Handmade Wrappings and Trappings


A handmade holiday is about more than just the gifts, as I’m coming to realize more and more. There are of course, handmade cards. But what about putting the human touch back into wrappings, tags, and the holiday decorations?

No, you don’t have to do it all. You don’t need to handmade 200 cards and send them to everyone you’ve met. You don’t need to get out the Spirograph and gel pens and painstakingly make 200 yards of gift wrap (although, Spirograph paper is too, too cool to completely miss). No, I’m talking about examining our relationship with all of the bits that go into our celebrations and thinking about changes over the next few years.

Wrapping: I love the idea of fabric gift bags for their reusability, but their floppy inelegance is a real turn-off. I like to wrap my presents, which is why I was so very happy to discover the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki. It melds the joy of a well-wrapped gift with the reusability of cloth. The website Furoshiki.com has wonderful descriptions, explains why they’re not quite square, shows techniques, and has cloths of various sizes to order. This government sponsored Furoshiki pdf is a great visual primer.  To further decrease the environmental costs, we bought some second-hand scraps of material in order to make these.  Give me a few minutes with some pinking shears and we’ll be all set.

Tags: You can easily and quickly make your own tags.  I’ve got a tutorial for simple paper tags.  But what about the idea of using polymer clay to make 4 permanent tags for each person in your immediate family?  Ali Edwards had an interesting post compiling suggestions for simplifying Christmas and one idea leapt out at me: give no more than 4 presents –

1. Something to read
2. Something they need
3. Something they want
4. Something to wear

With four permanent tags per person, this would be a wonderful way to cement the tradition.

Cards: there are lots of simple ways to handmake them.  I’ve got three ideas you’re free to use: a tree card, a present card, and an ornament card.  One year we stamped white circles on blue cards with potatoes to make snowpeople and drew details on when they’d dried.  The kids had a blast with that.


7 thoughts on “Handmade Wrappings and Trappings

  1. jax says:

    I try something similar to that with my children, and usually end up with an outfit, a book (or book collection, always from a discount store!), a toy or something they’ve chosen and something craft related.

    Oh, and we usually buy a DVD or something for the Christmas night as we’re often away in a hotel visiting relations, and it’s a nice family way to spend a quiet evening, watching a film. We’ve gone for things like Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Robots before now.

    For card making, we used to get pizzas that came on these polystyrene type backing boards, and we used those to draw on and use as kind of reverse printing if that makes any sense. Or we’ve used hama beads to make stars that we stuck on little scraps of felt on a card, very simple but very effective.

  2. Lisa says:

    The one thing I wish I’d saved from childhood and didn’t was the Spirograph! The original one with the uber-dangerous pins to hold the frames down!! I spent real money to buy spirograph stickers on etsy! With gel pens it would be awesome! I still love the original ballpoint blue, black, green and red colors. So evocative of a 60s childhood!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I went to Japan when i was 5 and totally remember their minimal-waste culture. We were on a trip with my father, who was on the board of Hitachi at the time. My mother discarded a pair of pantyhose with a hole in it. Three days and two cities later, the panty hose were returned. Washed, darned to original condition and ready to wear. We all have something to learn from the Japanese. Thanks for the pdf, it will help this Christmas!

  4. Charity says:

    This is so excellent! Thank you to the link for Firoshiki – I bought some fabric recently to make gift bags, but like you, don’t love the look of a fabric bag under the tree. :0)

  5. Nature Mama says:

    Love the gift wrapping in fabric idea 🙂 We started giving 4 gifts just like you mentioned above last year and I really like it. We are trying to simplify the whole holiday giving thing and are gearing more to handmade presents. Who knows maybe in the future we may be completely handmade 🙂
    I’m really enjoying your blog!

  6. Chrissy says:

    I love the cards. I am making mine this year. I will be doing stamping for the very first time. We are simplifying gifts this year as well. We are only giving 4 gifts. They will each get a game, something to create with, something to read and something that they want.

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