My Influence on the World

One of my roommates decided to use my envelope project to wrap a gift for her boyfriend. Well, to wrap a *picture* of a gift--the thing she ordered online hasn't come yet. I was imagining she would choose a magazine page with a great menswear ad on it, or some cool animal print on it.

So, I texted her earlier today:

Hey FYI, do not throw that envelope away when John opens it because I want to see it!

And she replies:

You got it. It has an old man and golden retrievers on it. Talk about gift wrap for dudes.

Not exactly what I had in mind, but I think her direction might actually be better. See? I am inspiring people!


Eco-Project: Brown Paper Wrapping

Less is more. That's my view on things. So when you have a great wrapping accessory, like a garland or a gorgeous bow, you need not use outlandish paper--you also shouldn't have to spend a ton of money. That's why brown paper makes such an attractive and useful wrap; it draws more attention to the accessories, you'll often have it on hand, and it's a great way to recycle.

For small gifts, a plain old paper shopping bag works just fine. For larger gifts, a big roll of sturdy, brown paper costs about 15 bucks and lasts forever. I always steal some from my mom when I'm home; my brother is still in high school and they make him use it to cover his text books (and you thought wrapping a gift was pointless). Packaging tape works best for this because regular Scotch tape wasn't designed to handle heavy-duty materials.

On the particular gift pictured, the brown paper gave me an opportunity to use the garland I bought from Pier One's awesome Christmas clearance sale. It's a funky gold-colored wire looped around itself and adorned with purple beads and stars. Once again, I apologize for the iPhone photo; in person it looked spectacular, especially against my floral bed sheets. I could not resist.

Using brown paper is possibly my favorite way to wrap. Instead of going out and buying different paper for every occasion, it's just so easy to have the single roll of brown paper on hand, and then to buy the awesome accessories, which usually hit the sales rack for cents apiece pretty quickly. I know, it sounds lazy, but the final product ends up looking so chic.

But yes. It is the perfect solution if you happen to be lazy.


Theme Wrap-Up: Wrap for Dudes Part II

So, we're talking about gender socialization, and how gift wrap tends to promote stereotypes that reinforce the male/female dichotomy. From baby showers to birthdays, we wrap gifts in colors and prints that "agree" with the sexes, and sometimes this can be fun. But let's say we want to put on our progressive caps and ignore those categories. Great! Still, we still might not want to wrap our boyfriends' presents in hot pink satin. Although that might be awesome.

If you refer to part one of this wrap-up, you'll see that I picked out a few wraps that target the masculine realm. This time, I want to share a set of prints that could suit any gender identification while still being attractive. Kind of like Natalie Portman. You have to love her no matter what gender you identify with, it's the rule.

Print by Paper Source

Many "masculine" gift wraps maintain an icky, beige/gray color palate. OK, I get it. Neutral, earthy colors lend themselves to an association with stability, order and of course, nature. But that doesn't mean they have to be ugly. Chocolates and golds are rich, friendly colors with universal appeal. The above print is appealing to all the senses--it's delicious to look at, but I also seriously want to eat this.

Print by Paper Source

You can do floral prints in a unisex fashion. My gauge says that if it could look sophisticated on a tie or a dress, it's probably a good print. The wrap floral is royal purple and muted silver with paisley intertwined; paisley can work for everyone, so a few flowers here and there doesn't give the print a glaringly feminine slant. The lesson here is, try to choose prints with colors that are strong and attractive on their own, and neutral prints like argyle, damask, and of course paisley, can work for all ilks. It would certainly not emasculate your boyfriend to give him a gift in this print--though it doesn't matter since he's already a huge feminist, right??

Print by Paper Source

It's tough to find wrapping paper that could equally extol the innocence of a young boy's birthday party *and* accentuate the excitement of a friend's house-warming. By now you guys know I love bird prints, but any artfully-done animal print could work just as well to highlight all occasions. The reason why I love this print is because you could slap a big old bow on it to wrap a Tonka truck for your nephew, but you could just as easily tie a tulle ribbon around it for a lovely, more "mature" token.

(Side note--can you tell by now that I ADORE Paper Source?)

Print by Kate's Paperie

Prints with "things" on them are great, but we tend to pigeonhole ourselves, once again, into gender-stereotyped corners (i.e., cars for boys, lipsticks for girls, etc.). When looking for a "thing" print, try something visually attractive with no particular slant. I love cameras and they come in wildly interesting models. Thus, an attractive print is born. The only caveat to this paper is that your recipient might foster false hope for a camera inside the wrapping.

Join me next time for "Ageism and Giftwrap: A Good Print Knows No Age."

Just joking. Unless you're interested.

Theme Wrap-Up: Wrap for Dudes Part I

Welcome to spring, everyone. Did those of you in college have a nice break? Did those of you in the real world enjoy your regular work week? At any rate, I would appreciate it if you check out my most recent craft posts you may have missed, here and here, to let me know what you think. Now on to the wrap-up!

Of late, it seems we've all been against promoting gender stereotypes. Baby nurseries are being painted green and yellow in lieu of the traditional pink or blue. A gender neutral world? Sure! I'm all about it. But this doesn't change the fact that it seems somewhat inappropriate to wrap a gift for a guy in a sheet swathed with flowers and kittens.

I scrounged the internet in search of what we consider "masculine" patterns, and these are the bunch the appeared over and over again:

The three prints above are available at Box and Wrap, along with countless other online stores. I sense a trend here. Men are worldly, historical, outdoorsy and technologically savvy. The prints follow suit. I actually love the idea of wrapping with a map. This decorative wrap above is great, but I also think wrapping with a real map is a neat idea (I smell a future craft post cooking). The car print is also kind of neat. The old fashioned models are charming and sophisticated; it would suit a "feminine" gift pretty well, too.

But bears? Trout? Forest greens? I enjoy camping just as much as the next person, but I wouldn't say this print is particularly appealing to wrap a gift, for men or women. Also, the color pallets of each wrap above is kind of, well, blah. There's got to be a better way!

Whimsy Press did find a creative way to take advantage of gender stereotypes:

You've got to admit, these are pretty cute. Good colors, great use of imagery, and most importantly, they're JOKING. C'mon people, it's gift wrap; can't take it too seriously. These are great rolls to buy if you have a slew of 5-year-olds' birthdays coming up, or if you enjoy whimsically wrapping for adult, male friends. The only issue is, you can't really multipurpose these wraps for girls. So you get less bang for your buck, and that's not the best.

That's why next time, I'll feature a selection of wraps aimed toward dudes in a totally gender-intermixable type of way. And you can guarantee that they won't all be beige.


California Style Wrapping

I don't think it's always appropriate to wrap presents. There are some gift-giving occasions where the gifts are better off being shared in a more discreet fashion. My example: baby showers.

Baby showers, while lovely gatherings, are essentially a way for new parents to acquire all the expensive things they'll need for baby's first stages of life. Many mothers-to-be feel like they need to make a big deal out of the gifts, because that, after all, is the primary reason for the occasion. But let's face it, opening gifts in front of a ton of people can be awkward. It's tough to give the same surprised, "OH, I LOVE it!!" over and over.

Additionally, for parents-to-be who are less well-off, the shower can feel too much like a charity. For new parents with financial stability, it might feel like taking advantage of guests.

My cousin and his wife had a baby in December, and for their shower, they asked everyone to wrap their gifts California Style, meaning in clear cellophane, as shown on the left (photo from Country Living). They had arranged all the clear-wrapped gifts on a table, and people were free to go look at them throughout the reception, but there was no big to-do with Megan sitting down in front of everyone and ripping paper left and right while everyone cooed over the 500th onesie of the day. Instead, there was a delicious lunch and a grateful speech, but that was it. It simply felt like a special gathering among close friends and family.

So the question remains: if the wrap is clear, then why wrap at all? I think having some sort of covering to contain the gift is a good reflection of the human need to formalize some occasions, and this is no exception.

I don't necessarily think this is a universal maxim, but after seeing it once, I do like the idea of California wrapping for baby showers better than the whole "gather around an watch" thing.

What do you guys think?


Gift Guide: 7 Lovely Green Things

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Green is the color, seven is the lucky number. To celebrate, go out and treat yourself or a cherished friend to one of these seven, lovely, green things for St. Paddy's! (Because "drunk" is always the best time for online shopping)

1) It's never bad to have some blank cards on hand. These flowered babies are appropriate to send from spring to early fall--if they last you that long.

Note Cards
$11 at Whimsy Press

2) You'd like a green car, but that's a lot of money. Until then, you can daydream about it over coffee.

Ceramic Mug
$16 at Orla Kiely

3) Leprechauns are ugly and hate to cuddle. This stuffed creature can't promise pretty, but he'll snuggle any time.

Pointy Max
$20 at Ugly Dolls

4) A clock without numbers? Is that a metaphor for something? Either way, it looks awesome.

Green Splat Bamboo Clock
$55 by Pilot Design at Etsy

5) Red light? No way. This lamp on your desk will only inspire you to go, go, go!

Deco Table Lamp
$59.99 at Target

6) Girls, you need some green flats. Really. Walk, don't run, you need these.

Ciao Bella Flats
$79.99 at Piperlime

7) Don't worry guys, you need some green, slide-on shoes, too.

Sperry Top-Siders
$84.95 at Zappos


Eco Project: Home Made Envelopes

I had a pen pal when I was a kid, and I always made my own envelopes out of old calendar pictures. I wanted to see if this would translate well into adulthood. Here's how it's done.

Like I said, I used to use old calendar photos. For this project I classed it up a bit using a black and white ad featured in W Magazine, but obviously you can use essentially any paper you want. Unfold an envelope of your choice and trace it onto the paper like this:

Then, fold and glue your new envelope together in the same way the envelope template was constructed.

As you can see from the photo above, I love plain, white note cards without lines. They're great for academic stuff, but I also love writing little notes and cards on them with a black pen.

Because my envelope was black, I addressed it with a silver pen. By the way, it's perfectly fine to send these through the mail; these envelopes would be a great excuse to send a good, old fashioned letter for no real reason at all. I hear people used to love that.

So I don't know, this might not be a grownup project but it's definitely fun for kids, and a good way to fake a decorative card last minute. Also, sorry for the poor quality photos, they were done on my iPhone. Let me know what you think!


Eco Project: Paper Strips

If you have a small gift to wrap, you don't need any conventional accessories to wrap it in a fun way. To cover this small box, I just used a plain sheet of printer paper. To create ribbons, I took a few scraps of colored construction paper and cut them into long, thin strips. Then I gathered a few and held them together in a row with a piece of tape at the end. I taped that end to the bottom of the gift and wrapped the rest around, taping the other side. I repeated for another, overlapping strand. The gift looked nice after this stage, but I decided to add a little extra by wrapping thicker, shorter strips of paper around a pencil and then sliding the edges underneath the thiner, taped strips. They look like whimsical antlers to me.

What's great about this project is that you can use old magazines, calendars, or other re-purposed paper and it will look good. It's also useful if you only have a tiny swatch of your favorite gift wrap left but you don't want to toss it. Just cut it into strips and tape it everywhere, that's what I always say.

Happy weekend! More gift wrapping ideas next week.


Gift Guide: Beautiful, Beautiful Beer

St. Patrick's Day isn't really a gift giving holiday, but here at The Gift Wrap Blog, I think any holiday is a good excuse to share wonderful things. There are bound to be great parties come March 17th, and if there's one token any host appreciates, it's good, cold beer. But which variety do you bring?

Here are the rules: I've only chosen bottled beers (sorry Natty Lite, but we're not talking about Frat parties here. Or if we are, they're Frat parties of the classiest ilk). The perfect St. Paddy's beer must also have aesthetic appeal, preferably embodying spring or Irish themes. You can't really wrap beer--if you find a good way to do it, SEND ME PICTURES--but the drink itself is your contribution to the bash, so why not have 'em look great? Finally, I'm not listing prices here because as you might have noticed if you've crossed state lines, beer costs all different, crazy prices. Go to the beer store. They will have at least one of these beers there. It will be more expensive in New York than it is in New Hampshire.

The Party Beers

Flying Dog- Tire Bite Golden Ale

The Flying Dog Brewery is based in Maryland and combines light, simple beers with funny, dog illustrations. It's a straight up good times beer in taste, but the label is sure to get you a few dozen Dude, AWESOME!'s throughout the night.

Staropramen Premium Ale

This isn't a party beer in the traditional American sense, but you can find it in every pub across the pond. This Czech beer is one of the few precious brewed still bottled in green glass. Tastes clean, smooth and heady. I drank this attractive little juggernaut when I celebrated last St. Paddy's day in London.

Bud Lite Lime

This is a party beer in the traditional American sense, so much so that I might wave my star spangled banner alongside my Irish flag while drinking this on the 17th. BLL is basic: the Bud Lite we all know and sort of like--and gradually come to love as the night progresses--with a hint of lime. Just enough green for the party.

The Classy Beers

Blue Moon Rising Moon

This is Blue Moon's spring brew, basically just Bud Lite Lime for an audience with more sophisticated taste buds. Flavored with zest and leaves from Kieffer limes, this drink is subtly refreshing. I tried it for the first time over the weekend and it didn't make me jump out of my pants, but I think that's a good thing. There are more than enough reasons to act a fool on St. Patrick's Day.

Brooklyn Lager Chocolate Stout

I toured Brooklyn Brewery a month ago, and since
then I've been eager to try every delicious variety this company puts forth into the world. I love the chocolate stout--it is VERY rich. Almost too much to drink more than one in a single sitting, so this beer is better for the pacing type. Its black and gold label is regal in a way that harkens Guinness, but also coolly purs, "Hey, I'm from Brooklyn."

The Quirky Beers

Magic Hat Odd Notion Spring 2010

Every season, Burlington Vermont's Magic Hat Brewery puts out an Odd Notion beer. Always great flavors, always fun labels. I've taken to collecting all the Magic Hat seasonals, because there ceases to be one I don't love. Spring 2010 is pale and citrusy, you will enjoy it if you're into beers that make you repeatedly question why you like them.

Hitachino Sweet Stout

I first tried this Japanese beer at a Malaysian restaurant on the west side and declared, "This elixir tastes like a craft store!" There is nothing remotely Irish about it, but it has a green label, and it's just weird enough to work.

The Irish Beers

Smithwick's Irish Ale

A tride and true Irish beer. Tastes Irish, looks Irish, smells Irish, and pairs great with your corned beef and cabbage. Just remember that it's pronounced "Smiddick's," or else you won't sound Irish.

Harpoon India Pale Ale

Had to throw in a fun, spicy IPA with an Irish twist. Great colors on the label, great beer. 'Nuff said.

I'm no beer expert, but I'm confident that your St. Patrick's Day will be extra lucky with one (or more) of these brews in tow.

Note: Thanks to Christine and my mom for pointing out that St. Patrick's Day is on the 17th, not the 14th. Boo, now I have to wait three extra days?


Gift Wrap Nihilism

I got an interesting comment from a reader today that I'd like to share and address. Patrick writes:

so it's monday, and i think you mentioned last week that you're trying to do a weekly theme. i'm wondering if you'd care to address a condition i'm going to dub, "Gift Wrap Nihilism." what is the meaning of doing a fantastic, beautiful gift wrap if it's just going to be torn open by the recipient and thrown away? i am a dude, and i am a horrible gift wrapper, but i don't know why i would want to spend the time learning to become a great gift wrapper.

This actually poses a good point. If you look at my first post on this blog, you'll see that I touched on the idea that despite this somewhat wasteful and pointless tradition of temporarily disguising our gifts, we tend to do it anyway. WHY? Well, in practical terms, wrap helps extend the element of surprise for as long as possible. I think that's a no brainer. There are more philosophical answers though, to why we gift wrap.

1) It is the difference between purchasing something (that has probably been mass produced and thus, millions of them exists), and making it a little bit personal between you and the recipient. I agree that simply going out and buying gift wrap doesn't necessarily fulfill this task , but that's why it's smart to spend a little money on a really nice looking wrapping paper that you didn't just pick up last minute at a drug store, OR to do something more creative like using textiles that aren't normally meant for wrapping.

2) We live in an aesthetic world, and gift wrap is purely a manifestation of that. It's not analogous, but very similar to the reasons we paint our houses and cars, or why we wear interesting clothes or makeup. All that stuff ultimately gets destroyed or taken off. But we like to marvel at pretty, shiny things, so we play along and make things appealing to look at. I especially think that if you're giving a gift that's super practical but sort of dull, like a toaster for instance, gift wrap helps lift utilitarian items to a more festive mood for the occasion.

3) If you're crafty or enjoy art, it's another form of expression.

4) But most importantly, when else are you encouraged to destroy something beautiful and tediously made? Tearing wrapping paper to bits is crazily satisfying and I am a huge advocate for it. It's like spraying caviar all over a Picasso. Besides, you can always take a picture.

To answer your question, Pat, I think the "meaning" of gift wrap is to be celebratory and sometimes artful, but that's about it. Not everything worth doing has to have a big, loud point. Part of being human is being able to appreciate small details for their own sakes, and recognize that they won't last forever. WOAH. Too deep. I must stop before I start thinking and reasoning.

By the way though, I suck at gift wrapping too--so I don't think being a dude is a very good excuse. If you don't want to become a great gift wrapper, that's fine. It doesn't really matter to me, but it's still nice to wrap a gift for your girlfriend or grandpa, to show that you care. That's why I encourage the non-artsies to do something ironic like wrap with tin foil. It doesn't take much skill and it prevents you from ever having to purchase a single role of paper, but you'll still make mom happy.

Thanks for the great question! If anyone enjoyed Pat's inquisitive and controversial questioning of gift wrap, you'll like his take on music. Go to his blog, please.


We Interupt Eco Week to Bring You....

....the most exciting prints in a Target collaboration since Orla Kiely. Please people, just watch the advert.

I can't wait for Liberty of London.


Fabric Wrapping: I'm Not Sold

As I mentioned last week, one of the ways people are wrapping greener these days is by using fabric in place of paper; unlike things made of trees, fabric doesn't rip easily and thus, is often reusable. It's a good idea. Fabric allows us to incorporate more texture into gift wrapping. I mean, if I could, I would wrap everything in velvet, lace and cashmere. And yes, cloth is sustainable. You reuse it as a headband or a nice kitchen towel.

Somehow though, I'm not a fan of these:

I seem to keep finding these *cough* REALLY FREAKIN UGLY *cough* gift wrap sacks all over the web. And I'm not gonna lie, internetz, these are not cute. Plus, I think there's something to putting just a little effort into wrapping a gift. So it doesn't look like you totally forgot the birthday of the recipient and had to quickly throw something into the tea cozy you found in your mother-in-law's cabinet. The one time I would advocate for wrap sacks is if you're wrapping a gift for a little kid who isn't going give a crap about what's on the outside. Plus, it's less stray paper for that parent to clean up.

Still, I KNOW there is a better way to wrap with fabric. I discovered Furochic gift wrap when I was browsing elephant prints for a theme wrap-up, and I came across this:
Not perfect, but a vast improvement on astronaut monkeys, wouldn't you say? Jennifer Playford founded the whole Furochic line, and she even has a book on the art of fabric wrapping called Wrapagami. I'm still not obsessed with the gift on the cover of this book--I think I'm just too attracted to the sartorial folds of paper-wrapped presents. But I'm getting used to the idea. I mean, how awesome would it look to wrap a gift origami-style and then stick a big, fresh flower on top? SO GREEN!

I'm not completely sold on this whole thing, but perhaps getting there.


Theme Wrap-Up: Eco Friendly Papers

Happy March, everyone! Leading in to this new month, I wanted to share a bunch of great gift prints I've found in the past couple weeks. The theme: green.

Did you know that most gift wrap is not recyclable? I know, it's a depressing prospect for print lovers like us. Some companies do offer some eco-friendly options with paper made of recycled/recyclable materials and soy-based inks. And surprisingly, they're pretty nice looking, so you don't have to trade style to be environmentally sound.

The above prints come from Greenfield Papers. Kind of juvenile, but undeniably cute. Definitely appropriate for wrapping gifts for little girls. Oh heck, grown ladies would love these. How adorable are those birds?? You might know by now I'm quite the bird fan. Both prints are made of 100% recycled material.

I thought these two prints above were a nice, more sophisticated take on flowers/birds respectively. Green Paper Studio makes both and yet again, you can recycle them (although they're so pretty, why wouldn't you save them forever??)

Whimsy Press is really into eco-friendly products, and in my opinion, they do it in a really pretty way. The three prints above are a part of their 100% recycled-made line of gift wrap. Gorgeous prints for sure, but I'm a little bugged that all the prints from this line were green or nature-themed. I mean, I get the point but does it really need to be that literal?

I really prefer the papers from their 30% recycle-made line, although if we opt for these we leave a slightly larger carbon footprint:

Ah, I would wallpaper my home with the bottom two prints. Like I always say, this is the sign of a truly tasteful gift wrap. Which print is your favorite? I showed a lot this week, because I wanted to show how many options we really have to wrap in a manner that still allows us to be tree-huggers.