Avoid store-bought supplies and still end up with a present, perfect....
We know you can't judge a book by its cover, or a present by its wrapping, but a pretty presentation can go a long way toward making your holidays merry and bright. But when you think about all the money you spend buying paper that gets cut, ripped, and then (hopefully) recycled, it's hard not to feel some green guilt. Here, we've tracked down eight ways to use what you have on hand—from empty cereal boxes to old magazines—to present your gifts in beautiful wrappings (without blowing the budget).
1. Prepare for Odd Sizes
Some gifts just don't wrap easily—like footballs, action figures, and body lotion. To keep the contents a secret until opening time, you need boxes—so why not try making your own? This tutorial from Eco-Artware shows you how to repurpose a Corn Pops box into a square cardboard container custom-sized for whatever you're giving. Keep the patterned side out for a fun and funky finished look, or show off the plain side and decorate with stamps, paint, or a simple bow.
2. Have a Boxing Day
If you're the type who prefers online ordering to braving the stores during the holidays, then chances are good you have a ton of cardboard boxes in your house—or on their way. Skip the paper entirely with this kid-friendly idea from Morton Skogly: just mix up some childsafe paint, collect some old or spare sponges, and let the little ones put their own stamp on your decorating. Plain cardboard works fine, but you can also use smaller boxes from your pantry, old shoe boxes, or even tissue boxes since the paint will cover the design.
3. Cut and Paste
When it comes to wrapping gifts, don't underestimate the power of your magazine rack. You know you're not going to read those weeklies from July, so why not put them to good use? This mosaic decoupage project from Bellenza lets you create bright, colorful patchworks by gluing one-inch squares cut from magazines to crumpled newspaper for a look that's both eco-friendly and inexpensive.
4. Let It Shine
Covering your gifts with recycled aluminum foil gives them a holiday sparkle worthy of even the fussiest decorator—just picture a pile of these underneath the tree, reflecting your new collection of LED lights. On smaller gifts, you won't even need to use tape, and you can finish off your wrapping job with ribbon, bows, or even a simple piece of twine or colored string. Then once the unwrapping chaos has settled, collect your foil and reuse it in the kitchen—or on next year's gifts.
5. Get on a Roll
Prefer a more traditional look? Try making your own wrapping paper from a roll of plain butcher paper. At A Little Hut, designer Patricia Zapata sketched a leafy design and let her kids color in the pattern; try drawing a winter- or holiday-themed picture instead, or just freehand it. In the end, you'll recycle this paper just as you would any other wrapping paper, but you'll spend a lot less making it than you would buying.
6. Try Stripping
We like this project from MAKE because it feels like a take-off on the classic wrapping-a-gift-in-the-Sunday-comics route—though the finished product is more magazine-spread chic than preschool birthday party. The woven design comes from cutting wavy lines on one sheet of paper that's big enough to wrap your gift; then cut strips from magazines, newspapers, construction paper, or any other paper you have on hand and thread them in an alternating over/under. You're right: this is a lot of work. But the reuse possiblities—and the looks you'll get when people hear you made the paper—will make it worth it.
7. Know When to Fold
Want to give your gifts a more luxurious look? Try upcycling old fabric—shirts, sheets, pillowcases, towels, napkins—by dyeing, marbling, or painting it, and then folding it around your present for a unique wrap job. If you don't have any spare cloth on hand, look for old (good condition) pieces at your local thrift store or at yard sales; give yourself a bonus if you can find something (like an apron, kitchen towels, or placemats) that your recipient will use again.
8. Take a Bow
Then there's that perfect finishing touch: the bow. Anyone who's found a bag of unusable crumpled bows in last year's holiday carton will understand the relief of having just as many as you need, in just the right colors, without having extras to store; this year, try making your own from strips of magazine pages or paper cut to length and folded onto each other. You can also use pages from old books, scrapbook paper, or even spare photos to add an even more personal design to each present.