When I was in my 20s and a young mother, I decided I was going to learn how to sew. I took a series of dress making classes and started to produce some quite commendable pieces if I do say so myself. I will always remember the crusty yet wise dress making teacher saying that you have to be smart enough to choose the right sort of fabric for the style of garment you are making.
She said she had seen so many people over the years buy a heavy fabric for a pattern that required a floaty material or purchase a large print to go with an ornate panelled pattern making it virtually impossible to match at the seams or even try to team a light cotton with a pattern that required stretch fabric.
She despaired at the waste of money and further despaired at the finished product which usually fell far short of expectations and meant the creator rarely sewed again. She implored her students not to buy any fabric or patterns until they had learned what to look for and what to avoid at the input stage.
And so it is with gift wrapping.
Everyone can produce polished gift wrapping if they avoid a well-worn traps. After my fair share or costly mishaps and disappointing outcomes, here are my top six wrapping traps to avoid.
1. Buy gift wrap on a roll rather than gift wrap folded flat. Folded paper so beloved of discount shops and supermarkets has a number of deep folds which you can never remove and which will limit what and how you can wrap. How many of us have seen a present, usually at a wedding, with big fold marks across the centre where the paper has been opened out? Yes, you can strategically place a ribbon across some of the folds but chances are there will be more than one fold involved and you will end up with random ribbons covering folds in funny places. Wrapping paper on a roll has no folds, stores much better and is less likely to get damaged or crushed.
2. Always check how many metres are on the roll you are buying. Some paper rolls come in 2 metres, others 3 metres and still others 5 or 10 metres. When you check this out you may find you are paying an awful lot for a little bit of paper that may not even cover the item you are wrapping. And don’t forget to factor in the width as well as some papers are a good 10 to 20 cm less in width than others.
3. I love a bargain. Who doesn’t? But don’t whatever you do succumb to the bargain bin and buy the cheap wrapping paper. It is false economy. Cheap paper is usually thin. It is highly susceptible to tearing as you work with it, is virtually impossible to reposition if you need to and is often quite see through showing any markings on the box or item it is covering. Pay a little more for paper that is between 60 and 80 gsm. You’ll actually be ahead in the long run because it is easier to work with, won’t rip and it has some give and stretch.
4. I love papers with large and bold patterns – but the effect can be seriously diminished if you are wrapping a small or unusually shaped item. If you have small items, you may not get to see any of the pattern at all – only a partial piece of the image. If you are wrapping an unusual shape, it will be extremely difficult to match the pattern at folds and joins and you could end up with a really cluttered look. Save the big patterns for big gifts in the shape of a rectangular prism.
5. Unless you are a confident and experienced florist (in which case you will know all this) use cellophane and tissue paper with extreme care. Cellophane is hard to wrap with, rarely lays flat, is hard to fold under crisply and tears at the drop of a hat. Cello tape looks horrible on cellophane and even double sided tape doesn’t work all that well. Tissue paper is not as much of a no no but you have to be extremely judicious as to how you use it, how many layers you use to hide what’s inside and it always features the tell-tale fold lines. I’d stay away from tissue paper as an outside wrapping though its fine for an inside wraps to protect a gift or line a box.
6. If you have a plain paper, go for a patterned or heavily adorned ribbon, gift tag or embellishment. If you have a patterned paper, go for a plain tag or embellishment. Plain paper and plain embellishment equals ho hum. A loud paper with a loud embellishment rarely works as the two compete against each other and you’re spending way more than you need to.
I have learned these things the hard way. I am often asked by friends to wrap a gift for them which I am only too happy to do…but my little heart sinks when they bring the gift and the wrapping over to my house and they have managed to breach at least four of the six traps above. Save your pennies and your love for beautiful paper and embellishments that work with the gift at hand. That would make me really happy and I suspect it would make my sewing teacher happy too.