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Paper Bag Scrapbook Instructions

What Is a Paper Bag Scrapbook?

Paper bag scrapbooks are made using paper bags for the pages. I love to make mini-scrapbooks for a personal and unique teacher gift or a brag book for grandparents. Since you only need 12 photos, this can also be a nice friendship book. If the books are assembled ahead of time, kids can put them on paper for a party activity. Tags inserted into the pages with open sides (inside of the bag) can be for journaling, or more photos are elegant for a gift but easy enough for kids to make.

Paper Bag Scrapbooks Make a Good Group Project or Gift

In this article, I will tell you how to make these books for yourself, for gifts or for a large group. I also explain how to use the same technique to make envelope scrapbooks.

Because paper bag scrapbooks are a fast project that always turns out well, I've also frequently used this mini scrapbook for large groups. Here are step-by-step instructions.

Materials Needed

  • 3 paper lunch bags (brown or white are widely available, but you might look for other colors too)
  • 6 different coordinating scrapbook paper (you need 1/2 of six different 12" x 12" scrapbook paper sheets for each book, or you can use 6 sheets of 8/12" x 11" paper).
  • 1/2 of a 12" x 12" two-sided sheet of cardstock for tags
  • Yarn, Rafia, string fibers or ribbons (approximately 18" for holding the book together and three 5" strips for tags—you can use a single piece or several coordinating pieces as I use in my sample)
  • Embellishments and decorations (flowers, buttons, stickers, alphabets)
  • Glue stick, glue dots, or another adhesive
  • Scissors, hole punch, paper cutter
  • Photos: about 12–18 (print out wallet-size photos, or trim regular photos to fit)
  • Ink or paint (optional)

Instructions for Paper Bag Photobook

  1. Use scissors or a paper cutter to cut two 4 ¾ squares from each of the six scrapbook papers (save scraps). You will have a total of 12 squares.
  2. Cut cardstock into three rectangles of 4 by 4 ¾ inches. Cut the corners off one of the longer sides to make it look like a tag. Punch a hole in the middle of the top of the tag and then tie a ribbon in the hole so it can easily be taken out of the pocket.
  3. Fold lunch bags in half. Place together top to bottom with folded bottom inside. Punch 2–3 holes with a hole punch in the middle. Thread holes with about 18" of yarn or ribbon and tie together on the outside. Alternatively, you can staple the pages together or even sew them with a needle and thread or a sewing machine.
  4. If you like, you can paint or ink the edges of bag, papers, and tag (optional). This gives it a contemporary "shabby" look. You can either do this step now and let it dry or wait until the end. Just be careful not to put ink or paint where you don't want it to go!
  5. Use a glue stick or other adhesive to put squares of paper on every page. You can either put contrasting colors on opposite pages or else use the same paper on the side-by-side pages.
  6. Tie 5" fibers or ribbon on each of the tags, slip them into the open sides of the bags.
  7. Your book is now all put together, and now it is time to use glue dots, glue stick or photo squares to put on the photos. Or, if you are making this as a gift for someone else to put the photos in later, you can head to step 8.
  8. Here's the fun part! You get to decorate the tags and pages with your leftover scraps of paper, buttons, stickers, flowers, and other embellishments. Here are some easy ideas:
  • Tear one side of a strip and put it across front of tag or on the side of paper.
  • Make 3 small squares of paper and put them in a row, each with a button or flower on top.
  • Put a flower with a brad or button in the middle on the right-hand corner of a page (maybe on top of a larger square of contrasting paper.
  • Use a flower punch through a page and put a flower underneath it on the page below.
  • Use contrasting straight strips of paper, with or without flowers or stickers.
  • Use letters or word stickers on top of contrasting papers.
  • Put three or four buttons on a strip of paper.
  • Use rick-rack or ribbon across one side of a page or across the top of the tags
  • Make a collage of torn paper as a cover.

Baby Book Envelope Scrapbook

After making many paper bag scrapbooks, I began to wonder whether I could make this sort of mini-scrapbook out of envelopes. I had some large envelopes which opened on the short side. Using the same sort of assembly as paper bag scrapbooks, I made a similar but actually more elegant-looking Envelope Scrapbook.

The size of the papers needs to be adjusted to the size of the envelopes. Because envelopes have flaps, I didn't always make a tag; instead, I used the inside as a pocket to store memorabilia. I like to use these envelope scrapbooks as baby gifts. It is always so hard to know where to put the little tags on the baby in the hospital, the first haircut, and other items. These little envelope scrapbooks are a great present for a new mom or grandma because she just needs to put in a few pictures, and she has something to share!

Using Paper Bag Scrapbook Kits

Here's what you should include in each paper bag scrapbook kit (I put in a Ziplock bag):

  • 3 paper bags
  • 12 co-ordinating squares of 4 x 4 inch scrapbook paper
  • 3 squares of 4 x 4 2/3 inch double-sided colored cardstock
  • Yarn for holding the book together and tags
  • Scraps of paper leftover from cutting the squares
  • Instructions for making the scrapbooks
  • Optional: some matching buttons, flowers, word art stickers, or other embellishments that co-ordinate with paper

On the tables set up for making the books, put:

  • Glue sticks, glue dots, or another adhesive
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Flower punch or any other equipment
  • Stamps and ink or any other embellishments you want people to use

How to Make This Craft With a Group

When you are making a craft project with a group, you can prepare it in two different ways.

1. Set Out Materials and Let People Choose

One way is to have all of the materials available and set out in a row so that people can choose their own items and then put their crafts together. If you are making paper bag scrapbooks with a small group for a birthday party or with a group of crafty people, this method works great.

2. Make Kits for Paper Bag Scrapbooks

If you are working with kids or adults who are not scrapbookers, you may want to prepare kits for people ahead of time. I've found that when I'm doing a very large group, it helps me to prepare kits in order to pass everything out quickly and efficiently.

Putting the papers and elements together for each kit really helps non-crafters because it eliminates their fear of not being able to choose things that match. It also helps to distribute everything quickly if you have a limited amount of time. Moreover, it keeps the mess more under control when you are working with kids.

Paper Bag Scrapbook Ideas

PurposeWhat to Use Along With PhotosTheme Ideas

Birthday party

Cards or notes from friends

Celebrating you

Father's Day or Mother's Day


10 things I love about

Goodbye to teacher

Drawings of teacher

What you taught us

Baby book


My first birthday

Friendship book

Favorite sayings

How we are alike

Church or scout group

Bible verses

Memories of the year

Mom's group

Stories or memories

How we've helped each other

Graduation gift

Awards or ribbons


Travel book

Tickets or soveniers


Ideas for Using a Paper Bag Scrapbook

Even non-crafters are surprised at how well these mini-scrapbooks turn out! This craft works great for lots of group events like:

  • Mom's group
  • Scout group
  • Birthday party
  • End-of-year party
  • Retreat
  • Vacation Bible school
  • Youth group

If you print out pictures ahead of time, then the whole group can make their own book to take home as a memory of the event.

I've also seen people use this project without pictures, letting teens write notes of encouragement to one another on note cards that they put on each page. Other ideas could be printing out Bible verses, favorite quotes, favorite events of the year, or memories. If you make a paper bag scrapbook as a going-away present, you can have people include why they will miss that person. For Father's Day or Mother's Day, you could make a "10 Things We Love About ..." book.

So what are you waiting for? Grab some paper bags and some scrapbook paper and make your own paper bag scrapbook for yourself or a friend!


MACHIE on January 20, 2012:

Great Ideas!! and very well laid out.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 15, 2011:

Thanks Shirley, I have taught this many times and it always goes well. You are right that we need to learn to reuse things we already have!

Shirley on November 15, 2011:

Nice project and explained in a way that makes it less frustrating. I find that if you look around the house you can find many things without having to buy. Recycle!

purplepoodles from Florida on July 31, 2011:

I do scrapbooking and was very happy to see this on papper bag scrapbooks. It is very well explained and that is not something you see often. I can't wait to try it.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 20, 2011:

Great hub with lots of detail! This is a wonderful, relatively inexpensive project that makes a great gift for a number of different occasions.

Lynn S. Murphy on June 19, 2011:

Love all the details you included in making this project. Very well laid out and the books look delightful!