I just found this piece in the archive and I think it’s worth a republish since it’s that time of year when wrapping gifts is a(n) (inter) national activity. I’ve updated it and hope you find it useful!
(for these labels, see the Copper Swallow)
OK, so you’ve trailed the shops/internet, developed a nervous disorder, and finally got all your presents in a pile; now it’s time to wrap those bad boys. Of course all wrapping gets ripped off in the end, so you might think it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. WRONG. Packaging is very important, as any woman will tell you. It’s also rather nice to receive a beautifully wrapped gift; it shows thought and effort and people always appreciate that. And of course you can do it all in an eco friendly way, using recycled and recyclable materials, whilst still being imaginative, stylish and a bit different. That’s right, you CAN have it all.
You can of course go completely mad with it, and use lashings of ribbon and sticky tape and all kinds of embellishments. And why not. I however am inclined to think that less is more in most cases, as long as you haven’t literally dug out a bit of creased old paper from last year’s stash, the kind with marks where the tape was stuck the first time round, and roughly attached it to the outside of the gift with tape that got twisted in the middle of things.
So basically what you need to wrap a present so it looks pretty is: scissors, sellotape, some kind of ribbon/raffia/string. Oh, and paper. (Unsurprisingly I’m a total fan of reusing wrapping paper as long as it doesn’t look too scrappy, and also ribbons which are usually fine for many uses. Proper fabric ribbon though, not that awful plasticky shimmery sort that you can curl with scissors and probably never biodegrades.) Also boxes of different shapes and sizes; a present is much easier to wrap if it’s a rectangle.
In the Keeping It Simple vein, what could be simpler than brown paper and string? It has a certain retro vibe to it, is not expensive, and the paper at least can be recycled. You could really up the old-fashioned-parcel feel by using stamps (the rubber kind, or indeed the postage kind), and use a brown or cream paper luggage tag and some lovely brown ink to write your Christmas message. This works well for men, as does simply wrapping the gift and then using rubber letter stamps or cutting out letters in a contrasting paper to spell out their name. (This rather depends on how much time you have.)
For women I’d do something lavish with ribbon. I think of it like the make up rule; eyes OR lips but most definitely not both. Glamorous paper means simple ribbon, and vice versa. I keep a stash of ribbons from past gifts so rarely have to buy new, and with something like the name idea above, you can forego ribbon completely. If you can tie a bow you can make ribbon look nice, and extra wide ribbon has a certain extravagance to it. The kind with wire along the edge which holds its shape is also fabulous, not least because it’s so easy to make it look good. If you can manage it without using tape so much the better, but this can be quite tricky and really only tends to work for people who wrap as part of their job or have four hands. Check out this for a cunning trick to turn a piece of ribbon into a rose as below.
Another way to do it is to use fabric. Again, I stash away a lot of fabric, and if you buy a fat quarter (a smallish bit) it’s not expensive and can be reused to make something lovely. Fabric’s good if the present is round or an awkward shape; lay the gift in the middle of the fabric ( the right way up), scoop it all up so it’s bunched together at the top, and tie some ribbon around it so it looks a bit like a pineapple. But much more glamorous. You can use pinking shears to give it a nice non-fraying, zig zag edge too. Or use one of the aforementioned boxes.
If you’re trying to save some pennies, look around your home for inspiration. Old (not vintage!) maps, musical scores, or pages from dead books can all make original, recycled, recyclable wrapping paper. Newspaper (black and white) can be used to great effect too, especially with, say, a bright red ribbon. And if you’re feeling crafty, why not use rubber stamps on plain white paper? You don’t even need to buy stamps – potatoes will do!
Have a go! And if all else fails, we can do it for you free!