Old Christmas cards make great gift tags. Punch a hole if you have a hole punch, thread a string through on a needle, or fold a rectangle in half to make a tiny card that you can attach with tape.
If you don’t have old cards, any nice-looking piece of paper will do.
Or try plain brown with the top corners cut off for a retro look. Whenever I come across a nice print, I file it away for future use. (Literally; I keep them in a manila file on the bookshelf.) My favorite teas come in gaily printed boxes, so I store those flat and bring them out when I gift-wrap.
No tags needed
No one said you have to have sticky tags or hang tags to personalize packages. Colored markers work on plain and brown paper, while sharpie works on anything. Silver and gold sharpie or paint pen makes the message pop. Write a message, sketch a few Christmas trees (a triangle with a trunk and a star on top. You can do it. Promise.)…
If you (or your children) have stamps, that’s a fun way to liven up packages. You don’t need strictly Christmas-themed designs, either; toys, nature, animals, fun characters, and abstract squiggles are all great ways to add visual interest without adding to the landfill toll.
If you have an existing box, a pretty picture or two from an old card or a box of tea may spruce it up into a gift box, requiring nothing more than a bit of glue.
Tying off: ribbons, string, twine, and reclaimed materials
Most of my ties are ribbons that came to me on other presents, or starry tinsel garland sent to me years ago. I didn’t buy any of the ribbons pictured here. If you tuck whatever ribbons come your way into your box of wrapping supplies, you may be all set for next year. Or just buy a roll; you can re-use the same pieces year after year.
For a more homegrown/low key/natural look, try kitchen string or twine. Colored crochet cotton produces a similar look to the baker’s twine that’s so popular now, and may be cheaper, depending where you get it.
For wrappings made entirely of reclaimed materials, try tying with t-shirt yarn or strips of torn muslin.
Other bits and bobs
Natural elements take your gifts to a whole new level of classy without costing you a cent. Chop those branches that wouldn’t fit into your tree stand into cute twigs. Forage for holly, evergreens, leaves, cones, and sprays of berries. Tie on a twig or spray with ribbon or string. Wow your in-laws with your packaging flair.
You can tie almost any item to a package: bells, broken/old jewelry, ornaments, buttons, beads, small toys, small animals*. Go wild.
* Okay, can doesn’t necessarily mean should. But you get the picture.
Saving your sanity: prepping
The principle is good for all of these wrapping strategies: some snowy afternoon when your kids/you are stuck inside, prep your wrapping supplies for the season/foreseeable future. Cut scrap fabric into large squares for furoshiki (Erin of Reading My Tea Leaves uses unhemmed muslin for an old-timey look). Have your kids draw on/stamp/glue things to/maul (depending on age) some paper or kraft paper (this goes over particularly well with grandparents). If I’m in the mood for a quick, easy craft, I’ll cut all of my scrap fabric into neat rectangles one day, and sew them all some other time when I’m feeling restless. Sewing bags is a great craft for a child learning to use the sewing machine, too, as it’s all straight lines and medium-sized pieces. And as the same bags reappear year after year, your child will have the satisfaction of knowing he/she made that bit of family tradition with their own hands. Win.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that most crafters, having committed to making an unreasonable number of their Christmas presents, do not have a great deal of time for this sort of thing in December. Thus, the making of bags and wraps is a particularly good exercise for the doldrums of January and February, when you suddenly have much less to do, yet still can’t do much outside. If you end every holiday season with a resolution for everything to be Less Complicated next year, having a supply of bags on hand to shove the presents into and tags all set to tie on come December may save you some angst. Plus, the Christmas fabrics and ribbons are mad cheap starting December 26.
I had a grand old tag-making party this weekend, cutting all of my old Christmas cards into ready-to-use tags. It was rather zen, just sitting at the table, cutting old things into pretty shapes. I keep them in a envelope with the rest of my wrapping supplies, complete with pre-cut strings to tie them on with, so they can be deployed quickly when needed. (There’s always that one gift that somehow doesn’t get wrapped until you’re heading out the door. Or is that just me?)
If you’re not feeling this mad desire to make things, the world of infinitely re-usable wrapping is still for you. Keep your eyes open at thrift shops and clearance sales for handy pre-made wraps:
- pillow cases
- scarves (especially nice, as they tend to be thin, and thus small to store)
- small tablecloths
- large napkins
- drawstring bags that once held sheets, etc.
- fabric that can be torn into squares for furoshiki (hemming isn’t neccesary)
- ribbons, string, twine, etc. for tying
Or use what you have. Your kid has two sets of superhero pillow cases? Bam. The ones not on their bed can go under the tree. Superhero gift wrap, superhero mom. Got a present that’s too big for any roll of paper? Wrap it in a blanket and top with a giant tag and a bow.
For more ideas
A book with fabulous tutorials and pics: Ruby Star Wrapping: Creating Packaging to Reuse, Regive, and Relove.
Some natural wrapping eye candy: Reading My Tea Leaves
Did I miss out your favorite wrapping option? Tell us all about it in the comments.