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Gift Wraps and Tags Made by You

Most of the time I am a do-it-yourselfer. But for a while I depended on store bought wrapping paper. That all changed. Once the "bought" wrapping paper ran just as I was wrapping some gift books. What to do?

I cut open a large paper bag, and used it to wrap the book (with the plain side of the bag on the outside); hand printed a rhyme (using an alphabet stencil) and tied up the package with raffia. It was personal statement and it looked wonderful!

Now I have the pleasure of tailoring the wrap to the recipient. I keep a few basic supplies on hand to create wrappings:
  • large brown paper grocery bags
  • a pad of graph paper (good for small boxes)
  • a large-size pad of recycled newsprint
  • tissue wrapping paper
  • a spool of paper ribbon that curls
  • a package of raffia
  • extraordinary ribbon saved from packages people have given me
  • 3 felt tip marking pens (2 colors and black), with fine and medium tips
  • gold and silver marking pens
  • bottles of gold and silver acrylic paint

The rest is serendipity -- like an impromptu stew. If you have a few sequins, pieces of wrapped candy, extra photographs, figure out how to add them to the piece. To get started, here are a few suggestions.


handmade wrapping papers

Sponge Print (My current favorite. It looks great and takes only minutes to do.)

Recycled newsprint or tissue paper, gold and silver acrylic paint (or any 2 colors you choose), a small bowl of water, a natural sponge, glitter or a glitter glue pen (optional)

Dampen the sponge, dip into one color and dab it all over the paper. Allow the paint to dry. Dip a clean sponge into the second color and again dab it over the other paint and patches of white paper.

Wrap the package. If the wrapping looks bland, dab a few globs of glitter glue on the paper, and spread them around with your finger or q-tip.

sponge glitter paper

Graph Paper Surprises (Good for small boxes. I don't have the patience to do this for larger ones.) This is time consuming, but doesn't require too much attention. Perfect to do while watching Oprah!

Graph paper and 2 or 3 marking pens with medium points.

Establish a pattern for coloring in the graph paper. Try a checkerboard (see the gold and white design). Or make up bands for your own design (see the green and red design). Try using bands of different sizes (e.g., 5 squares-wide alternating with 3-squares wide). If you're using a small box, don't make the bands wider than 5 or 6 squares because you won't be able to see many repetitions on the top of the box.

"Found" Containers
  • Tupperware (preferably found in a flea market). Fill with trail mix, granola, cookies, candied ginger or other goodies. To wrap, stencil some words or sponge print a paper bag. Put the Tupperware container into the bag, and fold down the top of the bag to create a flap. Fasten with a staple.

  • Flower pot. Suggested fillers: packets of seeds, bulbs that can be forced in winter, a gift certificate to the recipient's favorite nursery, a pair of gardening gloves, or a spade and trowel. Wrap with a sponge print or the newspaper's gardening page and tie with a bright ribbon. Make a gift tag from an old seed packet or create a collage made from pictures from a seed catalog.

  • Oblong basket. Fill with a loaf cake, envelopes of pre-mixed spices or dehydrated soups, jars of homemade spices or jelly. Wrap with clear plastic wrap or cellophane. Include a recipe related to the contents on the gift tag.


Pure fun to do--sheer "improv."

For backing, use a stiff paper--poster board, watercolor paper, packing tags, cardboard, or the smooth back of corrugated paper.

For designs, marking pens, bought or handmade stamps, old photographs, used greeting cards, press-on lettering, sequins, pasta in the shape of letters....anything goes!

Collage (either pictures, letters or a combination of them), hand stamping, calligraphy, freehand drawing, stenciling, Place a design on both the front and back of the gift tag so it can be seen from both sides.

--Reena Kazmann

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