I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published December 17th 2010
Presentation is everything, especially when it comes to delivering the perfect holiday gifts. Instead of searching for some forgettable mass-produced holiday wrapping paper, why not express yourself this year? It's easier than you think to turn ordinary household supplies into extraordinary wrapping paper. And finishing gifts with unusual extras is fun, easy, and it can add something very special and festive to any package.
First, take an inventory of your supplies. Scope out your craft closet and junk drawers, look in your sewing basket for extra buttons and fabric remnants, search for small discarded toys and ornaments, and dig up last year's holiday cards and/or ribbons and bows. Art and office supplies are also handy. You'll want to plan your wrapping style around whatever supplies you have in excess.
Next, consider what type of paper you'll want to decorate. You can use almost any opaque paper. Consider an inexpensive utilitarian brown or white craft paper, which can be purchased by the roll at any art supply store or shipping center. You can also use blank sheets of recycled newspaper, pages of text, old maps and posters, comics, children's drawings and paintings, sheet music, and/or tissue, crepe, or glazed paper. Don't worry if you have to mix and match different styles. Your overall treatment will unify the look of your packages. Below are additional ideas for embellishing and decorating:
Involve the whole family. Finger painting on glazed paper makes an excellent holiday wrap. Better still are the repeated patterns you can obtain when dipping sliced potato halves in craft paint to make block prints (pictured). It's also quick and easy for kids to use rubber stamps to create repeated patterns. Try hand tracing, drawing silly doodles, brush painting, or even making thumb print animals (pictured) with colorful, non-toxic markers and ink pads. Finish with colorful ribbon and tie small toys or candy to your parcels.
Spare office supplies can spruce up a plain Jane package. Try using colorful tape in interesting interwoven designs and patterns. Photocopy photos and glue them to your box before covering it in a second transparent wrap, such as glassine paper. Sticky-backed loose-leaf reinforcements can be fun and cheeky when used in excess. Photo corners can situate important photos or drawings on your box where they'll be the center of attention. Brads in various sizes can attach interactive and picturesque pinwheels.
Forget paper for a moment and consider wrapping your gifts in fabric. Not only is fabric very forgiving, the results usually look opulent and a few quick stitches hold everything in place. If your friend or family member is crafty too, consider turning old clothing patterns into wrapping paper. Another tip is to visit your local thrift store for discarded shirts that can be turned into a wrap that is lavish as well as functional. Almost anything that can be found in a sewing box is fair game: buttons can be glued to paper and used as fasteners (with ribbon or string); rik rak and measuring tape can be used as ribbon; and yarn can be fashioned into pom-poms. Even scrap felt, when utilized to wrap a child's gift, can later be used by that child for a variety of crafts.
Back to Nature
If you're wrapping gifts for treehuggers, consider making handmade paper. You can add flowering seeds in your paper pulp to make your wrap into material that can be planted in the spring. Making paper is easy and it can be done with paper scraps (or shredded paper), a blender, water, seeds, and a screen. Check out these easy methods here and here. Finish your packages with natural acorns, pine swags, dried flowers, and/or pinecones. For an extra holiday touch, add sparkle to natural items with a touch of spray "snow" or dip them in glue and glitter. Another clever option is to repurpose food and drink containers into cute gift boxes.
If you're really all thumbs but you still want to make a cool presentation, consider ordering personalized wrapping paper, one of the hottest trends this holiday season. One of our favorite suppliers of such items is the Stationary Studio. Upload photos, type favorite quotes and pick from hundreds of design combinations to create a wrapping paper that is distinctly individual. And for those who are truly ready to geek out—you can now turn content from your Twitter account into "Tweet Wrap" for the ultimate tool in self-promotion.
This is an informative article. I once made gift wrap with brown paper, which I then covered in potato prints. Cut a potato in half and carve a print block from it. Ordinary cheap poster paint is good enough for printing with potatoes. Kids love this activity :-)
By - Wednesday, 22nd of December @ 10:10 am
Loved this article! It inspired me to make my own wrapping paper this year...potato printing and finger-print animals. Thanks Joann!
By jaypu - reader Wednesday, 22nd of December @ 02:54 pm