Save Time, Paper, and the Planet with this wrapping method

Experience the Joy of Wrapping Presents with Fabric 

What happens to all of the gift wrap and decorations from the holiday season? In the US, 4 million tons of gift wrap and decorations end up in the landfill every holiday season. That breaks my heart that we use this wrapping paper just one time and then we dump it. One sustainable alternative is fabric gift wrap. 

You may not have realized that paper gift wrap was a problem. Unfortunately, most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable. Ugh, what a shame. But there is a better option that is beautiful, thoughtful, and creates less waste.paper gift wrap creates a lot of waste

If you add the cost of buying wrapping paper and gift bags for birthdays, Christmas, Hanukah, graduation, and the other celebrations, then wrapping in something beautiful and reusable starts to make so even more sense.

Why Wrap Presents with Fabric?

I adopted the concept of wrapping presents in fabric a few years ago and every year my enthusiasm and excitement grows. Here’s the lowdown on wrapping with fabric.

  • Saves money
  • Saves time
  • Saves Sanity

I’m not sure which of the three we want to save more, but the fact that wrapping gifts in fabric helps with all of this is enough reason to adopt this practice.

Add in that this practice is environmentally friendly and creates less waste and I can hear the sea turtles and spotted owls cheering us on with their animal songs. 

The reason for the gift giving is to bring joy to the people we love and celebrate the holiday traditions. If you can bring joy and be kind to the planet, have a zero waste gift wrap, and save yourself time, why wouldn’t you do it?giving gift to a girl

How does gift wrapping in fabric save time & sanity?

Are you one of those people who is a pro at wrapping presents. Excellent. As for the rest of us, figuring out the right size paper and how to wrap it is really challenging.

When you wrap with fabric if you start out wrapping the wrong way, its ok. You can just unwrap and start again. With paper, you’ve already potentially ripped the paper or at the very least crinkled it. How many times how have almost finished wrapping a present with paper only to find that you have run out of paper and still have more present to cover. Too many terrible times.

You might be the kind of person who wraps a present and it has neat little corners and perfectly creased edges made my folding in triangles of paper at just the right angle. I think the number of times that I have completed that action equal the same amount of times I have sunk the winning eight ball when playing pool. Precisely 2 winters in my life was I that good. Now I just pray not to shoot the pool balls across the room. And with fabric present wrapping- I never have to worry about corners or creases at all. It just folds and fits easily, forming to the shape of whatever I’m wrapping.

I was talking to another mom this week who has 3 kids. It takes her and her husband close to 3 hours to wrap presents for the kids. Holy moly! I can wrap each present that I’m wrapping in fabric in the time it takes to tie my shoes. Literally, two ties in the fabric and I’m done!

I wish I would have thought to share this with her. But I’ve been a little sleep-deprived with the newborn and was doing my best just to have a conversation at a normal talking speed. Plus it didn’t occur to me until we had parted ways that there’s a reason that wrapping gifts doesn’t take me too long- I’m not using paper gift wrap.

Gift wrap with joy!

I am all about making everyday activities more joyful. Wrapping with fabric is an entirely different process for me than wrapping with paper. The amount of joy I feel is at least double. Gone is the stress of taking time to do something just right. Instead I wrap the item in a beautiful fabric and I’m finished quickly. Then I simply admire the way the fabric folds drape across the wrapped gift.

Fabric is the Best for Wrapping Uncommon or Irregular Shapes

Which brings me to my second big revelation. Have you ever had to wrap something that was an awkward shape? I think that this has happened to me roughly 78% of the time when I am giving a gift.

How many times have you wasted gift wrapping paper in the past by cutting out the wrong size? How many times has the paper crumbled as you tried again and again to wrap a weirdly shaped gift with a flat piece of gift wrap.

Its not too difficult to wrap a square or rectangle shaped box in paper when you know how, but there are many other shape gifts out there. When you start wrapping with fabric, you’ll love how easy and forgiving the fabric is to drape around the strange shaped gift in any way that you choose. 

Wrapping a gift with an awkward shape actually becomes easy when you wrap with fabric. how to wrap an awkward shaped gift

You will discover that one of the amazing aspects about wrapping with fabric is it is flexible. It conforms to whatever you’re wrapping and lends a certain beauty to the item.

Where do you buy furoshiki wrapping and fabric gift wrap?

You don’t need a special furoshiki fabric to wrap. I buy or find squares or bags of fabric and wrap with them. Things that you can use to wrap presents are:

For wrapping:

To tie/secure the gift wrap

  • Ribbon
  • String
  • Twine
  • Rubber bands
  • Scrap fabric

All throughout the year I keep ribbons and other bows that we come across in gifts that we are given. Three years ago I was at a baby shower where they were putting every wrapping from the just-opened gift into a trash bag. Much of the wrapping was tissue. I asked if I could take it home, unless they were going to use it. They gladly agreed and I have had enough tissue paper to get me through the last 3 years.

How do I wrap a present with fabric?

The answer to this depends on how involved and detailed you want to get with the process. When I want to wrap something quickly and halfway-decent, I do as follows.

Put the present in the center of the fabric piece. Tie two opposite corners together in the middle (over the present). Tie the other two opposite corners over the first two. You can tuck the extra fabric edges in where you like or tie a pinecone, piece of cinnamon or other decorative item in the final tying.

You can also take a scarf or long piece of fabric and place the item on one long end of the fabric. Then slowly start rolling the gift up in the fabric, making sure that the shorter edges allow the present to be hidden.

With a cloth bag or pillowcase, you can put the present in the bag and cinch it with a ribbon or fancy tie and your present is wrapped faster than you can figure out how much paper and tape and what size you need for your next present-wrapping adventure.

It is wonderful to know that if you run out of paper gift wrap or don’t want to use it in the first place, that you have other options available that are equally beautiful and useful. This image from the Japanese Department of Environment shares more fabric wrapping techniques in the art of furoshiki. 

What is furoshiki, the Japanese Art of wrapping with fabric?

Furoshiki is the Japanese wrapping cloth, used to wrap presents, bento boxes, and other items to carry. It started out back in 700 AD during the Nara period. Later it got it name (which actually means “bath spread”) when Japanese bathers would wrap up their clothing to make sure that their bathing bundle didn’t get mixed up with someone else’s clothes. Talk about a kimono chaos if that happened!

In Korea they have a similar practice. There the wrapping cloth is called a bojagi and is a square made of cotton, silk, or ramie. It was thought that by using bojagi, the contents were protected and good luck was kept intact, accordingly to Traditional Korean religions.

Interestingly, in the US it seems the only fabric bag we use on a regular basis for gift giving is the wine bag. I’d love to see us widen this practice and make fabric wrapped gift giving more common. It is such a beautiful practice.

Tis Better to Give, they say…

In terms of the giving of the gift, you can declare upon giving that you would like the bag/cloth back or make it part of the gift. For Christmas at my house, I simply keep a box of fabrics that we use for wrapping presents. Everyone knows that the fabrics will be used again the next year. When I first started my fabric wrapping practice, money was tight. So the first year I only bought 2 holiday themed fabrics and the rest were just fabrics I had around the house. Since that year I typically pick out 1-2 new fabrics every year to add to our holiday fabric wrapping stash.

Similarly, you can give the bag as a gift. If you have friends and family who are interested in living with less, then this is the perfect kind of gift that doesn’t increase the burden of stuff that they own- and instead gives them something useful that they can give away too, if they desire.

If you are deep in the holiday season and want to know how to have a less chaotic holiday, read my 5 tips for less stress this holiday season here. I also have a video around cultivating a self-care mindset at the holiday season that you can find here.

Wishing you stress-free holidays and gift-giving experiences,

-Rachel Strivelli

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