With the holiday season fast approaching, if you plan to make your gifts now is the time to start. It is also a good time to start thinking about how to package those gifts. Have you thought about handmade wrapping for handmade gifts? Or any gifts, for that matter?
Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year? The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week! And it is not just the paper wrapping either. Cards, ribbon, and fancy embellishments all get thrown away.
Why Wrap Gifts?
There is a psychological component to wrapping a gift. The anticipation of unwrapping it, the guessing what is in it, and the visual delight suggesting “something of value within” all build excitement. They add to the experience of both the giver and the person receiving the gift.
But who has money to throw away these days? You can easily spend over $15 just to present a gift with a card. It can be lifestyle-driven too. If you are in a hurry, you rush into the store to buy the gift bag, a bow or ribbon enhancement, the tissue paper to hide the gift inside, and a nice card. When we are in a hurry we are tempted to trade our money for our time. Unless we plan ahead, this often happens. That is, if we have the money to spend.
Sometimes you want the wrapping to convey something about you. To convey that you give lavishly. That you have good taste. All too often society and the media shape our expectations and that leads to habits that become “normal” in our culture. But sometimes “normal” is just not good. Not good for our environment. Not good for our pocketbooks. Not good for our stress levels.
While I love a beautifully wrapped gift, I am trying to discover new ways to present a visual delight when wrapping a gift – ways that don’t include throwing the wrapping away. Here are some ideas that you might want to use this year. These wrapping alternatives can be quite elegant or as plain as can be (think rustic), but they can be reused! And valued! Just use your imagination to make your wrapping uniquely you!
Alternatives to buying and using wrapping paper:
Cloth wrappings –
- Leather or cloth used as furoshiki bag. Japanese furoshiki is a traditional japanese wrapping cloth, used to wrap everything. Furoshiki can be used for gift wrapping, grocey shopping or even as clothing. Just click here for a delightful visual display, then watch the DIY tutorial video below.
- Use an infinity scarf or a regular scarf, either as the wrapping or as the “tissue” lining for the present.
- Make your own food wrap (like they did in pioneer days) using cotton cloth and beeswax, and use these as both a gift and the wrapping for small items, especially kitchen related gifts, or food gifts. Perhaps consider securing them with a food clip. This is an excellent DIY article on making these simple cloths using your oven. Here is another method of making this wrap, using an iron.
- Use warm woolen socks (perhaps you too have some unmatched socks!) to “wrap” bottles, and secure them with ribbon or twine. Perfect for that holiday hostess gift! Or use a pair as an extra gift when wrapping a wine or oil bottle, as shown in the video below.
Papercraft – make your own reusable boxes to enclose a gift (this is also an excellent project for children.
Use the pattern to cut out your cardstock, then score along the dotted lines. If you don’t have a scoring tool, or if you’re like me and have misplaced yours, you can use a closed ballpoint pen instead. I like score the cardstock on the ironing board. Use tacky glue or double sided tape to secure the main seam. Fold the end pieces in along the score lines, folding the piece with the cutout in first. Embellish as desired. You can tie these with ribbons or string as well.
Plain cardboard box as wrapping – purchase very inexpensively at a craft store. Use twine or string.
- Give a child a gift in a plain box with supplies to decorate it to make a special box for their treasures. Or let a child decorate one of these boxes to enclose a gift to someone.
- Use this to wrap an exquisite gift, and let the contrast make a statement.
Buy a nice gift box or file box to “wrap” your present. They are relatively inexpensive. Or if you are creative you can make your own by using a plain box you buy at a craft store. Add a meaninful photo to the boxes that feature photos, and then use twine or ribbon to finish it off.
Make or buy drawstring bags to present your gifts – ones that can and will be reused. These can be as elegant (silk) or simple and plain (burlap) as you wish. With just rudimentary sewing skills you can sew a rectangle and fold over the edges to create a space for inserting a ribbon or cord for the drawstring.
You can also buy pre-made organza or satin gift bags very inexpensively that look fabulous and are sure to be re-used. Try putting some pot-pouri or fragrance beads in the little organza bags to freshen up drawers. Or give jewelry in a fancy bag like the one shown. You may be able to get these locally, but if not you can order them from Creative Castle at (805) 499-1377 (just ask for Carole) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. (I get no compensation by recommending them, I just want you to be able to find them somewhere if you want them and cannot find them locally.)
Also interesting is a little “purse” that you can use to enclose jewelry or a small gift. These are perfect for little girls. They would make a nice “surprise present” hidden as a Christmas tree ornament. The ones I purchased were $0.99 each. Again, if you can’t find these locally you can contact Creative Castle and they will be happy to ship them to you.
No wrapping – find a bucket, basket or clay pot at your craft or 99 cent store to use as the container, and use burlap or other fabric to cushion the gift. Believe me, this type of “wrapping” can be much cheaper than just one fancy gift card. Around the holidays choose a festive Christmas or Hanukkah tea towel to line a basket.
As shown in the photos above, you can buy cotton cloth squares at your local fabric stores for $2.00 or less. You will find these in the quilting section. After ironing and cutting edges with pinking shears, you can create a no-sew liner for a basket you find in the dollar store or craft store. Total cost – $5-7 for a “wrapping’ that can be used over and over! I would rather give an additional gift (the lined basket) than purchase wrapping and a card that will just be thrown away.
Take it a step further and wrap another gift with a contrasting color cloth and insert into the basket. These cotton squares are perfect for making cling wrap that can be used and washed and reused. Just tuck a plastic bag with grated beeswax and directions to make re-usable cling wrap into the basket. Or you might want to line your baskets with cling wrap that you have already made from these fabric squares.
Another idea is to buy or make a gift to wrap a gift – placemats, dishcloths, scarf, length of cloth or soft leather to reuse as furoshiki bag for groceries or for a nice tote/carry-all. Of course if you choose the cloth for furoshiki, type out the directions or include the URL for an online tutorial.
Alternatives to buying fancy ribbon, tissue, and specialty tags:
Use twine, string, paracord, cloth ribbon (especially a beautiful grosgrain ribbon), raffia, a belt, an elastic bracelet, a necklace, hair scrungies. You could even use a narrow scarf to tie up a cloth-wrapped gift, and add a pin to finish it off. Use your imagination.
Use a piece of cloth, a handkerchief, or a scarf as the “liner” in a box instead of tissue to present a nice gift.
Buy “chalkboard” tags, or buy the wooden tags and use chalkboard paint to make your own. Then suggest using these to label the mason jars in the pantry after the present is opened. Include a set of chalks. These would be perfect to give to kids beforehand so they can use these on the gifts they give. These can also be reused as a family tradition each year.
Make your own tags. These will probably get thrown away, but it will save money and they are fun to design. While this is not a reusable suggestion, you can save money by printing out your tags on the back of a 8×11 scrapbook paper of your choice. Cut them out, and you will have a beautiful design of your choosing on one side and a place to write on the other. If you prefer them to be a little stiffer, choose scrapbook cardstock.
Downloads: Red Tags Blue Tags
So here is a recent gift I presented to a friend. It incorporates some of these ideas listed above. She liked the box just as well as the gifts inside. I bought the scarf and the box, and the rest was handmade, including the pin for the scarf. I had fun making the tags and label too. I would have rather used red ribbon or cord, but raffia is what I had on hand.
Use your imagination – the combinations are infinite! And you can’t loose by giving an extra gift (as the wrapping). See how creative you can get.
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