Gift Wrapping Tutorial: Part One

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Gift wrapping is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  I love putting in the effort to make each gift, as small or grand as it might be, something special and cherished for the recipient.  Plus – let’s be honest – I just like making things pretty.

I spent my college years working in high-end retail where proper gift-wrapping technique was drilled in me.  Substandard wrapping jobs were torn open by the shop owner and wrapped again and again until perfect.  I learned how to wrap fast and efficiently, and how to select wrapping materials that are as frugal as they are beautiful.  And now I’ll share all my tips with you!

I worked with Brandi from Life by Brandi, a natural-light photographer in Oklahoma City, for these photos.  I couldn’t possibly take pictures of a step-by-step wrapping tutorial, and I was thrilled when Brandi said she’d help me!  If you live in Oklahoma, you should check out her awesome photography.  She does a lot of family and little kid portraits, and said she enjoyed working with me because she didn’t have to bribe me with candy to smile.  Or so she thought…

We took so many photos of several wrapping tutorials that I’m splitting them up into two posts.  Today, we’ll look at basic wrapping, utilizing tissue paper and a six-loop bow.  Post two covers utilizing double-sided paper, four-loop bows, working with tulle, and selecting innovative and environmentally friendly gift bags!

There are a lot of photos in this post.  I wanted to give you as much information as possible without insulting your intelligence.  Sorry if I ere on the side of not enough details or too many.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Okay, put on your Santa hat.  It’s time to delve in!

Assembling Your Materials

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Pull out ribbon, wrapping paper, tissue paper, tulle, tape – any old scotch tape will do, scissors, stickers and gift tags.

For the sake of simplicity, I didn’t add gift tags to this tutorial, but I will show you which step to add the tags to your bow if you’re using a hanging tag and not a sticker tag.

I prefer the thickest wrapping paper possible.  If it’s not thick, you can’t pull it tight around the gift box – it will just tear at the corners.  I get my wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby during Christmas.  It’s 50 percent off, which makes it about $5 for a huge roll, and I only buy patterns that can be used year around.  Now every year I buy one roll to add to my collection.

Wrapping on a hard surface is best.  Sometimes I wrap standing up.  Sometimes sitting down.  Sometimes sitting on the floor, although my back regrets it afterwards.

Gift One: Wrapping a Shirt Box

Most of my loose gifts – ones not already in their own package like a board game – go in a shirt box.  I get a big pack of multiple sizes from Hobby Lobby every year.

tissue paperFirst, make a tissue paper lining.  Lay a two-layer stack of tissue paper over your assembled box to measure the length.  Then fold the stack under until the paper is as long as the box.

tissue paper

On a flat surface, lay out the paper and give it a strong crease along the fold you measured.  The key to working with tissue paper is to keep it sharp and unwrinkled with strategic creases and folds.  Sure you’ll smush up tissue paper if protecting and packaging a breakable item, but more often than not, flat, creased tissue paper is the way to go.

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Most tissue paper isn’t wide enough to be wrapped around the box, so make a second folded tissue paper stack for the other side of the box.  Place them box in the box so that there is room on each side of the box for a tissue paper flap.  Place the item your wrapping in the box.  Make sure to fold it nicely.

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Now bring the two sides together.  Fold the top layer of tissue paper over so that it meets the bottom layer about half way across the box.  Make sure when you fold the tissue paper that you make a crisp fold.  Secure it with a sticker or piece of tape.  I got these fun mustache stickers at Hobby Lobby, but you could do anything from festive striped tape, funny stickers or monogram stickers.  The world is your oyster…err sticker!

Use this fancy tissue paper wrapping technique for anything you put in a box – clothes, china, books, picture frames.  Make sure to still include the tissue paper to protect breakables, just wrap it all in the beautiful folded paper.

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Now it’s time for wrapping paper.

Only cut just as much as you need, and always cut an entire piece of paper.  Never cut out a square of paper, leaving a scrap left on the roll.  You can save your scraps, but save them in a separate roll.  It’s those scraps hanging off the roll that catch and cause large panels of your wrapping paper to get ruined.

Tape your first edge down really well.  This is going to anchor the rest of the wrapping, so make sure the tape is secure.

If you have a little extra paper on the length of your package like I had here, fold it over rather than cutting it off.  Folding the paper gives the edge a strong look, and hey, it’s less work!

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Now turn the package so the untaped flap is facing towards you.  Trust me.  It’s a small but important step.

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Place a piece of tape on the flap.  The sticky side of the tape will be facing you and affixed to the inside of the wrapping paper flap.  Fold the tape over, pull the paper tight around the package and affix the folded tape to the box.  Repeat to the right and the  left of the tape if it’s a long box.

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You’re halfway finished and there is not a single bit of visible tape on the package.  Fold in the corners, tape them down (no folding the tape this time since the flap will cover any tape) and and fold up the top flaps.  Repeat on the other side.

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Stand the box on it’s edge and tape the side flaps down the same way as the center fold – with the tape folded under the wrapping paper and hidden.  Once again, it works best if the flap is facing away from you.  Repeat on the other side.

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No tape!  Look at those sharp lines!

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Now it’s time for ribbon!  Conventional wisdom/wrapping etiquette (if there is such a thing) says the ribbon should cover the back seam.  So this package’s bow is on the long-side of the package since the seam was also on the long side.  I try to always do this.  But sometimes I’m running low on ribbon, so I don’t.

Take your ribbon and measure out enough to wrap around the package plus enough for a good bow.  Tie a knot.  This is where you can tie on a gift tag.  I tied on this cute jingle bell I found at Pier 1.  Tie another knot to secure the tag or bell.  (Skip this if you didn’t add anything).  Then tie a bow!

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You can make the bow perfect after it’s tied by grabbing the loops of the bow in one hand and the tails in another and giving them both a gentle tug.  That should help everything to even out.

Gift Two: Tying a Multi-Loop Bow

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The bigger the package, the bigger the bow! I wrapped this board game with a two-inch thick ribbon.  It’s a great size for big bows.

Start by measuring out your ribbon.  You’ll need enough to tie a bow around the package’s length and width with about eight inches of excess on either side.  I like to measure my ribbon by wrapping it around the package.  Then I cut it, pull it off the package, establish the exact middle of the ribbon and start again.  Remember when tying these wrap around bows, you’ll need to turn the package upside down and start at the underside.

The bigger the package, the bigger the bow!

Tie one knot.  Now it looks like this.  It’s pretty, but look at how nicely tufted the tied ribbon is.  And look at how sad and out of place the flat bottom ribbon looks.  Sad faces all around.

This important step will make it all right.  It will also keep you from having to ask someone to stick their finger on your ribbon.

I learned this step my first week working at one of my college boutiques.  I asked a sweet lady named Sadie – a seventy-year-old African American woman who could have walked straight out of a Harper Lee story – if she could hold a finger on my bow.  She said, “No, honey child.  You’ve got to learn to do that yourself.  We’re all too busy to stop and do that for each other.”  She showed me this step and I never looked back.

Start by identifying the ribbon forming the top of the knot.  For me, you’ll see that my right hand is holding it.  Next, thread that ribbon under all of the ribbon to the exact opposite quadrant of the package.  It’s going to go to where my left hand is.   Notice my green guiding arrow.

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Now it looks like a complete mess.  Have no fear!

I’ve switched the ribbons in my hand.  Now my left hand is holding the ribbon that was threaded, and my right hand is holding the bottom ribbon, which has naturally moved into the top right quadrant of the package.   Tie it into a knot.  Magic is about to happen.

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Magic!  Now all four ribbons are pulled into the knot, not just the top ribbon.  This is a little trick that makes a huge difference in the appearance of your gift wrap.  Do it a few times and you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.

This is also when you would tie a gift tag on.  You want the gift tag to be on a fairly long string, because the bow will be a few inches on either side.

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To tie a bow: take a length of ribbon and make your first loop.  Scrunch it together at the end, twist the ribbon an entire turn and make a loop on the other side, making sure to scrunch and twist the ribbon at every step.

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Soon it looks like this.

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Place the bow on the knot of the ribbon already wrapped around the gift.  Hold down the center of the bow on the knot.  Remember how I said to leave about eight inches of excess ribbon when you wrapped ribbon around the box?  Grab that and tie a knot around your bow.  Tie it really tight.

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Now it’s affixed.  You can fluff it and mess with it until it’s perfect.  Trim the excess.

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And there you have it!  It looks so special and decadent!

I hope this was helpful to you and all your ribbon-tying endeavors!  Don’t forget to check out Gift Wrapping Tutorial Part Two!