Looking for inexpensive ways to wrap gifts? Maybe you just want something a bit prettier and more handmade looking than the pre-printed papers. Or perhaps you want something that is easier on the environment. Try these ideas to satisfy all of your green budget gift-giving needs.
Right around the holidays, the holiday print fabrics tend to go on sale at the fabric supply stores. You can use fabric just the same way you would wrapping paper and it looks almost the same. After wrapping your gift in a piece of the fabric, use a needle and thread, safety pins, or a strip of cloth or ribbon to secure the packaging. You can reuse the fabric over and over again for many years to come.
If you sew, you can use fabric to create drawstring bags or pillow case style bags which can be gathered around the top and then tied with ribbon. The sewing does not have to be great. You’re only wrapping a gift. It won’t need to be very durable.
Another cloth sewing idea is to make a tote bag from new or used cloth which will become part of the gift that you give. The bag can be used as a little tote or if it is large and strong enough, it can be used as a shopping bag.
If you cannot sew, you can purchase a reusable shopping bag from a local grocery store for $1 and use it as your gift wrapping. If it has a logo on the outside, fold it so that the logo cannot be seen, then secure the entire parcel with a strip of fabric or ribbon. You can also cut a block of solid-color fabric out, write a nice quote on it with a fabric pen, and sew it on over the logo on the bag. Cut-out designs from old t-shirts also work well.
It is becoming more and more popular to wrap gifts with another gift. You can give a baby’s gift wrapped in a receiving blanket with a bow tied around it. Scarves, hankies, bandannas, bags, and towels also make wonderful gift wrapping that can be reused by the recipient. Just tie a pretty satin ribbon around the gift to hold it together. The ribbon can also be reused to wrap another gift or in a sewing project or in someone’s hair.
Never rule out the ever-popular gift wrapping made from the Sunday comics. You can also use pictures from out-of-date calendars, used wrapping paper that you have saved, and pretty magazine pages.
Newspaper and brown paper bags look nice by themselves as wrapping paper, but you can also dress them up by decorating them. You can use rubber stamps to stamp on a pattern. For newspaper, I like making a stamp from a vegetable (a potato works well) and stamping the design in tempera paint all over the gift. For Christmas, you could use red and green paint. For Hanukkah, blue and silver paints are lovely. If there is print on the outside of your brown paper grocery bags, simply turn them to the blank inside side when you use them. I especially like brown paper packages wrapped with rusting looking twine.
If you are careful when opening paper-wrapped presents, you can save the paper to reuse. Just flatten the sheets and roll them all together onto one or two saved wrapping paper rolls. Wrap a rubber band or hair tie around them to secure them to the roll.
Do you have any old pillow cases that you don’t use? Put your gift inside of it, gather it at the top and tie it closed with a big fat ribbon. You can also find cheap pillow cases at thrift stores. Many of them are very pretty. Some have children’s prints that kids would love. If you would like your package to have more shape, place the gift inside of an empty box before placing it inside the pillow case.
A plain brown paper bag can be made into a beautiful gift bag. Stamp or paint the outside of the bag with whatever design you like (you can also leave it plain). Fold over the top and punch two holes through the folded portion about three inches apart. Thread a ribbon through the holes and tie them into a bow to tie the gift bag closed.
Don’t forget that boxes are some of the best packages for gifts. Take a used cardboard box and if it has writing on the outside, break it down so that it is flat, turn it inside out, and tape it together again so that the plain brown side is on the outside. For the best look, use brown paper packing tape. Use stamps or paint to decorate the outside of the box. Place a gift inside, and then tie the whole thing closed with a fat cloth ribbon or a long strip of fabric for a nice rustic look.
Have you ever noticed that gifts in movies and television shows always come in a paper-wrapped box with a lid that comes right off so the receiver never has to tear the paper? You can make your own reusable boxes just like those! Use wrapping paper or cloth to cover a box that has a removable lid such as a shoe box or printer paper box. Be sure to wrap the lid and the box separately. The more durable the paper you use, the longer it will last. Place a bow on top or wrap the entire box with a ribbon.
I don’t know about your family, but my family and my husband’s family always give us clothes in those pre-printed reusable gift boxes from places like Macy’s and JC Penney. We save those and reuse them every year. Usually, they already have a seasonal design on the top of the box, so there is no need for wrapping paper. We just tape the box closed or tie it with a ribbon. If the box has a store logo on the outside, you can fix this by cutting the front half off of an old greeting card and gluing it down over the logo on top. Your box is instantly festive!
Other items that make interesting gift “wrap” include cooking pots, casserole dishes, fishbowls, teapots, kitchen canisters, reused cookie tins, flower pots, baskets, mason jars, pretty thrift store bowls, burlap bags and flour sacks, pretty organza drawstring bags, tulle, sarongs, aluminum foil (recyclable), cut up old thrift store sheets and curtains, lace tablecloths, doilies, and jewelry or trinket boxes. All of them can be dressed up with a simple ribbon.
If you live in a warm area, you can use large leaves from tropical plants such as ti and elephant ear for gift wrapping that looks very ecological. Be sure that the leaves you are using are not poisonous. Let the leaf sit for a while on a table before you use it as wrapping. It may crack if too succulent. Once it has wilted slightly, it will be suppler. Wrap the gift with the leaf, and then tie with twine or raffia.
Another pretty and decorative method that you can use on boxes, bags, or other paper-wrapped gifts is to decorate one side at a time with swirls and other designs in plain white glue. Sprinkle with glitter and let dry, then shake off the excess glitter. Let each side dry before moving on to the next side.
I love using ribbon to make gifts more festive. You can shop craft stores for spools of ribbon on clearance. The fatter, the better I say! Wide ribbon dresses up a package more than a narrow one. Twine and raffia can also be used. Thrift store neck ties also make interesting ribbons to tie around gifts.
Making your own ribbon from cloth, old sheets, curtains, and clothing is very cost effective. Simply cut the cloth into long even strips. With clothing, you do not have much to work with besides the sleeves. Cut the sleeve off of a shirt (or the leg off of a pair of pants) then remove the hems. Take your scissors and begin at one end, cutting slowly and carefully around the leg or sleeve in a spiraling motion, working your way around to the other end. Be careful to keep the width consistent as you go. You will end up with one very long strip of cloth that you can save to cut into smaller pieces to use as ribbons.
Save all of your ribbons by wrapping them around empty toilet paper tubes. You may be able to get two or three different colors of ribbon onto one tube. Secure the ends with a piece of tape or a safety pin or sewing pin. Press the tip of the pin down into the ribbon so that you do not prick yourself when rummaging through your ribbon basket.
Other items that you can use as ribbon or to help dress up your gifts include dried flowers, silk flowers and plants, fresh Christmas greenery, pine cones, Mardi Gras beads, handmade ornaments, homemade gift tags, little handmade toys, and vintage items such as a single silver spoon tied into the ribbon or perhaps a small thrift store figurine.
Need filler for fragile items? You can use hay or straw, dry leaves, pine needles, Christmas greenery, shredded paper, newspaper or butcher paper (reuse it) instead of tissue paper, or save tissue paper and reuse it. Reuse packing peanuts, scrap cloth, old batting or soft pinecones. Some families use popcorn which can then be composted. Napkins, scarves, bandannas, hand towels, a pretty lace table runner and hankies also make great filler that can be reused.
Gift tags are easy to make from a variety of repurposed and recycled materials and they are also reusable. You can save them to use again year after year. I like to cut gift tags from brown paper bags (cut in circles or rectangles with pinking shears). You can also reuse the designs from old greeting cards. Cut out shapes from the front of the cards, punch a hole in the top write the recipient’s name on the back, and then tie to your gift using a bit of twine or string.