22 December 2010

Cheap Gift-Wrap Chic

I love every stage of gift-shopping: the planning, the list-making, the strategizing--where and when to shop (or make). But the finishing touch, the icing on this shopping-cake, may just be my favorite part: the gift-wrapping. Allow me to share my philosophy of wrapping, just in case you are in need of ideas or inspiration, and just in case you too are a self-styled, gift-wrap artist.

Start by thinking about your theme, your palette, your media. If they're going to be under the same tree, you'll want visual harmony. Keep things simple. If you want to play with color, then you'll want to restrict the amount of variation in texture and pattern of paper and ribbon. If you want to play with texture, on the other hand, you'll want to limit your palette, leaving more focus on the contrasting textures. You could decide on a red theme, for example, and then hunt down velvet ribbon, shiny garlands, matte papers, etc. You could vary huge bows and cascading ribbons. If you want to go with patterned papers, then restrict yourself to simpler bows. If you want to combine several shades of red, then try to keep to no more than two colors per gift and try to repeat shades over several presents, to create overall visual harmony.

This year I collected brown paper shopping bags. And I checked for pink and cream ribbon at pretty much every store I went to for a few months--thrift stores, boutiques, chain stores, until I amassed an eclectic collection of different shades and shapes of light pink and cream ribbon. I used only cloth ribbon, like lace and sheer ribbon, in keeping with the rough-hewn look of the brown paper. In lieu of nametags, I used cream and brown block letters from an old address book. Each letter is assigned to a present in a sort of code.

I've included the work of a few others here for ideas. I like the use of old books. The destruction of books is not to be undertaken without reflection, though. If it is a good book, honor it by not making it into wrapping paper. If it is not a good book, do not sully your gifts by garbing them with unworthy words. But if it is a book, of which there are many copies, and you will still have a copy, and everyone you know who needs a copy has one, then I say it is probably okay. I do tend to be liberal about these things, as I have a high regard for the art of wrapping. At any rate, if it bothers you, you should probably find another medium. It is your book-conscience, after all.

(Both of these pieces from the tomate d'├ępingles blog on eco-friendly fashion.)

One of these artists also uses buttons. I used buttons one year too. I got a whole jar for two dollars at the local thrift store. I used light blue and navy buttons, in various shapes and sizes, again with brown paper. I strung them like ornaments. The cascading movement was nice.

Get creative. You could use the pages of an old Atlas. Wrap each person's gift with a region important to them. Newspaper is a little messy, but classic. Black-and-white newsprint with monochromatic ribbon could be quite classy. Try dressing up the cheap and commonplace with something fancy, like rich velvet ribbon. Thrift can be chic.

Even you don't have time or inclination to try something more unconventional, you may want to pick up one of Target's gift-wrap packs (with pre-packaged harmony). You'll get something like four rolls of distinctly patterned, yet matching paper. I believe they throw in matching ribbon as well. Think of it as training wheels for your inner gift-wrap artist.

It's still the thought that counts, but if you can have fun with wrapping, then why not do that too!

Papyrus papers. Very chic. Not so cheap.

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