A Beginner's Guide to Wrapping Presents Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

A Beginner's Guide to Wrapping Presents

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Items required for gift-wrapping a present.

For a large number of people, wrapping presents can prove harder than actually buying them. In several cases it is usually left to the only person within a single group of people who has the skill to wrap presents. So, here are a few tips that will alleviate that one person's annual job and perhaps stop them from wrapping their own gifts.

Wrapping Paper

There are a wide variety of differing paper designs, from plain colours to elaborate patterns, but they usually all fall within four categories.

  • Paper roll or sheet
  • Metallic (mylar) paper roll or sheet
  • Hand-made paper
  • Crépe paper

Each category of wrapping paper does have its pros and cons. For example, paper roll wrapping - which is usually the preferred choice - can easily rip, but is easy to fold; whereas metallic paper doesn't rip so easily, but is also harder to fold.

Choosing The Right Paper

The type of paper should be dictated by the tastes of the person you're giving the present to; it is always a good idea to think of the person whose present you are wrapping. If their favourite colour is purple, then buy purple wrapping paper. If they like all things to do with Christmas, then buy them something with a Christmas design. These are just a couple of examples and it shows that a little thought went into buying the wrapping, as well as the present inside.

The category of wrapping paper that you buy can also be important, depending on the present that you are buying. If you're buying a gift for a young child, then wrapping it in expensive hand-made paper may prove a waste. It can also help with the wrapping itself, as certain paper may prove easier to use when wrapping certain presents.

Wrapping Accessories

Now that you have your paper, it's time to pick the little accessories that go with it. The accessories, once again, show that real thought went into your present, these may include:

  • Bows
  • Ribbon or decorative string
  • Tags
  • Glitter
  • Metallic stars/Christmas confetti

All of these make great additions, but again, are dependent on the gift you are buying and the person for whom the present is for.

Hand-made Accessories

If you are going to purchase hand-made paper, it may be a good idea to make hand-made accessories; for instance, a bow. Just buy some ribbon and some double-sided tape or glue, cut the ribbon into between eight and 16 even strips - depending on the ribbons width and how big you want the bow to be - stick the two ends of each individual strip together, pinch the now circular ribbon pieces in the middle and in a clockwork-style motion, stick all the pieces together in the middle and adjust until you have your bow.

You can even make simple tags with some coloured card. Cut the card to the appropriate size, fold it in the middle, then - using a hole punch - punch a hole in the corner of the card, threading a little ribbon through the hole. You can then decorate it with a little glitter or Christmas confetti.

Getting Ready

Now that you have all your necessary items, you are ready to wrap your present, but first you need to prepare yourself. You'll need a few extra items, including scissors and sticky tape (double sided or normal sticky tape), plus paper glue, boxes and tubes if they are required. You will then need to clear a flat surface, such as a table or on the floor.

Wrapping a Box

Wrapping boxes is probably the easiest of all things to wrap, as boxes are usually square or rectangular in design. But even this can become quite difficult, especially if it's a large box.

Boxes are usually measured by width, length and depth. The width is the shorter distance between the two sides, the length is the longer distance between the two ends and the depth is the distance between the top and bottom. So, when you measure your paper, the length will need to be twice the width plus two-and-a-half times the depth, while the width will need to be the length plus one-and-a-half times the depth. Once your paper is prepared, follow these steps.

  1. Lay your paper on a flat surface, design side down.

  2. Place your box in the middle of the paper upside down, so that the width of the box is facing the length of the paper and the length of the box is facing the width of the paper.

  3. Your first fold should cover one side and just over half the width of the bottom - secure with tape.

  4. The second fold should cover the other side and the rest of the bottom, with the edges just overlapping - secure this end with double-sided tape.

  5. You should now have a rectangular-shaped tube, with both ends of the box visible.

  6. Turn the box back on to its bottom, so that it is right side up and turn one end towards you.

  7. Fold one side in until the edges of the paper are flush with the ends of the box, secure with tape and fold - you should end up with a 45-degree-angle fold.

  8. Repeat step 7 on the top and the other side.

  9. You should now have two pieces of paper on the top and bottom, with two 45-degree-angle folds either side.

  10. Fold the bottom piece first and secure with tape.

  11. Do the same with the top, but secure with double-sided tape.

  12. Follow steps 7 to 11 on the other end. For ease, place the box on to the newly-wrapped end.

You now have a fully-wrapped box.

There are only two cases where some alterations may need to be made to the measurements of the paper. One is where both the width and the depth are the same and the other is where the box is 100% square.

In the first case, the measurements should be: the length is twice the length of the box plus two-and-a-half times the depth and the width should be the width of the box plus one-and-a-half times the depth. Then, simply follow the steps above, remembering to place the box with the length facing the length and the width facing the width.

In the second case, where the box is a pure square, the difference is when you fold the ends. When you follow step 7, don't slide the paper flush with the box, because each side fold will end in an overlap. Just secure the side folds in the middle of the paper and manually adjust the paper as you fold in the bottom and the top.

Wrapping a Tube

This is a lot easier than it sounds and gives you the chance to show off your artistic skills. You can get tubing in many different lengths and thickness; try to make sure that it is not too big or too small for the item you are wrapping. For the purpose of this example, we're wrapping a bottle and making it in to a Christmas cracker. The paper will need to be cut at twice the diameter of the tube and three times the length of the main tube.

  1. You will need to cut three lengths of tube: one the size of the present - the main tube - and two at one-third the length of the main tube - the side-tubes.

  2. Lay the paper on a flat surface, design side down.

  3. Place the main tube at the edge of the paper, in the middle. Making sure that you lay it on the edge that is three times the length.

  4. Then place the two side-tubes approximately three inches aside of the main tube and secure all three tubes with double-sided tape.

  5. Using both side-tubes, roll until you reach the other end of the paper and secure with double-sided tape.

  6. Holding one side-tube and the main tube, twist them in opposing directions to twist the paper (don't twist them to much, as you will probably rip the paper).

  7. Repeat step 6 on the other end.

  8. Tuck the excess paper into the two side tubes.

  9. Finally, tie some ribbon or decorative string around the middle of the two twists.

You now have your hand-made cracker, which is easy and quick to do.

Other Wrapping

As we all know, not all presents come in boxes or tubes and with such it is usually the case that many people will buy a bag and throw it in. However, it is always best to make the effort. So if you have a present that is a little difficult to wrap, the best suggestion is to get or buy a box or tube to fit it in and follow the directions above.

Adding the Finishing Touches

Now that you have your presents wrapped, it's time to add those final little touches. The norm is to wrap some ribbon around the box, place a bow in the middle and tie on the tag. This is a simple and easy decoration, but again, just give it a little thought. Instead of choosing the same colour accessories as the paper you are using, try and pick the negative (an example is black paper with white accessories), or pick two-tone colours or even colours that match, such as light blue and pink.

For decorative or designed paper, you will find that most shops will sell the matching accessories to match. You can decide to go for plain accessories instead: just look at the colours in the design and match them with the ribbons and bows.

If you are just using ribbon to decorate your present, then once you have tied it, try and create a curl with the excess lengths. Just use the blunt end of your scissors, hold the ribbon lightly on the blunt end with your thumb and pull it through in a downwards direction, the strength of the curl, will depend on how much pressure you hold the ribbon to the scissors.

If you are in the creative mood, then add a little glitter or Christmas confetti. Before you start though, put an old sheet or newspaper down first, as this can get a little messy. Draw the design you are creating on a piece of paper first, so you can get an idea of what it should look like. Then using a glue pen, draw your finished design on the present - you may have to do this in sections, depending on the complexity of your design, as the glue will dry fairly quickly - then just simply sprinkle the glitter over the present and shake off the excess. You can even use this method to write words, such as the person's name or 'Merry Christmas', but if you do want to write something, then choose a colour that will stand out.

It's The Thought That Counts

It is as true today as it always was and adding that little extra thought into the wrapping itself, makes the present just a bit more special and shows the person receiving the present, that you really have put thought into their gift. It may take some time, a bit of effort and usually a lot of patience, but the finished article looks good and makes you feel good about your effort.

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