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December 22, 2006

How to wrap a package
Posted by Teresa at 12:08 PM *

This is for everyone who’s wondered why their packages don’t come out looking as nice as their sister-in-law’s.

There are two important but inobvious principles of package-wrapping technology: First, keep the paper and the package straight and square in relation to each other. Second, keep the paper slightly under tension as you wrap it around the package. That’s how you get that sleek, tidy look: pull it tight, keep it square.

You can see this inadvertently illustrated on this site. The woman does demonstrate basic wrapping procedures, but she doesn’t pull her paper snug as she goes. See the photo of the finished package at the top of the page? Her wrapping paper buckled when she tied the ribbon on. Loose paper is the commonest way to screw up gift wrapping.

Further useful principles:

Before you do anything else, take the price tags off the gifts. Do them all at once, right at the beginning. You won’t remember to check when you’re wrapping your fifth package and you’re up to your elbows in ribbons and gift cards.

Have a large flat clear area to work. If it’s the floor, sweep it and give it a quick swipe with a wet paper towel before getting down to work. Little bits of grit can do a surprising amount of damage to wrapping paper.

Have some bits of tape already torn off the roll and stuck down lightly by one corner on a hard, smooth object. You don’t want to be messing around with a roll of tape at crucial moments, because you need your hands for the paper.

(Note: most novice wrappers use too much tape. Wily old wrappers use all kinds of fastenings; for instance, hot glue guns and contact cement. For added geek value, you can either get great effects or get yourself into a whole lot of trouble with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive.)

Secure your package first. It will make things a lot easier. Fasten cardboard boxes together with bits of tape. Consider wrapping some kind of padding around unboxed irregular objects. Newsprint never killed anyone, though tissue paper looks nicer. Bubble wrap is also fine, though you’ll want to tape it down tidily and trim off any excess.

Folding over your edges before taping gives you a bulky edge if you’re using heavy papers, but it’s a very good idea if you’re using soft, fragile, or very lightweight wrapping materials. If you’re using translucent tissue-weight wrapping paper, you’ll have to first wrap the package in an underlayer of tissue paper or plain white paper, or it’ll look crappy.

An industrial-size roll of shiny metallic mylar covers all bets. Saving the Sunday funny pages is good too. Plain brown wrapping paper can make a fine-looking package if you use large bold ribbons and bows in congenial colors.

How to actually do it:

I could write out the full description, but others have already done it. All hail the web. The best and clearest version I’ve seen is this video demonstration by Santa Claus. He needs to clear off that tabletop so he can see what he’s doing, but he’s rock solid on important stuff like a snug, tight wrap and sharply creased corners.

If you want a non-video version, eHow’s How to Wrap a Gift has good, clear instructions and some thoughtful warnings. Avoid the WikiHow entry on the subject.

If you’re very clever or very desperate:

Onward to more exotic techniques. The method demonstrated by Santa and at eHow is called a seam line wrapping. You can find an additional explanation of it, plus instructions for diagonal wrapping and furoshiki-style wrapping, and various ways of tying ribbons, at the Shimojima gift wrapping page. Just click on a picture and you’ll get a step-by-step how-to. Shimojima’s been in the wrapping-paper business since 1920. Trust that they know what they’re doing.

Wrap Art is a page after my own heart. It shows how to put together gift wrappings that give the impression that You Meant It To Look That Way when all you have to work with are too-small scraps and pieces of several different kinds of paper and maybe some old markers. Click through their gallery to get an idea of your options.

There are only two tricks I can see that they’ve missed. One is using the food coloring out of your kitchen to paint watery stripes (or other patterns) onto plain paper. The other is to wrap a package in paper of one color, then take paper of a contrasting color, pleat it, and snip shapes out of it as though you were making a paper snowflake. When you’re done, carefully unfold it and smooth it out, then wrap a single layer of this paper lace around your contrasting package. It’s tricky, but can look quite impressive.

Furoshiki: this is one of those wrapping techniques that’s either very special or an act of last-minute desperation. Furoshiki are hemmed squares of fabric you wrap and tie in different ways to accommodate parcels of different sizes and shapes. It’s very Japanese. Want to give someone a bowling ball, or two bottles of wine, or a poster in a tube? There’s a furoshiki wrapping technique that’ll handle it. Here’s a how-to page. (Thank you, Erin Kissane.) You probably don’t have spare furoshiki lying around, so use a square scarf, or a bandana if the package is small, or an inherited bridge cloth you’ve never particularly liked.

Be bold. Look like you meant it.

Comments on How to wrap a package:
#1 ::: becky j. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:19 PM:

I saw a segment on martha stewart's show where she and a guest showed how to wrap packages the Japanese way. It looked very easy and cool but sadly I can't find instructions on the web on how to do it. It seems much easier than the normal way we wrap gifts. alas.

#2 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Marth Stewart makes everything look easier than the normal way.

#3 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:32 PM:

I'm a big fan of the gift bag with tissue paper stuffed on top. I generally end up wrapping gifts after I get to Mom's and this takes less time and requires less space to work. Just as soon as I take over the dining room table to wrap presents, someone in the family decides to drop by - generally while their upwrapped gift is sitting on the table waiting its turn.

And gift bags also silence the Grandmother ghosts who insist that we carefully unwrap the presents and save the wrapping paper to be used next year.


#4 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:37 PM:

First rule: take the paper, take the gift, attach the paper to the gift on the "underside" of the gift. Wrap otehr end of paper around gift snugly. Attach other end to underside of gift with tape.

#5 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:41 PM:

Or, give up, and do what my dad did every year: wrap everything in tin foil. I miss him so.

For those of you who are using gift bags and want the tissue to look really nifty and Martha-Stewart-y finished (trust me, I used to work at a gift bag and tissue manufacturer):

Get gift bag.
Place gift in gift bag. Push gift bag aside for now.
Lay out sheets of tissue paper on a flat surface.
With your left hand, make the "OK" sign. Lay your hand on top of the tissue, and pull tissue through the "hole" of the OK. Stop when you get half the tissue through the hole.
Pop the tissue, pointy-side down, in the gift bag, so that the tissue has all sorts of exotic peaks as shown here.

You might need to do this twice to fill the top of the bag.

#6 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:42 PM:

A trick I learned while temping in the gift-wrap section of a department store: with a seam-line wrap on any rectangular box, after you've finished wrapping and taping a given layer of paper, go back and give a sharp crease to all the edges. Just pinch your fingers together on the edge and run that pinch the length of the edge. You get razor sharp edges all over the package and it looks extra snazzy for very little effort.

#7 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Santa Claus, I notice, talks about creasing the corners sharpl but NOT about pulling the paper tight (though he *is* pulling it tight). Well, after all, wrapping isn't his specialty, it's mostly the elves' job.

Wrapping is a physical skill; I know all these principles, but my results aren't consistently terribly good.

When I saw Santa trying to tear strips of tape off one of those little hand dispensers, I understood your remarks about pre-cutting tape. I just use an office tape dispenser, I can tear off a piece of tape nearly as easily as grabbing a pre-cut piece. Surely most of us have had enough companies and conventions shot out from under us to have office tape dispensers around the house?

#8 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:53 PM:

That furoshiki link seem to be all over the web lately, and I'm dying to try it, but I doubt I'll get my hands on a real furoshiki any time soon, and I want to make my own. My google-fu can't find any information on how big they traditionally are. Anyone know? Or is there no traditional size and asking is just silly?

#9 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:54 PM:

You probably don’t have spare furoshiki lying around, so use a square scarf, or a bandana if the package is small, or an inherited bridge cloth you’ve never particularly liked.

Or if you run across a batch of inexpensive (or on-sale) kitchen towels (I prefer the all-cotton kind, truly absorbent and with nothing painted on them to disrupt absorbency), purchase them and keep on hand as useful gift wrap.

#10 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 02:58 PM:

I tried to wrap all of my presents diagonal-Shimojima-style.

All of them look varying degrees of 'interesting,' except for one that almost sort of worked.

I need to find a video or a class or something. I've seen it done so often at department stores and I just want all my presents to look that good.

#11 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Ah, searching for "bridge cloth" gets me a ballpark number. Sorry for the stupidity. (Looks like they're 46-48" square, if you buy the ones they actually expect you to play bridge on.)

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:03 PM:

I got word that family members aren't exchanging big gifts this year. So, I bought these fancy-looking wine-bottle-bags from Dollar Tree, and will be sticking in some candy and nuts and such.

The bags themselves are useful. Once the treats are gone, they can be filled with pennies and used as a cosh.

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:07 PM:

#3: We see-sawed between saving paper for reuse and burning it in the blazing Christmas day fire.

My grandmother insisted that the latter was a bad idea, because the paper was full of toxic lead. Which it might have been, decades earlier.

#14 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:34 PM:

I already know how to wrap presents, but I'm glad I read the post because of the coinages.

1. I'm guessing "swip" was a typo for "swipe," but "swip" is more onomatopoeic so I'm treating it as a coinage. The OED says "swip" does have two archaic meanings: "a stroke or blow" or to "strike, hit, smite" - or, to "forcibly wield a weapon, especially in a downward direction." I know some people I'd like to give a swip. (After which I'd give them the slip.) It's also short for Society for Women in Philosophy.

2. "Wily old wrappers" called up a mind picture of Flavor Flav in his Viking hat, pretending to be insane.

*sigh* This is what happens when I'm home from work early waiting for the cable guy.

#15 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:35 PM:

"...used as a cosh."

And is a practical use for pennies. Beats my pickle jar solution.

#16 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:38 PM:

#13: Listen to your grandmother: she's right. (She's always right....)

The ink on wrapping paper is full of nasty things: you don't want to burn it around people. (If you consider yourself an environmentalist, you probably don't want to buy it, either.)

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:52 PM:

#13: Sigh. Back to leaves and pine resin and sinews coated in gold dust.

#18 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Gift bags and tissue paper are a Godsend.

Then I carry my loot home in the same bags. And reuse them next year.

Although this year I have the distinct impression I'm giving people bags I've given them before. Just can't win.

#19 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Stefan Jones:

Sorry I'm being a grinch. It's just, well, dioxins.

Add to the ordinary dioxin-load (a lot less than it used to be, but, still...) whatever heavy-metals are present in the fancy wrapping papers (often cadmium, and sometimes, yes, lead), and burning it in the fireplace really IS a bad idea.

(Shorter answer: Your grandmother was right.)

#20 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Another great recycled wrapping is old maps -- AAA maps, National Geographic maps, what have you. Better for birthdays and father's day than Christmas, but hey -- if you're driving somewhere and didn't get to wrap the presents before you left, stop at the state line and pick up a bunch for free and you're set!

Also for gift tags, cutting up the old Christmas cards a few days after Christmas is surprisingly therapeutic and yields a nice pile of unique tags.

#21 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:22 PM:

I sound like Martha Stewart. Eep.

#22 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:24 PM:

I'm generally awful at wrapping presents, but one year, faced with several roughly cylindrical packages, I came up with a clever idea that everyone liked:

1. Wind two or three layers of paper around the cylindrical box, leaving a truly obscene amount of paper overhanging the ends (i.e., 1.5 times the cylinder length on each end). Tuck the edge of the paper under and secure with a wee bit of tape.

2. Carefully gather up at the paper on each end, pleating as you go. Give it a twist, and wind some tape around to hold it.

3. Wind some ribbon around the tape at the gathered ends and tie it off. This is just to hide the tape because it looks ugly.

4. Fluff out the pleated gathers at each end and trim if necessary.

Gigantic Christmas crackers!

I imagine you could make enormous hard candies using shoe boxes and a bit more care.

#23 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:26 PM:

One of my greatest gift-packaging successes was a bridal shower gift for a friend. I put together all the little kitchen bits and realised with dismay that I had no suitable wrapping paper, that it was less than an hour before the shower, that I had to get on the subway ten minutes ago if I had any interest in getting there anything like on time, and the only gift bags I had to hand featured Santa Clause, or the words "Happy Birthday!" prominently.

But I had a fabric stash, and way too many baskets: All the goodies got tied with green ribbon, and placed into a green basket. I wrapped the green basket full o'goodies in white tulle (I don't know what the tulle's original purpose had been, but it was in the fabric basket), tied the entire thing with more green ribbon, and some strips of green silk, and received stunned and admiring ooohs and aaaahs when I finally got to the shower.

Which supports the "go bold" axiom. Fudge like you meant it, and always have something useful on hand.

#24 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:29 PM:

My brother has saved the comics for wrapping since the 1950's -- and he would always shout for me to come do his wrapping for him the day before Christmas. It was practically a tradition.

#25 ::: morfydd ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:33 PM:

"Or, give up, and do what my dad did every year: wrap everything in tin foil. I miss him so."

Somewhere I found some "florist foil" a few years ago. It's red on one side, silver on the other, with a pretty texture. Tape adheres to it, but it will also help hold itself in place (once it's bent, it's bent, and the texture keeps "unbends" from being visible). You can wrap some packages in red, some in silver, fold back bits for contrast... I adore this stuff.

#26 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:35 PM:

#10 Carrie -- One time I got a gift from my godchild in an elaborate laser-rainbow bag. I gloated that the bag was now mine, and she looked pitiful, until I pointed out that next year it would come back contining presents for her.

She brightened right up at the idea of such recycling.

#27 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 04:36 PM:

Sigh -- that was #18 Carrie.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 05:17 PM:

I've used the Sunday Comics. Maps are a great idea. I have a short stack of National Geographics which I've kept in part because they have maps inside. If I use them for wrapping, I'll feel less guilty about ditching the magazines.

#29 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 06:03 PM:

When I first saw the header, I expected a grimly serious tutorial by Jim Macdonald that not only contained an exhaustive list of necessary giftwrapping supplies, but also an admonition to keep them handy at all times in case of emergency, as well as a Snopes-like debunking of common giftwrapping misconceptions and how they can kill you dead.

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 07:09 PM:

One year my brother wrapped everything in white writing paper, with his own drawings illustrating carols. ('What's that thing behind the sleigh?' 'That's what they're dashing away from.')

#31 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:09 PM:

My husband and I have accepted my lousy wrapping skills and made a tradition out of it. The sloppiest-looking present gets labeled "From Crappy Wrappy the Elf."

#32 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Something that we can take advantage of around here for wrapping paper is the USGS annual outdated-topographic-map giveaway. They advertise in the local papers to encourage people to use old maps as wrapping paper so they (USGS) don't need to just toss them. (Oh, and you can buy some pretty cool maps as gifts while you're there, of course. I have the shaded topographic map of the U.S. hanging outside my office - its amazing how many people stop and peer at it)

It's also fun to look at a package and try to figure out where in the country this particular quadrangle is from

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:17 PM:

The main wrapping rule around our house is:

Let the bookbinder do it. She's good with paper.

Just finishing off four hours of wrapping. Foil papers this year, and minimal ribbons. Metallic pens and gift tags in roughly even proportions for addressing.

Time for bed.

#34 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 09:17 PM:

Thank you!

The web knows all, but does not tell all. The fluorosphere knows all and explains it with diagrams.

[Cheerfully pulls out accumulated ribbons, shinies, and box of 'things that stick things together']

#35 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 09:39 PM:

For added geek value, you can either get great effects or get yourself into a whole lot of trouble with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive.

All hail Super 77!

But really, for packages? 3M Repositionable Spray Adhesive 75.

Note: 3M Hi-Strength Spray Adhesive 90 is not joking. Unless your goal is, well, lamination, it is the wrong answer here, and for that matter, in most circumstances where "spray" is involved. Seriously look at your commitment to motion before you wildly crank off a can of 90.

To quote Elwood. "This is glue...Strong Stuff!"

#36 ::: Red (Chris Holdredge) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 09:48 PM:

I suppose I'll have a better opportunity to ask this question than a gift wrap discussion on Making Light. Did anyone else here find their curiosity snagged by this line from Count Zero?

...It was wrapped in a single sheet of handmade paper, dark gray, folded and tucked in that mysterious Japanese way that required neither glue nor string, but she knew that once she'd opened it, she'd never get it folded again.

If so, did you have any more luck than I ever did finding a way to accomplish this? It sounds so plausible and so elegant. He might have made it up from whole cloth, but doggone it, this is something that ought to exist. Every year I seem to waste a few sheets of gift wrap thinking "This time I've got the answer," but so far I've never been right. Somewhere in the vast collected memory banks of the flourosphere, does there exist a pointer to this particular bit of (possibly fictitious) knowledge? I'd sure appreciate any hint that anyone could share.

#37 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 10:07 PM:

The easiest way to keep the paper taut for those of us with fumblefingers is to anchor the inside edge of the paper to whatever you're wrapping with a small, unobtrusive piece of tape. Then you can rotate the paper around the package and easily keep it taut with no slippage.

Speaking of fumblefingers, the last thing you want to do is break the gift, which Santa Bush apparently forgot: He broke it. Santa Bush and the Christmas Barn Rules: He'll fix it, sort of. Oh oh oh. (Photo)

#38 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 11:01 PM:

A friend from Japan says she's sent me a present. I'll try to remember to make note of how it's wrapped. I know some of her past presents were wrapped in cloth.

#39 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 11:04 PM:

For added geek value, you can either get great effects or get yourself into a whole lot of trouble with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive.

... er ... and remember the stuff travels. Get your laptop/computer out of the way, or use the spray (or the computer) in a cardboard box. The cleanup sucked.

#40 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 11:07 PM:

#36 ::: Red (Chris Holdredge) wondered:

...It was wrapped in a single sheet of handmade paper, dark gray, folded and tucked in that mysterious Japanese way that required neither glue nor string, but she knew that once she'd opened it, she'd never get it folded again.

If so, did you have any more luck than I ever did finding a way to accomplish this? It sounds so plausible and so elegant. He might have made it up from whole cloth, but doggone it, this is something that ought to exist. Every year I seem to waste a few sheets of gift wrap thinking "This time I've got the answer," but so far I've never been right. Somewhere in the vast collected memory banks of the flourosphere, does there exist a pointer to this particular bit of (possibly fictitious) knowledge? I'd sure appreciate any hint that anyone could share.

It isn't made up whole cloth at all. It's very common, in fact; there are books and books that describe how to do that sort of thing ... Try this link as a starter in english.

#41 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 11:46 PM:

Allen Baum at #32

Something that we can take advantage of around here for wrapping paper is the USGS annual outdated-topographic-map giveaway. They advertise in the local papers...

Where? WHERE?? (I assume DC? And when?)

#42 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:02 AM:

Julie L @29: When I first saw the header, I expected a grimly serious tutorial by Jim Macdonald that not only contained an exhaustive list of necessary giftwrapping supplies, but also an admonition to keep them handy at all times in case of emergency....

Plus of course, the 6 laws of why one must keep your scissors sharp and what to do if you cut off your arm whilst trimming ribbon.

#43 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 12:19 AM:

Glue is for scrapbooking, tape is for packages, that's my belief and I'm sticking to it. (Stickers work for both of course.)

I just wrapped about a third of my packages tonight. I never wrap the big ones for the household/family, I just hide them until "Santa" comes. (me--always) Is there anyway I can find someone else to do that job? And then when do I get a gift? Actually my family is getting better about getting me something. I mean I love the job, but there have been Christmases that I wondered if I was loved.

I really like gift bags and alternative wrapping because I feel that they are so much less wasteful. I had a great-aunt who always wrapped our gifts in the Sunday funnies. I did it for a few years, but now I read most of my funnies online.

Oh, and we got a gift basket of nuts from my sister-in-law from Cherry Valley Farms, an on-line store. It was such a rip off ($9 worth of goodies for $39) and to add insult to injury the Easter grass they packed it in stunk to high heaven. I tore out the grass, threw it away and put the usable parts on the porch to air out.

#44 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:04 AM:

Ungh. Gift baskets. What a tacky phenomena.

A local store offers, in its advertising circular, pre-wrapped gifts.

Inside the bland blue wrappers are the small, generic, somewhat useful items meant to be given to co-workers, in-laws you know almost nothing about, and Silent Santa recipients.

The one thing items like that have in their favor is that they can be regifted easily.

True Story:

Many years ago, I recieved from my manager a ice scraper . . . an illuminated ice scraper. It had the look of something grabbed off of an "executive gifts" shelf, but its-the-thought-that- counts. (By contrast, what my manager and other co-workers got from me. Oh Dear God, look at what it is worth now!)

Now, for many years, one of the common "stocking stuffer" items in my family was an ice scraper, or a ice scraper / brush combination. As a result, I had two or three of them. "Mom," I told me mom, "I now have three more ice scrapers than I need. Please take this unopened gadget and put it in your pile of emergency gifts."

Four years later, the illuminated scraper's provenance had been forgotten, and I got it back, as a Christmas present. Resigned, I kept it. I finally got rid of it by giving it to some distressed fellow CMU students living in my apartment complex. They were from a warmer clime, and had no idea how to handle the sheet of ice on the windshield. Never saw them again. I hope they got many years of service from it.

#45 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:15 AM:

#15 - Linkmeister, a pickle jar is a bad ingredient for a cosh.

#46 ::: AzureLunatic ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:26 AM:

We had this dreadfully ugly, but very efficient tape dispenser in the family when I was growing up. I have no idea where it came from, as the thing is probably older than I am.

Mama and I were wrapping presents upstairs one year, and there was a sudden commotion downstairs, so I got up with my bare feet to find out what was going on. A lot of hydrogen peroxide and a few butterfly bandages later, there was a new house rule: No Tape Dispensers on the Floor.

#47 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:52 AM:

#45, Elise, I've never needed a cosh. I suppose I could throw the pickle jar, which would have the advantage of not having to close with the burglar/mugger.

One of the screwier gifts I ever got was a small metal box full of what I decided were oversized ball bearings. It was nicely wrapped up, but I hadn't a clue what I was supposed to do with them; I put them to one side and continued being Santa that morning.

At the end of the present-opening orgy I was advised to look behind the chair I was sitting in. I did, and pulled out a 1 1/2-foot x 2 1/2-foot pachinko game.

#48 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 02:05 AM:

My father was a graphic designer specializing in package design, so gift wrapping was a full contact competitive sport in my household. Rectangular packages were plain-wrapped (usually in flintkote paper...I had no idea how expensive that stuff was until I left home and tried to buy some for wrapping paper. Holy shit!) and decorated in some quirky weird artsy way, with found bits of stuff--self-stick gold foil, feathers, short stories, one-act plays. It was the oddly-shaped stuff that was most fun; one year my mother got my father an Arts and Crafts era bentwood coat rack and gave it to me to wrap. In the end it looked rather like a technicolor alien, but I can honestly say Dad had no idea what was in the package.

#49 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 03:20 AM:

and what to do if you cut off your arm whilst trimming ribbon.

Not to mention advice on the proper place to put emergency medical information while wrapping gifts, the correct way to use different types of paper as temporary bandages, and how to assemble a gift-wrap jump bag so you can respond quickly to emergency package concealment needs outside the home.

Oh, and one or two gruesome tales of mishaps that befell people who made poor pre-wrap decisions.

#50 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 03:25 AM:

One thing I've learned is that actual cheap wrapping paper is the WORST thing you can wrap with. Yes, it may have Santas and so on, but it's slippery, crinkles up as soon as you breathe on it, and develops scratch-marks where the print rubs off.

For the same price, as far as wrapping small gifts is concerned, some inexpensive colored art paper can be acquired. The edges round instead of warping; the paper holds firm. It makes gifts look subtly classy. You can get a single piece of fine handmade paper, cut out geometric shapes, and glue them to the top of the package for tags. You can also roll corners in the art paper and create interesting shapes that would not hold with wrapping paper.

The year after I took a book arts class, I was broke for the holidays, so my newfound knowledge of paper came in handy. I gave people tiny cheap trinkets and wrapped them in fancy, absurd configurations. Nobody minded; they had enough fun opening the present that the fun quotient of receiving it was upped, so when tiny glass animals or single bars of chocolate came out, it still added up to a good present.

#51 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 03:32 AM:

Bob @41,

No, not DC. Menlo Park, California (30 miles south of San Francisco). Here's an old article about their maps giveaway in 1999.

#52 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 07:06 AM:

#21 Janet: I sound like Martha Stewart. Eep.

Not unless you're unbearably soft-spoken. Once I saw an episode where the guest was Patricia Arquette, and I like Patricia Arquette, but after about five minutes I started screaming, "Change your tone of voice once in a while! Raise your voice! I can't stand your even tones!"

Ahem.

And Chryss at #5: Tin foil! Genius! That's what I'm doing. Problem solved. Thanks.

#53 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 07:44 AM:

Cheap wrapping paper is just the thing if you're wrapping half a ton of individual chocolate bars, books and oddments, and want the general effect to be a sack of things that are wrapped colourfully and cheerfully. Sometimes you have kids and piles of presents and dinner to cook and it doesn't all need to be like origami. An hour after you start unwrapping it's all going to be rubbish anyway.

There's certainly a time for the beautifully wrapped box, but in my house, that time is not Christmas.

#54 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 08:21 AM:

I usually pick up some plain brown paper and then hunt for colourful fabric ribbons to dress it up. The paper is ridiculously inexpensive and the ribbon is reusable.

#55 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 08:45 AM:

Here's what I'm doing with cheap, *awful* wrapping paper this year:

I took the very worst of it, the ones where the manufacturer made it stay in a roll by glueing it so that it tears when you unroll it. These I tore a little more, then scrunched them up and unfolded them again.

I used the result to wrap (in a slipshod manner) two identical squeaky toys, and labelled each with the name of one of my parents' dogs, who destroy everything they can get their paws and teeth on. I think my parents will be amused.

#56 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 08:46 AM:

If only I had seen this post before Thursday, when I wrapped all my presents, cussing the ends as I do every year. I just can't get the &%#$&@ things to fold up neatly and nicely. The corners refuse to be crisp.

I plan to blame it on my cats. One of them does actually go after anything with tape on it, so it's believable. (The best was when I taped a note to a houseguest at eye-height on the bathroom door, or almost five and a half feet up. I watched the cat in question stare up at it from directly below, then sproing five and a half feet straight up in the air and claw at the tape.)

#48 Madeleine Robins, and #50 A.J. Luxton: My boyfriend, a graphic designer who excelled at book arts while in school, has not yet wrapped his gifts. I weep to think how mine will look beside his.

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 09:12 AM:

If you're lucky, you can find good paper that will work for everything. We had all-purpose paper for a while when I was much younger: white and silver diagonal stripes.

#58 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Oh, my.

It would never have occurred to me that simple rectilinear wrapping was such an Issue!

I got hooked on origami when I was 10 (Robert Harbin's book with boustidistros [spelled wrong, I'm sure] illustrations). It turned out to be vitally useful in Navy boot camp, where total worldly possessions were in a cubic locker not more than two feet across with each individual item of clothing folded in its own official way. I was in such great demand as a folder that I escaped more mundane duties.
My idea of challenging is full, formal noshi.

#59 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 10:56 AM:

Wrapping (hardcover) books: since everyone knows the moment they pick up a wrapped book that it's, well, a book, I've taken to wrapping them by making a second jacket of wrapping paper, slipping it over the first, and tying it in place with ribbon.

Also, in years where presents from me will live for a few days in a multi-colored chaotic pile of presents from many other people, I've wrapped with an eye toward the overall effect: using all white paper, or brown kraft paper, for little islands of similarity to scatter throughout. Really helps tie the pile together.

Gift tags: I buy cheap paperbacks from the buck-a-copy stack, drill holes in the upper left corner, and tie them on with twine. The fun of course lies in overtones ironic or otherwise with gift or recipient. —One year, the tag ended up a better present than the gift. ("I read this when I was eight! I've never seen it since!")

But to my mind, nothing tops the legendary mad wrapping skillz of Barry "Ampersand" Deutsch in his youth: a present wrapped in green glass bottles held together with clear tape. A present wrapped in dirty socks. A present in a bottle, something too large for the neck swaddled in newspaper inside a 2-liter pop bottle. The sheet stapled ominously to the ceiling, with a bit of rope dangling down; I was told to yank on it. I did. A Peter Beagle book tumbled onto my head. (We never did get the security deposit back on that place.)

#60 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 01:15 PM:

When I was a child, my grandmother (a Victorian of the Old School) was a strong believer in white tissue paper instead of this new-fangled printed heavier stuff. She lived with us, and was nominally in charge of my adventures in wrapping, so I always ended up having to use that. When I was nine or ten, I got kind of bored with the pure whiteness of it all, got out my bottle of Elmer's glue, and drew designs--Wise Men, stars, mangers, trees-- on the wrapped presents and then sprinkled them with glitter. Looked great, but we were cleaning up blue glitter for *weeks*.

#61 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 04:33 PM:

Warning from a just-about-mile-high city: Things from the flatlands (like home-made jam) can explode at higher altitudes. This year it happened to one of my mother-in-laws jam jars somewhere in transit, but fortunately just messed up the packing box, not the other presents. At least no First Aid skills were required here -- and her cookies came through just fine!

As for wrapping, one inexpensive wrap I found this year is paper with a metallic sheen and lots of stripes in various Xmassy colors and different widths. Put a vertical layer over horizontal for some visual interest, or roll a thin strip diagonally to make nifty slender tubes that can be crossed on top and anchored with a ready-made bow. Not professional-quality wrapping, but fun.

#62 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 04:55 PM:

My favorite gift wrap technique:

Brown paper grocery bags. Turn inside out so the advertising doesn't show. For larger gifts, tape together as needed.

Bind the whole thing up with copious amounts of duct tape in lieu of ribbon.

Break out the Sharpies and draw all over the duct tape (and, if the paper bag is the heavy sort, the paper too. Or use washable markers on the paper. Sharpies soak through thin paper.)

Somewhere on the package, write "CHEAP ASS HIPPIE GIFT WRAP" or some appropriate variation

I gave a good buddy a wedding gift wrapped this way. This year, it's my FILs turn for the CHEAP ASS HIPPIE VACATION PACKAGE.

(Doesn't hurt that I'm known far and wide as both a cheap-ass and a weirdo. I value my reputation highly.)

#63 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 05:15 PM:

glue dots

#64 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 07:13 PM:

In the event of a complete arm amputation during a wrapping-related emergency:

1) Control bleeding (direct pressure, elevation, pressure points).
2) Treat for shock (wrap patient in blankets (festive ribbon and bow are optional but appreciated), elevate feet, provide oxygen (if available).
3) Wrap amputated arm in clean fabric (festive holiday design optional but appreciated), place in plastic bag, place on ice. (Do not get arm wet or put in direct contact with ice.)
4) Transport arm in the same ambulance with the patient (note: do not delay transport while searching for the arm).

#65 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 01:17 AM:

If one has been wrapping in plain white paper when one amputates an arm, the spurts and drops of blood will provide considerable interest for the recipient without much effort on one's part. Try to avoid blood on edges that must be taped; also try to make sure that one's packages are acceptably wrapped before bleeding on them, as rewrapping with the same paper will introduce unwanted puckering.

#66 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Ethan, #52: Yeah Dad was a genius at stuff like that. He also bought presents at the very last minute--I mean, as in the mall was CLOSING--and we clamored for the gifts from him.

One year, though, he got bored with all of the tin foil, went to our local Chinese food takeaway joint, and bought a bunch of unused Chinese takeout boxes. Gifts were then dumped in those, with a bow stuck on top.

Another holiday tradition: gifts from the pets were always socks and underwear. The "reason" given was that, hey, they're dogs/cats/ducks, they don't know any better, give 'em a break, and you could use the socks and the underwear, right?

Nothing makes you miss your own family for the holidays quite like spending your first holiday away. My first Christmas with my in-laws is now legendary, because I came away SHELL-SHOCKED. But that's a long-ass story for another time.

New holiday tradition: watching Santa Clause vs. the Martians, MST3K version, and also the "Holiday Cocktail Party" episode of Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee where she debuted a "Cocktail Tree." It's not really a tree, it's more of a cry for help. Trust me.

#67 ::: Marjorie Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 03:04 PM:

Total frustration! Moments ago I sat down with a mug of tea and a snack, Holiday Inn playing on the tv. I'm happy because my Christmas preperation is done hours early. Walt said he emailed me a link about gift wrapping from your blog. Argh! Now I want to either rewrap every gift or go shopping again. Eeek!
Marjorie

#68 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 04:36 PM:

Instructions for making an origami box.

Also, no instructions, but a lovely gallery of various origami containers and other objects. (Click on "Fabric Origami" to see the gallery.)

#69 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Bruce @ 68: I think most (possibly all) of the diagrams for those origami boxes can be found in various books by Tomoko Fuse. Occasionally I go through semicompulsive phases of folding some of her simpler patterns, which can look astonishingly diverse depending on the paper choice/combination.

#70 ::: Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Here are some instructions for various Japanese gift-wrapping techniques. The text is in Japanese but the images are quite clear (click on any one of the links on the page):
http://www.tsutsumu.co.jp/company/dictionary/index.html

#71 ::: xebecs ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 08:29 AM:

So has anyone seen the new Matt Damon holiday movie Bourne Is the King of Israel?

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 08:50 AM:

xebecs, that's even funnier when you consider that the name 'Jason' means "healer."

#73 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 01:21 PM:

I have a lot of old gift bags to reuse, but this year I found that I wanted to wrap most of my gifts and I also didn't want to buy paper. My dad has a tendency to give gifts in really pretty gift bags, but to stick an adhesive label on the bag, limiting its reuse value. Most of my gifts were on the small side, so I disassembled a couple of the bags I got from him, cut off the section that had the gift tag and the wraggedy bits that used to be glued together in folds, and used that paper for the wrapping. It worked out pretty well.

#74 ::: Marcy ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 01:55 PM:

There are several thing which I consider indispensable for gift wrapping: good, heavyweight paper, double-sided tape, and a glue gun (The glue gun is used to attach little ornaments and greenery underneath the package's bow). I also avoid any paper with a pattern; solids in a nice deep maroon or forest green shade work better if you prefer a classic or elegant finish. Also, it sidesteps the whole potential issue of religious preference. Wired fabric ribbon is handy for sculpting gorgeous bows.

#75 ::: Serge sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2009, 12:36 PM:

blah blah blah

#76 ::: Niall McAuley sees tissue spam at #77 ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2011, 06:41 AM:

Spam tissue? Yuk!

#77 ::: Cadbury Moose sights Spammish Spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 12:16 PM:

Cleanup on aisle #78 please, gnomes.

#78 ::: Cadbury Moose was clearly Much Too Slow ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 12:18 PM:

...as the gnomes got there first.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 12:24 PM:

The gnomes, they hungered. They waited, and then they pounced.

It wasn't pretty.

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