Here’s the sidebar of “Gift Wrapping Tips” that the Dallas News reporter asked me to send him, but that his editor decided not to run. (It was more of a human-interest story, not a story about how to DO something, but they had at first considered needing this sidebar.) I’m sorry it’s SO lame (and I know it’s lame), but the others wouldn’t share their Sekrit Magik Tippes with me. I hardly got the chance to talk to the other finalists, the way things were structured. The organizer/coordinator has offered to put us all in touch, so maybe that’ll happen soon. By the time I have my trip report done, I suppose. The report’s taking a back seat to holiday preparations and repairs, so that may be a while. For now, here are a few suggestions for those who are sitting at the table with a stack of funny-shaped boxes and growling, “Now what?”
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Here are some tips to help anyone become a More Gifted Wrapper.
• Make it look like what it’s not. Can you wrap a Frisbee to look like a skillet, or a political campaign button, or a Jiffy Pop package (aluminum foil is grand)? You could wrap six softcover books separately and then build a cube from them, and put ball bearings or bells or even rocks inside to foil “shakers” who try to guess what’s inside. People love to be fooled (but happily fooled, so don’t have spring-snakes popping out.)
• Use two different colors of ribbon (wired or regular) stacked like pastrami—then go lengthwise and crosswise across the box with the doubled length. If you can make a two-toned bow to top it off, that’s even more cool. Fabric ribbon is the best kind to use (cheapie ribbon can be flimsy.)
• Instead of a bow, try ribbon roses using wired ribbon. Twirl a spiral of the ribbon around your finger, then pinch the bottom together and insert a green pipe cleaner for a stem (if you like) and fluff out the “petals.”
• Double-wrap a package with a peek-a-boo front. Wrap a box first in red, then over it with green, but don’t tape down the green paper after measuring it. Unfold that top layer and use a Scotch Gift Wrap Cutter or X-Acto knife to cut out a large star (or other pattern) on the front so the red shows through. You could use a commercially produced stencil for this, as well.
• Make your own gift wrap from plain paper. Kraft paper or white freezer paper is great and sturdy for wrapping. Why not rubber stamp Santas or snowmen (using wood-mounted stamps from craft stores) in gold and silver all over the paper before wrapping a gift with it? This looks great wrapped with colorful raffia. You can coordinate by making your own gift tags and cards. (Self-adhesive store-bought stickers can sometimes work for this as well, but avoid using a childish theme when wrapping for adults.) Stamp Santa faces or cherubs on standard manila tags from an office supply store and write to/from info on them in gold gel pen. It really adds a personal touch when you use handmade items. Write with metallic gel pens whenever feasible.
• Put a Beanie Baby in a wrapped box and punch air holes to amuse a young gift recipient. You can think of other “safe scares” that will make people laugh. I make handmade bangle bracelets (wooden, with crocheted covers) for special gifts and wrap them with ribbon (brown sparkly ribbon wound around and around, then taped) to look like a doughnut or a bagel. It’s funny to tie these to the handle of a novelty coffee mug (and even include a tea bag or two!)
• Little touches make a difference. Use sturdy paper, make neat corners, but don’t obsess over it. The point of a gift is to make your recipient feel special, and the most precious gift is that of your time and creativity.
My three top necessities:
Wired ribbon–holds its shape and can be bent into “bows”
Double-sided Scotch tape–won’t show on package ends and corners
A gift wrap cutter such as the Scotch brand cutter—these can be pulled along the paper to make precise straight or fancy-curved lines. Who says your package has to have straight lines where the paper meets? Also consider using scrapbooking scissors that cut in scallops–or, if you can find them, pinking shears. Crooked cuts with regular scissors can really show (and who wants to follow a ruler?), but with the cutter you can follow a ruler or eyeball the straight line easily.
Most important: Have fun!
(You knew THAT was coming.)
If worse comes to worst, those glossy gift bags only cost around a dollar at the various dollar stores around town. And some of them are pretty cute!
BONUS: Guess what I was going to make the gifts in the second and third rounds of the contest look like?
In the first round (which I did get to finish), I made the three-tiered sterling serving tray look like a Christmas tree. The winner apparently stole the same idea I did from the same Martha Stewart webpage, as his is a lot like mine, except that he took the time to make those folds in the paper, and mine has two paper “tiers” with fringed edges instead of just one. My tree also had a snowman ornament and a star stuck to the top.
In the second round, I planned to make the bag of golf clubs (with clubs included) look like the Empire State building by wrapping it with a brown metallic paper and having one of the clubs stick way up as the spire on top. I was going to use Post-It notes for the windows, which was the truly clever bit.
In the third round, I wanted to make the baby grand piano into a Scotch tape dispenser. They didn’t have the plaid paper I would have needed, but they had rolls of wide ribbon, and those I intended to thread through the music stand such that the keys of the piano would look like the teeth that cut the tape; the rolls could be hidden where the hammers of the piano are, and ribbon could be pulled through the “crack” where the music stand is. Of course, I worried about damaging the piano, but no one else was worried about the inner works (only about the enamel finish, which was a good thing), so it would have worked. I’d also have liked to put big felt “eyes” leaning up against the music stand to make it into a “Pianosaurus” tape dispenser. But that would have taken too long! My ideas were more along the lines of “make it look neat-o” than “go fast and do it the way gift wrapping is always done at the store.” Would’ve been fun to try, though.
. . . and I *did* sneak over before the contest began to play a few bars of “Linus and Lucy” (the Snoopy-dance theme from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) on one of the baby grands, but that freaked out one of the organizers. She came zooming over all hyped up. “We don’t want to damage these, as they’re rented and going back the minute this is over!” Hey, PLAYING the piano isn’t going to damage it the way that sticking tape to that enamel finish and wrapping wired ribbon around it could, but anyway. *Grin* I had hoped to get a dancing scene going.