How to Make a Gift Basket

Posted by on December 2, 2012

Gift Basket

Maybe it’s the crunch of the cellophane, or the visible abundance of gifts that makes gift baskets so much fun to give and receive.


Gift baskets are a creative way to give multiple gifts at once. They’re a great alternative to gift wrapping, and I think recipients are even more excited to unwrap and dig into a gift basket than they are unwrapping a box. They are perfect for nearly any occasion, but especially wedding and baby showers and housewarmings.

There are three elements to a gift basket: the container, the goodies and the finishing touches.


For gift basket shown (a housewarming gift for my assistant), I used a gift basket kit ($4.99 at World Market) that included the basket, excelsior (I’ll explain that in a minute), a gift tag, a raffia tie (I used my own ribbon) and a cellophane bag.

But the container for a gift “basket” doesn’t have to be a basket at all! Always consider the container as part of the gift and something the recipient can use later. Be sure to include the cost of the container in the cost of the gift, too. Alternatives to a wicker basket could include a fabric bin, a colander (for a kitchen-themed gift), a flower pot, a jumbo-sized coffee mug, a storage box covered in pretty paper … be creative! I once used a waste basket for a bridal shower gift. The bride had registered for it, so I filled it with other bath items from the registry. How about a popcorn bowl for a movie night gift, or a wine bucket for a wine-themed gift?

Of course, make sure the container is large enough to hold the gifts you’ll put inside it, but not so large that the finished gift looks skimpy.


Here’s the fun part! Assemble the gifts you wish to place into the gift basket. Generally speaking, follow a theme. This gives the gift a cohesive feel, rather than looking like a scattered hodgepodge. You can still have a variety of gifts, but they will relate to each other.

For this housewarming gift, I included stemless wine glasses, a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates made to pair with wine, cocktail party kit with recipe cards and jazz music CD, cocktail napkins and wine pour spouts. All the recipient has to add is some cheese and crackers and they can entertain their very first night in their new home!

Keep these essential elements for a gift in mind when choosing the items for a gift basket:

  • Instant sensory gratification – is there something that smells or tastes good, something with an interesting texture, or something that sounds good? I have this element covered with the chocolate, jazz CD and wine.
  • Long lasting – is there something that the recipient can keep, that won’t be consumed or perish? In this gift basket, this element is represented by the wine glasses, the pour spouts and the basket itself.
  • Sentimental – is there something that speaks to something sentimental or meaningful to the recipient, or a shared experience? It can be just a little detail that the recipient will appreciate. Here, my assistant was a French major and enjoys French culture, so the Paris-themed cocktail napkins were a perfect fit.
  • Educational – is there something that informs or educates the recipient in some way? This element is particularly important for children’s gifts! Here, this element is covered by the recipe cards.

You will also want to consider the relative sizes of the items, striving for a mix of small, medium and large items for visual interest.

Finishing touches

You’re ready to assemble your gift basket! Place the container on a sturdy surface and add a layer of excelsior (that straw-like substance) or shredded paper to the bottom of the basket. The bedding material helps to lift the gift items up off the bottom of the basket, giving them a more abundant look and feel.

If the basket is particularly large or deep, add some crumpled newspaper or tissue paper to the bottom of the basket and then place the excelsior or paper shreds on top. Be sure to fluff up the excelsior with your hands to give it more volume.

Next, add the gift items to the basket, starting with the tallest and/or largest items in the back and working forward to the smaller items. Use the smallest items to fill in blank spots. Gift tag

Now it’s time for cellophane, either in a roll (available at craft stores) or a bag like I used here. It was nearly impossible to lift the filled basket and wrangle it into the bag, as I was worried about tearing the bag. I even placed the bag on a chair to make it lower than the basket. I ended up removing some items, got the basket into the cello bag and then reassembled the items in the basket. Even with this extra consideration, I found using the bag easier than cutting, gathering, tucking and taping a sheet of cellophane around the basket.

Gather the cellophane at the top of the gift basket. Here’s a trick: use a rubber band to secure the gathered plastic. This makes tying on the bow so much easier!

Write a gift tag or short note to your recipient; it will be tied onto the basket with the ribbon.

Cut one yard of ribbon (wire-edged works the best) and tie a simple bow, adding the gift tag before making the loops.

That’s it! You’ve just created a gift basket that looks a pro did it. One final tip: when transporting the gift basket, always carry it by its container. Do not pick it up by its “neck” by grasping the cellophane.