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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Paper Doll Wraps Up Some Alternatives to Wrapping Paper (Part 2)

Readers, last week we explored ways to keep all the wrapping paper, ribbons and supplies of the holiday season...under wraps. Today, we're going to examine some alternatives to using traditional rolls of wrapping paper to help you accomplish multiple goals at once:

  • Decorate your gifts with festive, attractive (or at least serviceable) wrapping without purchasing new paper.
  • Save money.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint and protect the environment a bit.
  • Solve wrapping conundrums that formerly yielded messy, crumpled, adhesive-lumped blobs.
If that last benefit seems out of place, then you're probably one of those people who generally wraps everything from lounge chairs to vacuum cleaners with equal and impressive aplomb. Paper Doll is pleased to have you as a reader, but will never give you a self-wrapped gift for fear of offending your aesthetic sensibilities. Let's just say that I'm lucky my best friend's little boy looked past my miserable attempt to wrap a stuffed lion. The circle of life was more a dodecahedron of Scotch® tape and rough angles. Readers, it was not pretty.

Thankfully, we have other options.


The coolest alternative to wrapping paper comes by way of Japan. Furoshiki, the Japanese art of gift wrapping, is stunning. Using techniques to fold cloth, much like origami involves folding paper, furoshiki allows one to turn any ample sized piece of material into a practical yet artistic creation. Wrap a gift (or packages for easier carrying) using basic techniques illustrated at Japan's Ministry of the Environment furoshiki page.

The idea is to re-purpose (or invest in) beautiful, reusable cloths, such as those carried by Furoshiki.com, in any of a variety of designer or traditional patterns and multiple sizes. Longtime readers will not be surprised to find that Paper Doll is transfixed by not-so-December-esque options in pink, like this Sakura (Cherry Blossom) furoshiki design:

If you're wondering how two wine (or sparkling cider) bottles like this

could be transformed into something softly, daintily wrapped as this:

pop over to this video from RecycleNow.

Without tape, ribbons or a glue gun, you can transform a present into a wrapped work of art -- provided you've got the manual dexterity and the ability to transform the conceptual into the tangible. The web abounds with instructional help for taking your wrapping to the next level.

For example, while it's not immediately apparent, you can click on each of the finished product pictures on the Furoshiki.com techniques page

to be guided by step-by-step IKEA-like directions. (That is, the descriptions refer to A and B...but there are no letter designations on the sketched diagrams.) And you can find more instructional videos on how to do furoshiki at WikiHow, Collection du Japon, WazukiShop.com, and Hizen-ya.co.uk.

But perhaps these instructions and videos made you feel as klutzy and all-thumbs as I did when I watched the popular Japanese viral video on how to fold T-shirts. If that's the case, don't worry, there are still many attractive, environmentally-friendly wrapping options for people like us.


Sometimes, you need to wrap a gift in a hurry, and you may not have wrapping paper or a beautifully designed piece of cloth. When something is better than nothing, consider what you might already have on hand that could make an ordinary gift really stand out.

Go On a Map Quest

Do your recipients have wanderlust or are they only accidental tourists? Although companies sell recycled maps as wrapping paper, why not dig through your glove compartment, your travel bag and your I'm-going-to-scrapbook-it-someday pile of vacation memorabilia of subway maps

and recycle your own collection? Think big--old, scrolling road maps that predate the Eisenhower Highway System, or think small--maps of theme parks or museums that match the recipients' tastes.

See You In The Funny Papers

At best, you were going to recycle those old Dilbert and Marmaduke comics anyway. Why not give them another life as holiday wrapping? Small children love brightly colored paper and aren't going to be more impressed by high gloss, so why not give them some Sunday funnies with their fun? (If you've got pen pals on distant shores, consider making a comics trade at some point during the year. Wouldn't it be neato for a kid who has newly discovered TinTin to receive the books wrapped in Belgian comics?

Read the Writing On The Wall

Or at least make use of the wallpaper. Do you have bits of wallpaper, shelf paper, Kraft or butcher paper or any other decorative or craft-oriented paper that's going to waste? Call upon your arts & crafts skills, or let the kids paint, crayon or doodle a masterpiece for wrapping Grandma and Grandpa's presents.

Deck the Halls with Aluminum Foil

It's shiny. It's smooth. You can make it crinkly if you want. It form-fits to whatever shape or size you're wrapping, and you often don't even need tape. Add a ribbon, colored twine, stickers, a blown-up balloon (or multiples) and you've got a surprise star from the drawers of your kitchen. (C'mon, they sell wrapping paper that looks just like aluminum foil. Why not go to the source?) When you're all done, you can use the foil to scour your oven racks and perform other amazing tasks.


When something is too oddly shaped to wrap the wrapping around it (like that aforementioned stuffed lion), contain it instead.

Bang the Drum

A clean coffee canister or cookie tin works great for hiding the true shape of a gift, and you've got a make-shift percussion instrument after the unwrapping is over. (OK, maybe you want to hide the latter fact.)


Depending on your choice of gift, the gift itself can be the container. Take a moment to envision what kinds of gifts are made complete by the container in which they come:
  • Gardening bag filled with tools
  • Bright plastic bucket with bath or beach toys
  • Sports-themed bag loaded with the paraphernalia of choice -- bowling ball in a bowling bag, a nine iron in a golf club travel bag, yoga togs, bricks and mat in a yoga duffel
  • Glass jars or canisters filled with the fixings for a hearty soup or a favorite dessert
Put a Little Bounce In Your Step

Lidded, opaque Rubbermaid® totes (Get it? Bounce? Rubbermaid?) are already

colorful, simple, and perfect for disguising the shape of large or unwieldy gifts. The more your present's wrapping serves as a decoy, the more surprised and delighted the recipient will be!


Sometimes, your containment policy needs a softer touch.

Don't Lose Your Marbles: Fabric Gift Bags

Remember those nifty little bags for holding onto your marbles? If Home Ec didn't put you at risk for ruining your permanent record, you might consider sewing your own treasure bags per the tutorial at Australian blog Threading My Way. Or, pretend you've time-traveled to the Little House on the Prairie era and use a decorative pillow case tied at the top with a ribbon. (Ma and Pa and Baby Carrie will be thrilled!) Conversely, you could buy the little bags. And don't tell me you've never heard of people re-using those oh-so regal Crown Royal bags for

everything from masking the true shape of tiny presents to corralling Scrabble® tiles. Drop it in, pull the drawstring and postpone learning those deft furoshiki methods for another year.

Don't Forget Fabric GIFTS

Who says you can't wrap a gift in a gift? Take your heavier, more solid gifts and wrap them them your choice of a second, fabric gift: a silk or wool scarf, pashmina, baby blanket, or colorful beach towel. If the main gift is big enough (think: bicycle or sled), consider wrapping it in (or perhaps draping it under) a gift of a comforter, fleece blanket or sleeping bag. (You could opt for a Snuggie® or Slanket®, but...don't. Just don't.)


Rejoice In Holiday Reruns

It works for It's A Wonderful Life and Santa Claus is Coming To Town! You can always reuse the least-wrinkled wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, bows and ribbons from last year. However, if you've got snooty recipients or your willingness to go green doesn't extend as far as re-using wrapping paper from year to year, at least save the scraps for your nearest crafting pals to use for decoupage, paper māche, scrapbook page borders, or origami...which brings us back to where we started, with Japanese solutions to our wrapping paper conundrums.

Perhaps it can be easy being green. I think if he could take time away from his current film's press junket, Kermit would be proud of what we've done here.

It's a wrap!

posted on: 12/6/2011 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Susan S. on 12/6/2011 10:41:38 PM:

So instead of just being er, cheap, my ancestors and I have actually been environmental pioneers who have a large credit in their carbon footprint offset bank? And the inside family joke of waiting to see who gets the lavender former11LEGS stationery box with a different Christmas gift inside isn't just an OCD attempt at numerous years of recycling? At least I come by my neuroses honestly and understandably, and over the decades my necessary frugality and forced creativity now have become something honorable rather than just weird or quirky? Ok, I accept that badge.

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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