Mighty Life List
Dec 22 2008

10 Ideas for Pretty Alternative Wrapping

Last year, we were in Argentina for Christmas, and couldn’t find wrapping paper anywhere. I did searches on how to wrap with recycled materials, but most of the ideas I found were fugly. This year, I’ve been collecting some pretty, eco-friendly options:

1. Use vintage scarves, and trinkets in place of bows.

This is a gift I wrapped for a baby shower a while ago. It’s in a vintage silk scarf I got for a dollar at a garage sale. I tied it twice over the top of the box and used a pair of baby booties in place of a bow. It’s similar to the furoshiki concept.

2. Try a reusable wrap cloth.

This one is for sale at Rickrak, but you could also try making one of your own.

3. Make bows from recycled plastic bags.

This plastic bow is from Creature Comforts, and it’s made from a recycled Target plastic bag. Surprisingly cute, huh? Click through for directions.

4. Troll flea markets for containers and embellishments.

This photo is from Lil Fish Studios, it’s a simple kraft paper box embellished with an old velvet ribbon and a vintage belt buckle. When I’m at a garage sale, I look for cheap wooden boxes, ceramic powder boxes, or package embellishments that will make my gift seem extra thoughtful.

5. Make your own pretty boxes.

Check out Eco-Artware’s template for making cool pillow boxes out of old cereal boxes.

6. Forget tape.

This photo is an example from an entire article full of alternative giftwrap options over at Future Present. I like the look of packages sealed with utility clips or clothespins.

7. Dig through your donations box.

This gift is wrapped in scraps leftover from a Halloween costume. It’s part of another article on recycled wrapping over at Enviromom. I never considered using old T-shirts or clothing items to wrap.

8. Use old maps to wrap.

Some cute examples here and here.

9. Repurpose magazines.

This is a bow made of recycled magazines, which you can buy from BellyBuzz on Etsy. If you’re feeling crafty, you can make them yourself.

10. Use recycled paper for tags.

I like the idea of using recycled sheet music to make tags, like these from MissingMyCity’s photostream. You could use parts of old cards, maps, or stationery catalogues.

That’s it! Do you have any pretty ideas for wrapping with repurposed or recycled materials? Feel free to leave links in comments.

44 Responses to “10 Ideas for Pretty Alternative Wrapping”

  • Arin Says:

    I like to re-use wintry-looking papers, such as trail maps from ski resorts or artful holiday-time magazine, catalog or travel-section covers. When my husband and I travel, we try to purchase a lot of our holiday gifts on the trip, and we’ll make sure to pick up some local newspapers to wrap them in. Papers in foreign languages make interesting wrappings and hint at the origin of what lies within.

  • amy Says:

    Aah, I thought I’d be first! Newspapers, esp. those in other languages, is also my two cents. I love recycling papers, bags, boxes, etc. & finding new, fab ways to wrap so thanks for a great post. I also like to use old maps – I’ve gotten tons of free or ten cent ones at library book sales.

  • jonathan Says:

    Art books are great for small gift wrapping. I know, it’s evil to kill a book, but I’ve been working through one book of German black and white photos for years.

  • Sara Says:

    Last year, I used pretty dishtowels to wrap small bottles of organic olive oil. For the ribbon portion, I often use yarn of some sort. I had a sweater that was ruined, so I took it apart and recycled some it wrapping gifts.
    This year, I’ve wrapped some gifts in finger painted treasures from my daughter. Not the most unusual, but it seems to be appreciated by the recipients!

  • Em Says:

    Lots of really great ideas here – I always feel *so* wasteful when it comes to unwrapping Christmas presents: all that paper that’s been on the presents for less than 24 hours!
    I’ll definitely be trying out some of these this year. Along with reusing giftbags from previous Christmases.
    BTW – I’m loving the thought of you ‘trolling’ through fles-markets!! ;) Like something out of the ‘Billy Goats Gruff’….would it not be ‘trawling’??

  • MizFit Says:

    those are LOVELY.
    me? I buy fleece blankest for babies from the dollar store and use those!

  • John Boak Says:

    I especially like the bag pom pom.
    See http://www.boakart.com/wrap/WrapArt.html for wrap using the green expanded-plastic wine-bottle protectors.

  • Alissa Says:

    I love these ideas! I got a tip from Real Simple a few years ago – I cut up my Christmas cards from the year before and make tags out of them, I have an entire ziploc full of holiday tags and enjoy cutting out pretty shapes and cropping the front of a fugly card to make a beautiful little gift tag.

  • rachel Says:

    “8. Use old maps to wrap.”

    I read it as “use old MOPS to wrap. I thought that sounded really gross, but clicked on the flickr links anyway to check it out. I still didn’t realize my mistake until I re-read the list!

    And wrapping with old maps IS a neat idea:)

  • Rebecca Says:

    I cut up last year’s received Christmas cards to either send as postcards next year for Christmas or as gift tags.

  • elayne Says:

    It’s not really about wrapping, but I’ll coattail onto Rebecca’s comment and mention: I saved Christmas cards for a few years (only the fronts), and then cut a large sheet of butcher paper to fit my front door, and taped the cards to make a sort of patchwork-quilt of a holiday door cover. I used gift tags, patches of wrapping paper, and bows to cover any troublesome spots.

    It didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked but it was still cheery, cheap, fun to make, and my friends and family had fun looking over it and picking out the cards they’d sent in previous years.

    Here’s a not-very-good picture of it, but you get the idea:
    http://www.elaynocentricity.com/images/im000064.jpg

    I used about two rolls of packing tape – the strong, clear stuff that you use on moving boxes? – to go over the entire surface of it, so that nothing would tear off and so it’s a bit more sturdy. It was easy enough to roll it up and store it in the garage until the next Christmas. (But then we moved and it doesn’t fit the door anymore, wah.)

  • Imanitsud Says:

    I have been known to cut and use brown paper bag from the grocery. If it’s a smallerish gift, you don’t see the bag seam, and I wrap it with a pretty red/green plaid ribbon. And write the To/From right on the paper with maybe a stamp or sticker.

    Also, one year I made all my own wrapping paper by buying a huge roll of brown packing paper (recycleable, but still waste) cheap from home improvement store, then cut a sponge into the shape of a Christmas tree, another into snowman. I let the kids “embellish” and they looked fantastic.

  • Lara K-W Says:

    We always used to save the comics from the Sunday paper to use as gift wrap. Colors! When topped with a beautiful bow, it’s perfect.

  • Maureen Says:

    Around these parts (Toronto) we use gift bags – available in every dollar store. They just get used over and over again. You give a gift to me in a pretty paper gift bag, and I use it to give a gift to someone else. And on and on. Very few people wrap gifts in paper, as everyone has a stash of gift bags.

  • auntjone Says:

    How timely! I was just thinking about how I could wrap gifts for the husband’s two youngest nieces (1 yr old and 11 wk old) so that their mom could reuse the container. Wrapping paper seems so terribly wasteful and I’m tired of gift bags. Of course I’m not very creative and have limited time (procrastinators unite!) and resources so heaven knows what I’ll come up with. Their mother probably won’t appreciate it regardless…oops, did I say that out loud?

  • heidi Says:

    love the scarf and booties one at the top! If you have school age kids, you can use the loads of artwork that come home every day for wrapping presents.

  • kates Says:

    I use old wall calendars. For larger gifts I have sometimes used two or three pages together — wrapped one side of the present, then another. I love the art book idea too.

  • Robert Stockham Says:

    I use some of these ideas myself, but am thrilled to see some new ones. I wrapped hostess gifts in new kitchen towels this year. I have used hand embroidered pillowcases and dish towels from garage sales. Now, I reusable bags from trade shows that can be used by the receiver as a shopping bag. Since my cat eats ribbons, I like to buy garden seeds as a decoration instead of bows.

  • Maren Says:

    I’m not this clever or crafty, but if you buy nice wrapping materials you can simply reuse them over and over again. We pick up wired ribbon from craft stores in the after-Christmas sales, but in fact haven’t bought any new supplies in probably five years because we cut them into several useful lengths and just roll them back up after they’re unwrapped. If you buy paper that’s high-quality enough, or is made of plastic or something metallic, you can also get at least two years of use out of them, maybe three. I’ll cut a large sheet to wrap a big gift, then trim it into smaller pieces the next year and try to reuse those if possible. CDs are particularly easy to re-wrap.

    Of course, all of this only works for presents at home, sadly, unless you’re on terms with people where you can just ask for it back. Lots of people do, though (“oh, this ribbon is too pretty — take it and reuse it!”), so it’s worked out well for us.

    Love the plastic bag bow, though. I think I’ll definitely use one of those this year.

  • Meg Says:

    Idea 1: Make (or buy) colorful kids print pillowcases to wrap large & odd-size gifts for kids.

    Idea 2: Use the pictures from old calendars to wrap small gifts.

  • amanda Says:

    Depending on the size of your gift (insert inappropriate snicker) you can cut 1″ wide strips of things like pop cases, shoe boxes, diaper boxes and weave a gift box. I’m also a fan on inexpensive flour sacks tied with twine and embellished with sprigs of Rosemary.

  • BOSSY Says:

    These ideas were all so cool, and make Bossy feel very, VERY, lazy.

  • Dawn Says:

    Love this post!

  • Inacheincathy Says:

    С Наступающим Новым Годом!!

    Сверкающей желаем ночи,
    Цветных таинственных огней.
    И все, что Ваше сердце хочет
    Пускай исполнится скорей.
    Пусть холод не тревожит душу,
    Зима не навевает грусть,
    И радость согревает в стужу,
    И счастье будет с Вами пусть.

  • Shelley Says:

    I bought some curtains in a shiny fabric from a thrift store and used ribbon from my sewing stash. The gifts I wrapped turned out great! You can see them at
    http://shelleyshouse.blogspot.com/2008/12/christmas-past-new-year-to-come.html

  • Mary Ann Says:

    This is what I did for Christmas!

  • mrs brown Says:

    we always use fabric bags. fabric scraps sewn into various size bags for various size gifts work great, tied with pretty ribbon that matches. there’s also tons of cute fabrics at fabric stores you could get just for making fabric gift bags.