10 Cheap, Handmade Gift Wrapping Ideas


I’ve noticed that people spend a fortune on wrapping and embellishing holiday gifts. And for what? Football fields full of shiny bows and acres of that gorgeous paper just get wadded up and tossed in the trash (unless you’re my grandmother, and then the bows get saved for next year). What are some simpler, more cost-effective and earth-friendly ways to present a stunningly wrapped gift without all the waste? Here are some ideas.

1. Go Natural

Lying outside under my five pine trees at this very moment are no less than 100 pine cones. I kid you not. Combine with some crisp brown shipping paper, twine, and a sprig of cut evergreen, and you have an elegantly wrapped gift. If you don’t have access to pine cones, try pressed leaves, shells, or dried flowers.

2. Twine and Raffia

For a simple, natural, and elegant look, tie your wrapped gifts with twine or raffia. Both go best with solid-color matte wrapping paper. Since they’re completely natural products, they’re biodegradable.

3. Shipping Paper

Humble brown shipping paper is my favorite choice for gift wrap. It’s the perfect blank canvas for creating a little drama with natural bows and other creative and unexpected wrapping ideas.

4. Old Photographs

Old family photos or black-and-white antique photos of nature scenes set in photo-mounting corners on a gift or tied with twine make an artful bow replacement. Keep an eye out for them at yard sales or flea markets all year long, and you’ll have more than you need when the holidays hit.

5. Vintage Postcards

Vintage postcards or the fronts of antique holiday cards are great ways to embellish gifts with or without a bow. Use that standard brown paper, or let the color pallet of the card dictate your paper color. Matte-green paper with green raffia and an antique Christmas card in various shades of green creates a stunning presentation.

6. Plain Paper Bags

Plain paper lunch bags work especially well if you’re wrapping gifts for kids or getting kids involved in the gift-giving. Let them decorate the bags with markers, acrylic paint, or collages.

7. Make Your Gift Part of the Wrapping

Depending on the gift you’re giving, replace the bow with part of the gift itself. Use twine or raffia to securely tie a piece of wrapped chocolate or a gift card to your main gift.

8. Vintage Ornaments

Vintage tree ornaments can become “bows” when artfully tied with ribbon or raffia. Pick up orphaned ornaments at yard sales or thrift stores for an economical way to embellish your gifts.

9. Custom Tags

Recycle old greeting cards or card stock for customized holiday gift tags. A bit of calligraphy, drawing, or water-color design adds a handmade touch.

10. Wallpaper Remnants

Vintage wallpaper (especially toile designs) is perfect for holiday gift wrapping. It’s a bit thicker, but it folds nicely and has a classic tailored look.

See? Wrapping gifts doesn’t have to be expensive or routine. With a little ingenuity and some creative effort, your gifts will not only look amazing, but you’ll also spend less money too.

What are some ways that you let out your inner Martha Stewart when it comes to wrapping gifts?

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Meg Favreau's picture

I love the antique photo idea -- I have a tendency to collect ephemera like that, and I think old photos would look lovely with brown-paper wrapping.

The last gift I wrapped was a wedding gift. I had a big piece of sparkly fabric around, and I brought the fabric's four corners into the middle of the box and tied them into a bow. I was really happy with how it looked, and I'm hoping the couple will save the fabric to wrap another gift at some point.

Guest's picture

I found a pattern that shows how to make an origami gift box using old calendar pages. It's great for small gifts. And I sometimes buy a cloth shopping tote to use as a gift bag.