Gift wrap 101: Tips on pretty packages from a ‘professional’

You can check out various DIY websites and find all kinds of brilliant ideas for holiday gift wrappi
After taping down one side of the wrap, make a fold along the other for a clean edge. (Pat Clark/Modesto Bee)
After taping down one side of the wrap, make a fold along the other for a clean edge. (Pat Clark/Modesto Bee)

You can check out various DIY websites and find all kinds of brilliant ideas for holiday gift wrapping. But folding together a tight, pretty package is more than fancy ribbons, cute cutouts and inventive gift tags. There are basics that have to come first.

I can pass on these basics because I was a professional gift wrapper. I worked my way through college in the customer service office at the long-defunct Gray’s department store.

The office also was the site of the free gift wrapping service desk. Customers love anything free.

Imagine that office during the holiday season. Sometimes I was the only person in the department. I had to come up with some serious tricks to get gifts wrapped fast, and well enough to pass customer muster.

Not to brag, but I was the fastest wrapper in the store. So call this gift wrap 101 — a few basics for tight, neat holiday delights.

Getting started

You’ll need decent tools: sharp scissors, tape, gift tags, a pen, ribbons and bows, tissue paper, boxes and gift bags of assorted sizes.

You’ll need good wrapping paper. That cheap thin stuff is going to tear when you tighten it on box corners.

(A side tip: Buy wrapping supplies the day after Christmas. They’re at least 50 percent off and most stores have stocked so much during the season, there’s still plenty to choose from.)

Have a garbage bag next to you to toss in cut-paper castoffs, price tags to keep a clutter-free space.

Do your wrapping on a large, flat surface like the dining room table or a tile-free kitchen island.

Tissue, please

If you’re placing something in a gift box, place one or two sheets of tissue paper inside the box, folding it in the middle to fit the size of the box. Place the gift in the center and fold over each side of tissue.

If you’re using a gift bag, lay two or three sheets of tissue paper on top of each other at various angles on the table. Place the bottom of the gift in the center then pull up the tissue around it. Gently insert into a gift bag (not too big or too small). Fold over at least one side of the tissue tips to cover the gift.

Now, take another sheet of tissue and fold it separately into a triangle. From the center at the widest part of the bottom, pull down the tissue to create a sort of dumpling wrapper shape. Tuck it into the gift bag so the loose corners stick up at varying heights, like paper flames coming out of the bag.

Paper trail

For wrapped presents, measure out the horizontal sides by rolling out more wrap than the box will need. Place the box, top down, in the middle of the paper, then bring the loose side (off the roll) over to the opposite far side of the box. Now take the roll side and fold it over the box, allowing for at least a two-inch overage. Snip the spot to mark it, then — as straight as you can — cut the paper.

If the vertical ends are too long for the size of the box, trim so that each end is a bit short of covering the box. The key is to not have too much paper, which leads to bulky gift syndrome. Center the box.

Fold over one horizontal side of paper and tape it down. Gently push the box into the fold so it’s taut against the paper. On the loose side, fold over one inch of paper for a clean edge. Fold the loose side over the box and gently pull it taut. Neatly tape it down in one or two spots along the folded edge to keep it secure and flat.

Moving to one vertical end, fold each side in so you have an envelope-like flap on the top and bottom. Crease down the paper on the bottom against the table for a taut fit and flat edge. Flip over the box and do the same on the other edge. Now, the top of package is facing up. Pull up the bottom flap taut against the box and tape it in place. Flip the box over again. Fold over at least a half-inch of the remaining flap to have that clean edge. Pull that side up taut over the other flap and neatly tape it down. Do the same on the other vertical end.

Now you can add your ribbons and bows and gift tags.

Tougher jobs:

Some odd-shaped packages can be a bear to wrap and are best suited to gift bags. But if you insist on having paper for the recipient to tear into, there are a couple of tricks to consider.

Some toys come with the front of the boxes open, making it hard to get a taut package. Cut a piece off a cardboard box to fit the open space and tuck it inside, securing it with tape, to create a firm side for the paper.

Flat gifts like calendars, video games, DVDs and CDs can be handled by making wrapping envelopes. Wrap the horizontal sides as noted above, but for the vertical ends, tuck the seam side of the paper back under the gift until it’s flat and you’ve created an envelope flap on the other side. Fold over the flap’s tip for a clean edge, then pull the flap over onto the seamed bottom and tape it down.

Cash and cards:

I’m not big on giving money or gift cards. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to open. Instead of tucking it into an envelope or one of those tiny gift card boxes, tape the money or card to an inexpensive but recipient-appropriate items — a canister of gourmet hot chocolate mix, a necktie, a box of candy.

Gifts, after all, should have thought put into them. And it’s all the better when they come in pretty packages.

Categories: Life and Arts

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