How to perfectly wrap any Christmas present
Squishy things, delicate packages, awkward-shaped oddities? We’ve got every gift covered…
The task of wrapping presents is a bit Marmite. Some love it and can ace it like an art form while the rest of us simply muddle on through. You can spot our parcels in the Secret Santa pile – their ragged paper edges and bits of wayward tape are a dead giveaway.
The holidays are all about sharing, though, so we asked those in the wrapping know to let us in on their winning formulas for perfect parcels.
The right paper
Partner & Customer Support Assistant Taslima Tabassum (who has been wrapping customers’ gifts at John Lewis for years) says you need to start with quality paper. ‘Thin paper can tear on sharp edges but quality paper is worth the extra cost,’ she says. ‘The thickness allows you to pull up the sides tightly, giving a good crease on the edges of a wrapped box for a clean look.’
Gift paper used to get a bad rap for not being easy to recycle but all John Lewis gift wrap is now 100% recyclable, thanks to using specially-developed inks and going glitter-free. Plus there’s been a bold move away from shrink-wrapping the rolls in order to save more than 2,500 tonnes of plastic.
Style-wise, each of us will have our own preference but what does Taslima choose? ‘For Christmas, I love gold paper with traditional red ribbon or midnight blue for a modern twist,’ she says. ‘I always add ribbon – either very coordinated or totally contrasting.’
And if you can’t find wrapping paper you like, there are always DIY options. ‘You can make your own Christmas wrap designs using plain brown craft paper,’ suggests Taslima. ‘Try gluing on pompoms for a quirky handmade feel or stamp a design onto the paper with a personalised stamper, which you can reuse for many Christmases to come.’
Hitting the sofa to juggle parcels on your knee as you wrap sounds appealing but will get messy – you really do need a flat surface and space to work in. Cut enough paper for your gift (be generous here – it’s best to have a little too much). ‘Place your gift upside down on the paper, then bring up the sides to overlap,’ explains Taslima. ‘You always want the edges of the paper to be on the underside of the gift, not the top. Then fold in the corners.’
Taslima loves the challenge of wrapping unusually-shaped items and once gift-wrapped a set of luggage. Odd-shaped presents can be the undoing of many of us but the expert solution is to box before you wrap. It not only makes the task easier, it also disguises a give-away shape for those who can’t resist prodding, shaking and guessing before the big day.
It’s not the only option though. Gift bags come into their own here and are also brilliant for gathering up a cluster of small gifts. You can also buy fabric gift bags which are designed to reuse, or you can even make the wrapping a part of the present. A festive tea towel and twine to wrap a cookbook, or a printed scarf tied around a small box of jewellery are stylish options with zero waste.
In the round
‘If you’re wrapping cylindrical objects, then pleating the paper top and bottom always looks professional,’ says Taslima. ‘Begin by wrapping the paper around the cylinder then, starting at the top, fold small equal sections into the middle, holding in place until complete. Secure with tape or a sticker.’
Or why not wrap a tube to look like a cracker? Cut enough paper to give excess to twist each end and secure that with an elastic band – you can always conceal this with ribbon. Trim the ends for a neat finish. A smart zigzag from pinking shears works wonders or go purposefully wavy if you’re trimming free-hand.
For maximum impact with minimal fuss, Taslima’s top tip is to focus on a particularly lovely ribbon. ‘I like to layer a contrasting narrow ribbon over a wider one,’ she says.
Gift wrapping guru Jane Means agrees. ‘You can always finish your gift with a ready-made ribbon bow too,’ she adds. Jane often uses strings of pompoms or tinsel around gifts instead of (or as well as) ribbon for a fun, tactile effect. Just wind a few lengths around the middle part of your present and tie or tape to secure.
‘Tying a bauble onto the ribbon on a gift makes it especially eye-catching,’ says Jane. Choose a colour that works with your wrap or look for novelty baubles that will mean something to the recipient. It will make a lovely keepsake and is a great distraction from any untidy wrapping.
‘Fresh greenery with some fragrance such as laurel, bay, or rosemary work well and look beautiful tied with simple twine or brown string,’ says Jane. ‘And writing names on fresh leaves in gold pen is a great alternative to gift tags.’
When it comes to tags, do something creative. Brush up on modern calligraphy, using a simple alphabet printing/stamping kit or print out a favourite photo of that person. These personal touches will make the present giving and receiving all the more heartfelt.
Gather some savvy kit
A few essentials will make wrapping so much easier. ‘Double-sided sticky tape is a must for attaching decorative bows, pompoms and foliage, and for keeping the corners of your paper in place without visible tape – it’s the most important thing for making your gifts look really special,’ says Taslima.
‘I always cut ribbon ends to a point to look smart,’ shares Jane. ‘I keep a piece of ribbon tied to my fabric scissors, so I can keep them sharp by making sure they’re only used ever to cut ribbon.’ Masking tape can also be handy if you don’t have an extra pair of hands to help hold corners down as you wrap – it can be gently peeled away once the double-sided sticky tape is in place.
‘Stock up on tissue paper and bubble wrap too,’ Taslima continues. ‘I always use colourful tissue paper as it adds to the sense of occasion, over a layer of bubble wrap to protect the most fragile items.’