t’s the same story every year: after hours trawling the shops and online, you have finally bought all your presents – even something for difficult Aunt Sally and your brother who has everything. You pile it all into the car home and forget about it until Christmas Eve when you hastily stick together some scraps of wrapping paper from mum’s crafting drawer.
Under the tree, your presents look like a bleak afterthought next to the gorgeously presented offerings of your siblings.
At the best of times, gift wrapping can be as much of an undertaking as buying in the first place. The pressure is on to tie the perfect bow and achieve the neatest finish with flare. So, the best thing to do in this situation is turn to the professionals for help.
We spoke to two of the UK’s gift wrapping experts to get the lowdown on wrapping like a pro – from how to keep your carbon footprint as low as possible to achieving the smoothest finish and trying out the latest and most festive trends. Here’s everything you need to know.
Ultimate wrapping hacks
First off, make sure that you avoid using too much wrapping paper. According to Jane Means, British designer and co-founder of her own self-titled gift wrapping company, the two sides of the paper shouldn’t need to overlap too much as you fold, otherwise you end up wasting paper and it doesn’t fit around the gift as neatly as it should.
Means also says to invest in some double-sided tape for the smartest wrapping finish, and to seal those folds as smoothly as possible. “Nothing ruins a beautifully-wrapped present more than exposed tape,” agrees Jodie Mosaid, founder of London-based gifting and wrapping service Wrap Artists.
Alternatively, Jodie suggests using a double-sided adhesive gun to seal your paper folds together. “That way you’re saying goodbye to pulling bits of tape and sticking them, and you just zap and glue,” Jodie says.
Folding and creasing the paper as you wrap is “your best friend”, according to Jodie. “We like a sharp-looking present, and the best way to get that is to really crease the edges around a present, and fold the ends the paper to ensure a really neat finish.”
Both Amanda White, founder of bespoke wrapping service Gift Frippery, and Means recommend appealing to all senses when it comes to the gift wrapping – and unwrapping – experience, and this includes your sense of smell. Incorporating a sprig of holly, eucalyptus or rosemary – or even a spritz of cinnamon spray on each wrapped gift – will add a touch of festive aroma.
Try some wrapping paper alternatives
Test out some cute fabrics as a new way to wrap your gifts this year. “I love using muslin squares, commonly used for taking care of babies,” White says.
“They can be dyed with plants, berries and – my favourite – avocado stones, which produce a wonderful pink colour.”
For tricky shapes, think outside of the box. Means recommends using tissue paper, netting or linen napkins for small gifts. Wrap larger, bulkier presents in a large fabric – a table cloth, for example. Gather the material together at the top and secure with a ribbon. “You can even secure this effect by wrapping it in cellophane,” Means advises.
Cellophane is a good staple to have in your gift-wrapping drawer. If you’re wrapping several awkward items together, Means suggests you “cheat” and “use a basket, or terracotta plant pot and cover with cellophane”.
If you’d like to personalise your gift wrap, think about your recipient is interested in. Can you wrap your gift in old maps for an avid traveller? Or in old sheet music for a singer?
Don’t be afraid to start out plain
Means recommends always having a roll of brown paper at the bottom of your drawer, in case of unplanned gift wrapping. Also, it’s easy to customise.
“Texture is a big trend at the moment, so I recommend scrunching your brown paper up in a tight ball, smoothing it out to find an eye-catching crinkle effect,” she says.
White adds that using plain brown paper makes any embellishments really stand out. And after all, “it’s the embellishing that makes your gifts look extra special,” she recommends.
“The plainer the wrapping the more fun you can have with the embellishing – think of bells, dolly pegs, mini fans made from pleated paper, pom-poms.”
The sustainable options
Be mindful when planning your use of plastic-coated glitter or wrapping paper, as neither can be recycled. If you need some glitz, be sure to opt for a brand that is plastic-free.
Look out for some eco-friendly sellotape – there are some pretty cool alternatives out there, including biodegradable paper tape and zero-plastic sellotape.
Another old sustainable favourite is wrapping your goodies in old newspaper and ribbon. Be sure to remove any plastic sellotape you use before recycling the paper, and the ribbons can be reused next festive season.
Make your own gift wrap accessories
To add a festive twist to the task of writing gift tags, Means recommends writing using ivy leaves. “You can write on ivy leaves with a italic or Sharpie pen,” she says. “Once you’re done, store them in a jam jar of water to keep them fresh before you start wrapping.”
And if you’re feeling really creative – 2020 has, after all, been the year for home arts and crafts – you can also use old wallpaper to make envelopes. Challenge accepted.