How to Make A Paper Bag Portfolio for School Papers and Artwork

We treasure the school papers our children bring home. After displaying near-perfect spelling tests on the refrigerator and hanging student self-portraits around the house, we sort through the papers and try to select the ones we want to keep.

Unless you’re a scrapbook master, figuring out how to keep papers for retrieval and reminiscence is overwhelming. This child-friendly project might help simplify the process, and give you an end product that is low-maintenance and fun.


There are a few versions of paper bag portfolios. The material is sturdy for holding papers and surviving the craftsmanship of children armed with markers and loaded paintbrushes. The design of this portfolio allows for sorting children’s papers by month or season or other category, and also allows for papers and artwork larger than 8 ½ by 11.

Step One

Collect paper grocery bags from the grocery store or friends and neighbors. The grocery store might donate to your project, or you can purchase bags inexpensively online. If the bags have handles, carefully cut or pull those off. Depending on how you would like to organize papers, you’ll need four to nine paper bags or so. Make sure the grocery bags are folded flat on the creases.

Step Two

Your child will be painting or drawing on the side of the bag where the bottom flap folds up when the bag is folded flat.

Let children use paint or markers to decorate the bags according to how you plan to organize. For example, if you’re separating papers by season, they could decorate four bags, one each with a scene representing that season. If you want a pocket for each month of the school year, decorate eight to nine bags.

The boundary for their picture is from the top of the bag to the top of where the flap folds up. If painting, allow artwork to dry before continuing.

Note: The artwork can be oriented in the same direction as the bag when it stands up (top of picture at top of bag so when finished, the portfolio will be flipped vertically), or oriented so that when bags are stacked, the bottom of the bag is on the left (so portfolio will be flipped like a book from left to right).


Step Three

For each paper bag being used EXCEPT the one that will be on top: Fold the top of the flap down toward the bottom of the bag. The crease that is revealed when you do that is where you’re going to cut the bag.

Now the bag has an opening at the bottom. This keeps the pockets easier to attach since thickness has been removed.


Step Four

Lay out the paper bag pockets in the order you would like them to be in the portfolio and stack accordingly: the pocket on top is the bag whose bottom flap you did NOT cut (it’s still a complete paper bag). That bag is also your cover. Fold the bottom flap of that bag around all the bottom of the other bags to create the binding.



Step Five

You’re ready to attach the pockets and bring the portfolio together. There are a few ways you can do this.

  • With a binding machine. Office supply stores often provide binding services. It will cost, but it’s a decent way to make the portfolio like a notebook.
  • Sew the fold with a heavy (18-gauge) needle and upholstery-strength thread. This is my favorite option. One or two seams along the fold give the portfolio a clean, strong binding. Start the first seam about ½ inch in from the fold, and the second seam right beside the first.
  • Use a hole punch and heavy thread to attach the pockets by hand. For this you’ll need one of these: heavy-duty linen thread, strong decorative thread, hemp thread, jute or garden twine.

    Getting a hole punch through the flap that folds around all the other pockets is a little tricky with this method. If needed, use a skewer to help start or complete holes. Then you’ll use three separate pieces of thread and tie through the top, middle and bottom holes.

Step Six

Now fill the portfolio by adding to the pockets. These hold lots of papers, flatten when stored and make great gifts for family members. 

Post by The Women Bloggers member Rhonda Franz of