grocery bags months ahead of the holiday, and the silverware holder and mini 4th flags will inspire you to make different versions for every season.
  • Lia Griffith shares a weaving tutorial using strips of a brown grocery bag to create a fruit basket. This simple project would be a great activity for your kids or a class.
  • 52 Mantels shares a genius idea that uses paper lunch bags to make flowers. This is another great project to do with children.
  • Adirondack Girl @ Heart not only recycled grocery bags, but she also rescued an empty dish soap bottle from the trash to create this mini mannequin jewelry holder. This one will definitely be a keeper for your vanity.

Stock Up

Creating crafts with paper bags may mean you have to be on the lookout for a steady supply. While lunch bags can be purchased in bulk, the larger, thicker grocery bags are actually better for many craft projects. Plastic bags seem to be the usual option when grocery shopping, but if you ask, they will use paper bags. If you ask nicely, they may even give you several unused ones.

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Paper Bag Crafts