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  • Neyir Urminsky

How to wrap presents with fabric

Earth Day 1992 saw me planting trees with my environment club. It was April of grade 11 (or was it Grade 10….?) I had joined the new environment club at my high school earlier in the year. Our teacher advisor was an artist, his wife also a teacher at our school specialized in languages, joining that club profoundly changed my outlook on many things. I remember learning about how much water the average North American used daily, I subsequently ran around after my parents turning off the water while they brushed their teeth (years later in Scotland I learned to only boiling as much water as I needed for a cup of tea). I learned about the 3 Rs, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle and a group from the Environment Club took the internal courtyard of our school known as the ‘Smokers Court’ and turned it into a mini garden space. If you are old enough to remember the early ‘90s then you’ll know that recycling programmes, waste reduction and water conservation were not the norm. The big focus was on aerosols and acid rain.

Fast forward to a few years ago, as a family we were composting regularly (our city does curb side pick up) and trying to reduce plastic where we could among other things. I heard on the radio about the 4 Rs, 4? Wait there is was a fourth, I didn’t know about a 4th! The new Rs are Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I loved that! You see over the years, living in different parts of Canada & other countries I had thought a lot about the 3 (4) Rs. Recycling is supposed to be the last step, the thing we do when we can’t solve a problem with the other three approaches yet it seems to get all the attention. Still I get it, after all there isn’t as much money to be made in those other Rs….but I digress.

2012 presents, I still use these ribbons!

Wrapping paper. I love wrapping paper and I love wrapping. No matter how tight our finances were during Grad school and subsequent post doc-ing I could always rationalize pretty wrapping paper because gifts, after all, need to be wrapped! One year being extra frugal I used only brown paper collected from all my work deliveries and spent money instead on pretty wired ribbon that I still re-use yearly.

But wrapping paper, at least the pretty ones and certainly the affordable ones, are rarely recyclable and even if they are, recycling is far, far from perfect. Look it up, I’ll wait... So what to do? We generate a lot of wrapping paper in our family, with 7 people and gifts from parents, grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, it adds up. Every year I feel deeply uncomfortable that we double our weekly garbage output just from Christmas garbage. I would love to do what my Uncle and Aunt do, keeping and reusing wrapping paper each year, but just thinking about it makes my executive function overload!. So what was the solution? Last year I really wanted to try wrapping with fabric but I ran out of time somehow. Oh wait, we all got covid, right that’s what happened!!!!

So this year I decided it was my year! Last week as the twins and I headed out on our annual gingerbread house candy buying I stopped at Fabricville. I headed right to the discount section and instructed the twins to look for the $2/$3 metre fabric. We chatted about types of fabric and patterns and what would look good together. We left with nearly 10 metres of fabric in 3 different weights for a total of $36. Then I came home and figured it out!

Foolproof wrapping with fabric - a tutorial

The preparatory steps

  1. Buy discount. Your local fabric store will have lovely fabric on sale, ask if you can’t find it.

  2. Better yet, buy used! You can use pretty tablecloths and sheets all available at your local charity/thrift stores. At the moment everyone is loving silk scarves, we’ll chat about them in a bit.

  3. You need at least 2 different weights of fabric.

  4. Silk scarves or light weight fabric is great and actually key to wrapping small or oddly shaped items. So you will want one fabric that is light and pliable, does not need to be silk! It just needs to be thin-ish and tie easily, the can be a little stretch/give to the fabric as well.

  5. Upholstery weight fabric for larger gifts and flat boxes. The heavier weight makes it easier to wrap in fabric then with paper and tape!

  6. You need something that ties. The presents wrapped with the heavier fabric will need yarn, string, ribbon etc to tie them together.

  7. Go wide! Fabric comes in different widths and the wider you can get the better, it will give you more fabric to play with and is also a better value.

  8. You don’t need to hem. With the heavier weight just like wrapping with paper the edges won't be visible, if they are & you really want to you could iron them with hemming tape. I did NOT do that nor will I.

  9. You’ll likely need more than you think. I bought 10 metres for our family of seven, each child receives roughly 4 gifts each from various family members and each adult 2. That makes our total about 22 gifts (that seems insane when I write it down!!!). Remember I did suggest a vacation instead this year…..

  10. You need good scissors, not paper cutting scissors, you may want to buy some when you grab your fabric.

  11. Consider an in between weight fabric. If you have a lot of large oddly shaped gifts (weird children’s toys or big boxes) then the in between is great! Still supple enough to tie together but thick enough that it stands up to the pulling needed with larger items. I ran out of my mid-weight at the end and grabbed some fleece I had and it worked great!

  12. Be prepared for the learning curve. This isn’t particularly hard but if it is new give yourself some grace and take your time. Start with smallish gifts that might feel more approachable. And remember if your fabric isn’t the right size you can use it for another larger or smaller gift.

The How to

The first thing you will do with each gift is decide what method to use. There are two. The first using heavier weight fabric is very similar to wrapping with paper. It suits flat items like books and flat boxes, even large flat boxes. I wrapped 4 large lego sets this way.

The second way is having a moment using silk scarves but you can use any light weight fabric you like. This is awesome for small items where the upholstery fabric would be too bulky. Also for those really odd shaped gifts and large items this process works beautifully as well!

Heavy fabric

Step 1 - cut fabric to overlap in all directions

Step2 - look at selvage edge, incorporate if pretty. In this case I will wrap so overlap is in the front to feature the edge

Step 3 - Overlap the sides that are shorter

Step 4 - Overlap one longer side, pull in slightly to make a narrowed end

Step 5 - Repeat with final side, if no selvage to feature secure with tie before flipping to finish tying on the front

Step 6 - Add tag and any other ornamentation

Lighter fabric, tied

Step 1 - Determine size of fabric and cut. Usually you will wrap on an angle. To determine size place gift towards the end of the fabric and gather the 2 cut corners high above the gift meeting over the middle, you want the corners created when you cut to be the same length when gathered at the top meeting over the middle of the gift. Be sure to cut enough fabric to tie easily 2 times. This step gets easier once you have done it a few times!

Step 2 - Take 2 corners that are opposite one another and make your first tie over the middle of the gift, tie snugly

Step 3 - Take the other 2 corners, opposite one another & tie snugly, this will sit right over the first tie. You may need to snug up that first tie, that is now underneath, again.

Step 4 - take the first 2 corners and tie over the second tie, now there are 3 ties on top of each other.

Step 5 - If desired tie the second 2 corners again

Step 6 - add label and extra decorations, you may need to untie the last tie to add label depending on how you are labelling.

Sagging sides? Fold in those edges & add ribbon!

****For tall gifts, when you are short on fabric or just have a gift where the fabric sides sag and show the contents. In this case gently fold the sagging edges together and secure with a ribbon around the top to hold.

I hope that this week you get lots of time with those you love. No matter how our homes (or gifts) look it is all about how they welcome us and others in and how it make us feel! Sending many blessings your way as you celebrate!!

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