The holidays are a natural time to dig into your gift wrap stores to see what you need to stock up on for late-night wrapping sessions. Before you go out and by rolls of cheap, uninspired wrapping paper that can only be used for Christmas, try your hand at making your own. DIY wrapping papers are a creative way to dress up any gift so that it catches the eye and serves as a thoughtful bonus before revealing the present — think of it as a sensory experience you give in addition to the contents of the box.

There are lots of ways to personalize your gift wrap by getting crafty, and you can also ditch traditional paper entirely in favor of other materials. Best of all, these ideas work for any occasion, so you’ll never have to worry about shopping for and storing separate rolls of paper for birthdays, weddings and Hallmark holidays again.

Alternative Wrapping Papers

Image via Flickr.com | Tracy

Paper is the leading way to wrap presents because it’s cheap, easy to fold and comes in a wide array of colors and decorative prints. It’s the ideal material for wrapping traditionally shaped boxes — but you don’t have to stick to big rolls. Try these alternative papers for a more unique look for any gift while still enjoying the convenience of paper.

  • Tissue Paper: It’s not just for padding the inside of a box! A few layers of tissue paper also make excellent wrapping for smaller gifts, especially if you like a softer look. Try layering white over a brighter color for a pastel look or combining colors for one-of-a-kind hues. Tissue is also more pliable, making it a good choice for finessing unusually shaped packages.
  • Newspaper: The Sunday funnies have always been a great choice for wrapping children’s presents thanks to colorful characters and silly jokes, but these days using newsprint as gift wrap can add a retro touch to anyone’s gift. Choose black and white pages with lots of text and no photos for a graphic look — want ads are usually a good choice. Newsprint makes a great backdrop for a bright, solid-colored bow.
  • Brown Bags: You can buy a roll of craft paper for some brown paper packages tied up with string, or you can use your paper grocery bags in a pinch. Modern shopping bags tend to be much thinner and easier to fold than the ones you remember from childhood, so this is an inexpensive way to replace traditional wrapping paper. It’s also easy to embellish them with your own designs (see below).
  • Chalkboard Paper: This black paper is designed to let white and colored chalks show up brilliantly. Personalize it with drawings, designs and the name of the recipient, or draw on a ribbon and bow for a cheeky take on traditional gift wrap. Like a real chalkboard, you can erase and start again until you get the look just right.
  • Maps: Like newspapers, maps and atlases are no longer part of most people’s daily lives, but you can give them one last hurrah as gift wrap. They’re great for adults and kids because they add a little educational flair to a gift for any occasion. Choose a place that’s meaningful to the recipient and circle it on the gift for an extra-special custom touch.

No-Paper Gift Wrap

Not all gift wrap has to be paper, of course. Try your hand at using other materials to make your own unique wrappers for present of all shapes and sizes.

  • Furoshiki Cloth Wrapping: In Japan, beautiful pieces of cloth are often used to wrap gifts instead of paper. Like origami, the secret is in the folding, which can help you create a carry-all satchel, wine holder or more traditional box wrap. Other reasons to try it? Tying the fabric in place means there’s no need for ribbon, and the recipient will enjoy using the fabric again later.
  • Silk Scarves and Pashmina Wraps: These pliable, flowy accessories are large enough to wrap a wide range of gifts. Choose traditional furoshiki methods, or simply gather the four ends together in the center of the package and secure with a rubber band or hair elastic. With some finesse, the bunched fabric corners will work as a puffy bow.
  • Duct Tape: Duct tape comes in an amazing assortment of colors and patterns, and you can use it to design a custom bag or pouch to fit any gift. This is especially useful for irregularly shaped kids’ toys or a collection of smaller items. Check out online tutorials for details on turning a basic trash bag and rolls of duct tape into a sturdy, reusable bag for any occasion.
  • Old Clothing: It’s easy to make a soft gift bag out of fabric, even if you don’t sew (hot glue and fusible tape are your friends!). Look for unique textures to make your gift bags more interesting: everything from outdated acid-washed jeans to cozy cable-knit sweaters are on the table. This is also a great way to deal with a collection of graphic tees that you can no longer wear.

DIY Embellishments for Any Gift

Once you’ve handled the basics of covering your presents, you’ll want to embellish them with ribbon, bows or other decorations. You can make these yourself, too! Try these ideas for some wonderful finishing touches:

  • Washi Tape: This decorative tape is easy to make an endless variety of designs on paper wrapping, plain boxes or any other relatively smooth surface where you’ll get good adhesion. Use it to create a woven pattern or faux ribbon over your gift, or create holiday-themed artwork by arranging strips into appropriate designs.
  • Stamp It: Make your own old-fashioned potato stamps, or use something as simple as a pencil eraser for stamping tiny polka dots. A quick trip to the craft store will reveal a rainbow of ink colors and styles, or you can simply use a bit of paint to get the job done. Use your stamps to create an all-over pattern on paper or a single decorative focal point on a wrapped gift.
  • ScherenschnitteIf you’ve ever made a paper snowflake as a kid, you’ve already practiced this German folk art. There are lots of templates available online, and once you cut your designs into the paper, you can use it as an overlay to wrap over a gift box for a sheer look or glue it to the top of your package as a finishing touch.

No matter what type of wrapping paper you choose for your next crafting project, few things are as satisfying as presenting a well-wrapped gift to a loved one. Let your creative side shine through and get started on some interesting DIY wrapping projects for your next holiday, and you’re sure to have the best-looking boxes and bags on the block.

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