In its most basic terms, gift wrapping is a means of hiding or disguising a gift. It's supposed to add to the presentation, as well as to the suspense and enjoyment of getting a gift. Most of us have undoubtedly exclaimed at one time or another, “It's too pretty to open!”
Beautiful, intriguing, interesting, or whimsical -- gift wrap can be all of these, and it certainly doesn't ever have to be boring or mundane, especially not in the hands of an experienced crafter like you. The first thing you need to become a master gift-wrapper is to know and understand the basic tools of the trade.
First, there's the box. Now, not all gifts need to be contained in a box. A CD, audiotape, videotape, or book, for example, can be wrapped “as is.” But perhaps you don't want the recipient to pick up your gift and immediately have the look that says “I know what this is.” Part of the fun is to confuse or mislead. So, open your mind to odd shapes and sizes when wrapping familiar gifts. Put that CD or tape in a round box or one twice (or even 100 times) its size. Or wrap it in a series of ever-larger boxes.
It's also fun to play tricks with the package's weight. You can wrap a small gift in a shoe box with loads of tissue paper, then add a heavy book at the bottom of the box so the person getting the gift is completely thrown off course.
Another trick is to break a gift into parts and wrap each one. So, for instance, a potpourri simmer pot becomes four separate packages: one for the potpourri itself, one for the pot, one for the candle holder, and one for the candle or tea light. It's fun to create a series of directions on each gift leading the giftee to the next one, detailing which to open first and why. Try a poem or series of riddles to make it even more interesting.
Usually, once you've packaged a gift, you can wrap the entire thing with a sheet of gift wrap or tissue. Another variation is to wrap the box in sections; try covering just the top in gift wrap, or covering the top and bottom in different coordinating papers.
Another idea is to make the box part of the gift. How nice to receive a lovely beaded ornament in a handcrafted wooden box. Or a necklace that's cradled in velvet inside a cigar box you've decoupaged to become a new jewelry box. Boxes for gifts don't have to be boxes at all. Think of your gift box as an attractive container and all sorts of possibilities come to mind -- either ready-made or out of the craft basket. Here are some all-in-one gift and wrapping ideas to try:
A handmade candle in a punched and snipped tin holder adds to the gift -- and also solves a problem for the recipient. No need to find a candle holder!
Metal mini-loaf pans with homebaked bread in them can be wrapped in cellophane once they're cooled. Gather the wrap together at the top and tie with a ribbon or raffia. Add a rubber-stamped and embossed gift card.
Spray-paint a coffee can gold or silver. Fill it with cookies or other goodies. Replace the plastic lid and attach a gold or silver mylar bow. The can becomes a canister when it's empty.
Homemade potpourri given in a handcrafted clay bowl, simply wrapped in tulle (netting) and tied with a ribbon, is another completely handmade gift.
An empty oatmeal carton can be covered with paper or painted and used as both a gift box and a container to keep.
A clay flowerpot can be used as a gift container. Decorate the pot or leave it plain.
Give edibles in a lunch box or bread box.
Use all or part of an egg carton to hold several small, delicate gifts. Decorate or paint the outside.
Decorate a pail or bucket with paint or some other method. Fill with tissue and your gift.
There are lots of resources to teach you how to make your own boxes. Here are a few useful ones:
Joyful Origami Boxes by Tomoko Fuse and Tamoko Fuse
Making Your Own Decorative Boxes With Easy-To-Use Patterns by Karen Kjaeldgard-Larsen
The New Book of Boxes/A Stunning Collection of Elegant Gift Boxes by Kunio Ekiguchi
Mr. Ekiguchi has also written a highly recommended book on general gift wrapping called Gift Wrappings: Creative Ideas From Japan.
When you start using objects as gift containers that weren't originally intended for that purpose, suddenly you begin to see possibilities all around you. Yard sales and flea markets are full of inexpensive containers that can be adapted for gifts. Keep your eyes open when you read magazines or watch homestyle shows on TV, since they often show innovative gift-wrapping ideas. You might want to start a folder in your crafts filing cabinet just for gift-wrapping!