How to Embellish a Gift

One of my stress-free tips for gift giving is to create a signature wrap: chose a simple style of gift wrapping paper in which to wrap all of the gifts you give throughout the year. Classic choices are plain glossy white paper, a white or cream embossed paper, brown kraft paper, or this ivory satin stripe paper ($3.95 at Hallmark stores). Having just one paper on hand reduces storage and organizing issues while ensuring you always have the right paper for any occasion.

A good starting point

A simple paper also is a great background for a variety of embellishments that may be customized to suit the occasion. Below, I’ve taken the same crisply-wrapped box (learn to wrap it here) and decorated it in different ways to show what can be created with a few simple supplies. Please note, there are no pre-made bows used here!!

Look 1: Simple & Elegant

Good for: Weddings, Anniversaries, Men’s birthdays

Wrap the box with black grosgrain ribbon (about $3 at craft stores) and tie in a simple bow. I like the 7/8 inch width and keep a spool on hand because it’s so versatile.

I used this look and added a silk red rose for a wedding gift recently. I knew that the bride’s bouquet would be of red roses, so I was able to coordinate my gift wrap to the wedding color. This is a great tip and shows you’ve paid attention to the details of the bride’s special day. Take your color cue from the wedding invitation, as the invitation usually hints at the bride’s color choice.

Look 2: Whimsical
Good for: Baby showers, Bridal showers, Weddings 

I love the look that tulle adds to a gift instead of an ordinary ribbon. For a baby shower, wrap the gift in 7-inch wide tulle (available at craft stores) in pink and/or blue. Just before tying the bow, add a rattle or other small gift item. It adds a bit more charm to your presentation. For a bridal shower, use a tie-on such as a small whisk or a set of measuring spoons.

Look 3: Bright & Fun
Good for: Kids’ birthdays 

Curling ribbon is so easy to use and it comes in a rainbow of colors. Mix a few bright colors for interest. Simply wrap the package and tie the ends in a knot on the top of the box. Add as many additional strands of ribbon to the top of the box to give more fullness to the cascade of curls. Here I added just a couple strands of the orange to the top of the package before curling the ends and fluffing the curls to give them more volume.

Look 4: Pretty & Natural
Good for: Women’s birthdays, Bridal showers

Raffia is a long, natural fiber from the leaves of an African palm. It is widely available at craft stores and is inexpensive. Wrap the box with several strands of raffia (note I only wrapped the box in one direction) and add a small bundle of dried flowers before tying a knot with the raffia. Trim any excess or errant strands for a neat look.

So there you have it! One box, one paper and four looks. Read how to organize your gift wrapping supplies here.

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How to Wrap a Gift

Presenting a memorable gift is like building a house—it all starts with a good foundation. Here, the foundation is well-wrapped gift box.

1. Position the box on the paper, placing the box upside down on the paper. Wrap the paper around the box, overlapping 1 ½ to 2 inches. The paper on the ends should be two-thirds the height of the box.

2. Cut the paper to size.

3. Before wrapping the paper around the box, fold under one edge of the paper for a neat appearance.

4. Wrap the paper around the box and secure with a piece of tape at the seam.

5. Fold down one end of the paper over the side of the box and crease. Holding the paper against the side of the box, make crisp creases creating a triangular shape.

6. Fold the triangles into the side of the box and crease.

7. Turn up the edge of the remaining flap.

8. Fold up the flap and secure with two pieces of tape, one on each side. (If it’s a small box, you may be able to use one piece of tap in the middle of the flap. A longer end may need an additional piece of tape in the middle.) Repeat on the other end of the box.

Now you’re ready to embellish with ribbon, tulle, rafia, attachments … anything that will make the gift that much more special. (More about embellishments in next week’s post!)

To learn more about what to wrap – i.e., how to find the perfect gift, check out Gift Giving for Busy People, now available in a Kindle edition!

Keep in mind:

• Always use a hard surface to wrap (i.e., not a bed or sofa). The resistance and support of the hard surface allows you to create the crispest folds and creases.
• Use quality wrapping paper to avoid the paper tearing at the corners.
• If you have double-sided tape, use it. It adds a level of polish and professionalism.
• If you don’t have a tape dispenser, pre-cut strips of tape about 1 to 1 ½ inches and line them up on the edge of the table.
• Do not tape the paper down to the box. People hate opening boxes wrapped that way.
• Likewise, do not tape the box closed. That’s even more annoying when you’re trying to get to the prize inside.

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Gift Wrapping Essentials

Anyone who gives gifts with any frequency knows that an inventory of supplies is invaluable at reducing stress when it comes time to wrap. Even if you don’t have a 25-room mansion with a separate gift wrapping room, you can have all the benefits of a dedicated area, even in the smallest space.

What’s important is to keep the gift supplies in one place, close at hand, in order to avoid scouring the house to find the tape in one room, another place for scissors, another for paper, another for a box, and so on. A shoe box sized plastic storage container is the perfect starting place for a gift wrap area. This is very handy any time of year, but especially for Christmastime.

Here’s what you need to place inside:

  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Small gift cards or tags
  • Pens, markers
  • Tissue paper
  • Metallic wired fabric ribbon
  • Black grosgrain ribbon
  • Curling ribbon
  • Tulle
  • Off cuts of gift wrap (save it to wrap small item)

Keep a roll of white gift wrap handy and you’re ready for nearly any occasion!  (Note: This is a “no bow zone.” Bows need lots of space so as not to be crushed.)

No matter what your situation, be sure to keep at the very least a pair of scissors, a roll of tape and a pen in the gift area – and put them back where they belong for the next time.

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Gift Wrap with a Twist

The creation of modern gift wrap is credited to J.C. Hall, the founder of Hallmark, and his brother Ronnie Hall who ran out of solid-colored paper during the peak Christmas season in 1917. They improvised by selling fancy decorated French envelope lining paper. It was such a success the brothers decided to begin printing their own gift wrap. It was the first non-greeting card product line for Hallmark.

With the exception of the gift bag, not a lot has changed in the gift wrap world in the nearly 100 years since. It’s pretty much the same concept: gift in box; box wrapped with paper; bow stuck on box. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the sticky-backed bow, so here are a few ways to embellish a wrapped box with a twist, to make it stand out from the crowd.

  • Instead of a traditional ribbon and bow, tie with wide tulle ribbon (available at fabric & craft stores).
  • Create custom wrapping paper with photos of the recipient, collaged and copied on 11×17 or larger paper at a local print or copy shop.
  • Wrap in plain white paper (ask your butcher to sell you a few yards!) then have children decorate with stickers, stamps, and drawings (perfect for a parent or grandparent).
  • Wrap in brown kraft paper and tie with raffia and dried flowers for a natural look.
  • Use a creative “tie-on” that hints at what’s inside, such as a soft rattle or teething ring for a baby, or a set of measuring spoons for a housewarming gift. (See photo.) Think of the tie-one like a stocking stuffer or an appetizer before the main course.
  • Wrap the box in fabric, securing with small straight pins. My mom once wrapped a box containing a shirt and tie to look like a shirt and tie!
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Gift Bags Made Easy

Every gift needs a great presentation. Gift bags make “wrapping” presents a cinch, but they can get expensive. So, the next time you’re giving a gift, think about making your own gift bag.

It’s so easy! Save shopping bags from chic boutiques and department stores. Look for bags in a variety of sizes made from good quality paper. I love finding bags with the cord handles instead of the twisted paper ones – so much nicer. To store my gift bag shopping bags, I keep them folded up and nested in one large shopping bag.

Find a bag in your collection that fits your gift. Next, cover the store logo with craft paper, scrapbooking elements, gift wrap, stickers … whatever! Use what you already have. Get creative. You can even use sticky letters to write the recipient’s name right on the bag!

Finish your creation with a flourish of tissue paper. To get it nice and fluffy, lay the issue out on a flat surface and grasp it between your thumb and index finger and pick it up and flick your wrist to shake the paper into shape. Add a ribbon to one of the handles, tuck a handwritten note inside and your recipient will no doubt feel honored by your efforts.

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Tie One On

A great way to add some fun and flair to any wrapped gift is to tie on another little gift. This tip works especially well with baby and bridal shower gifts, since there is usually something small like a rattle or measuring spoons on the gift registry.

Here I’ve wrapped a baby gift in adorable paper and tied it with my signature wide tulle.

Add the tie on item just before tying the bow. Cut a small length (about 6-8 inches) of a  coordinating thin ribbon to tie around the teething ring and secure it to the tulle. Then finish making the bow with the tulle.

Adding a tie on to any gift adds a little touch of whimsy and makes your gift stand out from the crowd!

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