Textiles, three ways
Whatever approach you take to textiles, it’s an extra gift on top of a gift. And if you go about it right, it can still cost less than buying wrapping paper at the shop. And for 2 of the 3 options, no sewing is required.
There are two ways to go about this: buying fabric for the purpose, or using what you have.
Mama K. uses leftover bits from her quilting stash. I use outgrown or unloved clothes. It doesn’t cost me a penny.
If you’re buying, check the clearance rack—anything red, green, gold, or cheerful will work. Putting a big red bow on any color will make it look Christmassy. If you have a lot of forethought, you can also hit the sales right after Christmas for those seasonal prints. Or hit charity shops to get huge yardages for very cheap, as sheets, duvet covers or curtains.
Wrappings that are cheerful but not obviously Christmassy (such as the polka dots below) can be used year-round; add a big red bow for December, or a coordinating bow for a birthday.
If this is the first year you’re experimenting with fabric wrappings, this is the simplest approach. Take a rectangle of fabric in an appropriate size and wrap your present as you would with wrapping paper, tucking the raw edges under if desired. Finish off by tying ribbon or string around the folded-down ends of the package to hold the cloth in place.
Alternatively, roll the gift in fabric like a giant hard candy and tie at both ends.
Or cut a large circle of fabric (hemming optional), place the gift in the middle, and tie the fabric on top, like a gift basket.
This is my favorite option. If this is your first year using them, it takes a small outlay of time. In subsequent years, though, you just pop the present in the bag and you’re done. The bags are infinitely reusable and so darn useful. Mama K. made some to hold some of our wedding presents, and we’ve been using them for years to hold dance shoes, laundry, and various other household items. Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves uses similar bags to keep her tiny house organized, as do I. The best kind of stuff is the stuff you don’t have to look at.
But I digress.
If this looks like the leg of my pajama pants, there’s a reason for that.
Clothes often have hems and seams that can be used to save you some folding or sewing. Pant legs, for example, already have vertical seams, and a hem if it’s not too worn out. Skirts usually have good hems. A slight curve really isn’t a problem.
Large bags can be folded down to fit much smaller presents. This is the same bag as above:
The tidiest way to (temporarily) remove width is to fold one corner in toward the other, like you’re folding a fitted sheet. (If you don’t know the right way to fold a fitted sheet, look it up on youtube. I’ll wait.) Then slide the gift in as though the back three layers were all one layer. (If this seems too complicated, just put the small gift in the big gift bag.)
To remove height, fold the top down inside the bag before tying. The wrapping on the small package above uses both of these techniques.
You have your choice of closures, too. Drawstrings are convenient (though not necessary) for post-Christmas use around the house (here’s a roundup of drawstring bag tutorials). For wrapping I prefer bags with no closure, because it’s easier to tie on tinsel, holly, or a show-stoppingly enormous bow. These are fabulously simple to sew: folded/sewn on 3 sides, and hemmed. (And depending on the fabric, the hem is optional.)
The art of wrapping gifts in fabric is hardly a new one. The Japanese have long used a square of cloth called a furoshiki both as a gift wrap and a very adaptable carrier bag. These are available for purchase, or make your own by hemming a large square of fabric. For small gifts, a thrift store scarf or a bandana will serve the same purchase. Consider printing out a visual guide to using a furoshiki and slipping it in the present so that the recipient can enjoy using the furoshiki in their daily life.
Seriously, there’s a wrap for carrying anything in a furoshiki. One bottle of wine? No problem. 2 bottles? We can make it so they don’t even clink together. A watermelon? There’s a wrap for that. (Look here for more furoshiki techniques.)
Depending on your comfort with sewing, this may sound like a lot of work for something you’re going to give away. I find it worthwhile if any of the following applies:
Keep it in the family. If you’re using these bags for your spouse or children’s gifts, you only have to make them once, and you’ll be all set on wrappings more or less forever. Instead of putting a trash bag by the tree, put a box to keep the wrappings in for next year. They’ll become a well-loved tradition, like your stockings and ornaments. And the kids won’t come running for scotch tape come next Christmas.
Give to like-minded friends. Mumsy and I have been using the same gift bags back and forth for a couple of years, tied with pretty ribbons. If the recipient passes the bag on to someone else next year, you’re spreading the good word about reusable gift wrap without a sound.
Enjoy giving an extra gift. If the recipient is the kind of person who will use a gift bag around the house, the extra organization is an extra gift. And unlike paper, it’s still not going in the landfill. Yay!
If the recipient doesn’t fit any of the above categories, perhaps some recycled paper wrapping is in order?
The most meta gift wrap:
There’s even a label printed right at the top, in case you hadn’t figured out that they’re ‘pretty wrapped gifts for under the tree’. That way you don’t accidentally put them in the kitchen instead.
The best part is, I was just wrapping that present as though it were regular wrapping paper. The front-and-center declaration came as a surprise–I went to take the pictures, and there it was!
BRID reads aloud: “To wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. I’ve been putting an exclamation point at the end to make it at least look like a sentence, instead of a weird small clause.
NTS: creepy Santa chuckle. Ho, ho, ho.
BRID, horrified: It’s like a syntactician’s worst nightmare.
NTS: Tyrion Lannister in a Santa suit?
BRID: Wait, what?
NTS: A small Claus. Does Vaudeville jig.
Christmas cards are hard.
Oddly enough, not yet the name of a picture book for children. That I know of.
For a British audience, I’d be tempted to go for The Christmas Aspidistra, both for cultural relevance (nothing says ‘Victorian Christmas’ like an aspidistra. Mostly because aspidistras were the only plants able to cope with the gas lighting ubiquitous in middle-class Victorian households.*) and to hear the little children pronounce ‘Christmas aspidistra’. Repeatedly.
* Bill Bryson, At Home
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I certainly did, thought it was spectacularly backward. On Thursday, I taught first years to draw syntax trees. (Some of them ask really good questions.) Then, since NTS was away for the evening, I stayed in my favorite uni cafe until 7 and cranked out some really solid work on the dissertation chapter I’d been struggling to write.
Then home, to a solitary and delicious omelette. Sauteed red peppers, green onion, shredded mozzerella. I did spend some time deciding whether to add various spices as modifiers at the phrasal level (the sauteed veg) or sentential (omelette) level. I concluded that I was too hungry to care much when the spices were added, and that it was a good thing there’s only one more tutorial this semester. #syntacticianproblems
Friday I finished the draft of that chapter. W00t! I felt that I had really earned my Thanksgiving dinner. Then home to make ginger cranberry sauce (I will never served only canned sauce again) and
sucre a la creme caramel sauce, which we ate on fruit, cookies and spoons (okay, that last was just me).
Why the cranberry sauce? Because Saturday was expat Thanksgiving. Three Americans and, oddly enough, three kiwis. I think I can say were were all thankful to hang out for two days and enjoy delicious food in each other’s company.
As for the pictures, they don’t have much to do with Thanksgiving. But really, haggis pizza and children burgers are too tasty blog fodder to pass up. (And I haven’t even gotten to the menu of The Bonnie Burrito yet.)
UPDATE: Someone just slipped a truffle advert through my mail slot, with a sample. So much better than the usual unrelenting Virgin adverts. Also better than children burgers.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere. I’ll even be posting in it again. I have an entire trip across Scotland to show you in pictures (the one that started here and here, if you’re keen to get going). In the meantime, here are five things to get you slightly caught up with my life in Scotland.
- My first academic article is appearing in a book next year! Grown-up problem: finding polite ways to request changes to your proof. Not subtle changes, those are easy enough. It’s the really, blindingly obvious ones that are hard to phrase. Also, fun fact: some research during this process revealed that some European languages don’t tend to differentiate between paragraphs with either an indentation (like a newspaper) or an extra return (like a blog). Nothing. Just a single carriage return. Mind blown by foreign typography.
2. Baskets. Because sometimes making rugs for a very small bathroom doesn’t use up your entire store of old clothes and sewing remnants. More details in a later post.
3. Conferences. Conferences are exciting and full of travel. (Some more than others; Birmingham vs. Brussels.) They are also full of panic as I bring my research into a presentable state. Sure, I started preparing for them a while ago. This has not stopped my panic. It turns out that research, like packing, always takes longer than you’re sure it will. But panic (of a certain kind) does get the job done. I expect that these conferences are the way my dissertation is actually getting written. No wonder my advisor is so keen on them.
4. Can we discuss the number of hours of sunlight in Scotland right now? In practice, it averages out to about one a day, in between rain. But even in theory it’s pretty terrible. See figure below:
You see that yellow bit there? That’s my day. There’s maybe one more hour of twilight around 15:00, where that cloud is. Welcome to Scotland.
5. How does Scotland cope?