Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wrapping Christmas Without Paper

I love Christmas morning – pretty much everything about it. The kids faces, the Grandparents searching for coffee, the big WAIT, then the rush down the stairs. I love being overcome by my children’s happiness. I love the shouting and the guessing and the thank you hugs. I love the joy that registers on my daughter’s face when she realizes she really did get the gift I told her Santa would never bring and the undeniable awe that overcomes my youngest son when he eyes the tree knee deep in presents. I even love the christening of the annual new hermit crab (to replace last year’s – we have no luck with hermit crabs. Every other living thing seems to thrive here, but not crabs), the six thousand step instruction manual for the newest Lego creation, and my oldest with his nose in his new book. It’s all wonderful. Except the paper. It always bothers me that we end up drowning in paper that was beautiful for a moment and is now trash. And I never know what we should do with it. If I was a different woman I might save it and iron it and use it again. But I really can’t imagine doing that and besides, I don’t iron. So we wad it up and use it to start fires and I worry about all that ink and what-not being released in to the air we breathe. Or we send it to the recycling and I wonder if the people at the dump throw it out anyway since they don’t like paper that is colorful and glossy. I know I’m odd, but it truly bothers me, all this paper.

This year will be different! It’s the year of the different Christmas (just ask my kids who are very worried about what Santa might not bring this year). This year I’m not using wrapping paper. However after surveying the options, not wrapping wasn’t one of them. I realize it’s very environmentally friendly and probably true to the real spirit of Santa to leave the presents bare, but I need the wrapping. I would miss all the anticipation, which is possibly the best thing about a Christmas present. So this year I’m wrapping our presents in fabric. I’ve seen this idea in several magazines but I’d always assumed it took someone who knew her way around a fabric store, could operate a sewing machine, and speak the lingo (“no, just 2 yards will be plenty from that bolt”). I can now say that you truly don’t have to be a whiz in home ec to handle wrapping your presents in fabric.

About two weeks ago, I set off for the fabric store with my daughter in tow (needed to have buy-in from the kids on this project). We picked out lots of beautiful Christmas fabrics that were on sale for ½ price and bought 2 yards of six different fabrics and a pair of pinking shears (love the name). Then we headed to the craft store where ribbon had been advertised 50% off. We picked out several spools of a different color ribbon for each family member. In lieu of tags we will tie the appropriate ribbon on each package.

Once home I chose a gift to wrap and carefully cut out enough fabric to cover the present just like I would if it was paper wrap. I used the pinking shears to make pretty edges on all four sides. Then I wrapped up the package like I wrap it with paper, only I was using fabric which was soft and didn’t tear or wrinkle. I folded the ends over and secured them with a tiny bit of masking tape. Then I looped a ribbon over the present hiding the masking tape and holding the wrap job on securely. It looked awesome! I have never been very good at wrapping presents neatly with paper. There always seem to be crinkles and gaps. I was a whiz with the fabric. I still can’t believe how gorgeous our presents look! And the best part is that on Christmas morning we can simply fold up the material and ribbons and save them until next year. This system will not only be better for the environment and my mental state, but it will make wrapping a snap. Grab a present, grab a suitable already cut piece of material, wrap, tie on appropriate color ribbon – done! No rolls of paper, ribbons that cost a fortune, or frustration.

For the smaller things, I sewed little bags to hold them. Now, before you stop reading, I must tell you that I don’t sew either so if I could do this, you can too. I can barely operate the machine and almost had a tantrum worthy of my daughter when I ran out of bobbin thread and had to figure out what to do. But I did it and in reality, it was super simple. The only thing you have to be able to do is sew a fairly straight line. I suppose you could even do it by hand, if you were so inclined.

Here’s what you do – cut out a piece of material about twice the size of what you want the bag to ultimately be. Fold it over with the back side of the material on the outside and sew along both sides, leaving the top open. When you are finished, trim off the excess thread, and flip the bag inside out. Instant gift bag! You can slip in the tiny presents and tie the bag closed with a ribbon. I made assorted sizes to hold gift cards or a small book.

My cousin shared her Santa bag idea with me. She sews a giant bag just like my little ones for each child. It is their “Santa bag”. They leave the empty bag and a note for Santa with their cookies on Christmas Eve and Santa fills the bag with their special present. I’m off too look for special Santa Bag material tomorrow.

Another idea for wrapping with fabric is to just place the gift in the center of the material and gather each end and tie with a ribbon – sort of like a candy wrapper. It looks cute too and is even simpler than actually wrapping. My kids, being partial to all things candy, will most likely employ this method.

I was so inspired by the success of this venture that I checked out the remnant bin at the fabric store and picked up some material that looked appropriate for birthday gifts. I’m finished with wrapping paper. I’ll miss the long empty tubes that make such great swords, but not the expense or the waste.


  1. Cara, You are not crazy; I feel the same way! I actually feel a physical ache when I see wad after wad of paper that *GASP* gets stuffed into a trash bag because it won't all fit in the recycle bin. And, like you, I worry whether the paper is recyclable at all with the tape still on it. Do I need to go through EVERY piece and rip off the tape? I love the Santa bag idea and, if I ever get my sewing machine fixed, I will do that for my three kids. Thanks for another great article! Andrea (Lisa W.'s friend!)

  2. I'm sorry to hear your hermit crabs has kept passing. Like other pets, they too have criteria that must be met so they can live and thrive while living in captivity. Please visit Crab Street Journal if you wish to attempt to keep hermit crabs in the future.