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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Creating lovely papers for wrapping spa gifts, using tea-staining technique

For wrapping my hand-crafted spa gifts, I had thought to buy some pretty scrapbook papers. Being the cheapskate tightwad thrifty frugal careful-with-money person that I am, I chose to "make" lovely papers using print-outs from my computer and tea.

For the overwrap, itself, I chose to use a favorite poem by Keats, Ode to a Nightingale, as the motif for my paper. In an elegant script, this makes beautiful paper. (I typed the poem on my laptop, using Zapfino font, and played around with spacing and type size until I was satisfied for use as wrap paper.)

My printer is ancient, from around 1996 (and it was a hand-me-down at that). But it works well enough to print out black and white text and images.

To transform the appearance of the printed poem to something more decorative, I tea-stained the print-outs.

To tea-stain paper:
  • soak the paper in a strong black tea, 1 sheet at a time, for about 20 minutes. (I do this in a jelly roll pan, with raised edges.) I used 2 Dollar Tree bags of tea per 12 ounces of water.
  • Once the paper is completely soaked, gently lift the paper out of the tea, and allow to drip bake into the pan for a minute. Carefully transfer the paper to a large baking sheet. Bake at 200 F degrees, for about 6 minutes. Peel the paper up and turn over to finish the drying, another 2 minutes in the oven at 200 F degrees.
  • remove paper from baking sheet, and cool for a few minutes.

  • the paper will be slightly crinkly, I prefer to use an iron on a low setting to smooth this out part way. You can also place the dried, tea-stained sheets in a book for a few days to flatten (Take care with the iron, this is paper, after all, and flammable.)
  • if you have a couple of large baking sheets, you can speed up the drying process, by baking 2 or 3 papers at a time

For the labels, I wanted some contrast between the wrap papers and label papers. I selected a design from ( a resource for crafters with free images available to print out). I played around  with the size and shape of that image on my laptop, until I had the proper size and proportions for my project, making a larger and smaller size.

The tea-stain on the label papers is darker than the wrap papers. There are 4 ways to get a darker stain on paper. 1) stain and dry the paper, twice, or, 2) use a tea of greater strength, so that the tea is as dark as coffee, or, 3) leave the paper in the tea for a longer period of time, or 4) use hot tea (it's reported that hot tea will result in more orange tones). I used a stronger tea, 4 Dollar Tree bags to 10 oz of water, instead of 1 or 2, stirring the tea, and pressing the bags against the pot, as it steeped, to release as much color as possible, and I allowed my sheets to soak in the tea for about an hour. The darkest sheet was made with fresh, hot tea. The other two sheets were stained with cold tea.

After pressing my papers, I set out to use them. Here is how it all comes together.

I used my sewing machine to sew envelopes from the paper, for the bath tea sachets. (I can give more detailed instructions on making envelopes in this manner tomorrow or the next day. These envelopes could be useful for packaging a variety of gifts, envelopes for tea, seeds, gift cards, for example.)

I cut wide strips of the paper to wrap around the bars of soap,  as a sleeve, and used a glue stick to seal the edges closed on the back.

To use the labels, I cut out around the design, hand-lettered my label, and affixed with glue stick.

Cost -- my sheets of decorative papers cost about 6-7 cents each, to make, all inclusive of paper, printer ink, tea and oven use. In comparison, buying scrapbook paper would cost about 25 cents (if on sale, plus tax and gas to get to a store) for equivalent sheets. My labels are even more of a bargain, at under a half-cent per decorative label, or 7-8 cents per sheet. In comparison, I could buy decorative, self-stick labels for about $3 to $6 per sheet.

A lot of time goes into creating gifts like these. To reduce the time per unit, I do all of these items in batches, assembly-line fashion. But I do enjoy the process of creating something to give to someone else.

more later this week . . .


  1. Such a lovely, thoughtful gift!

  2. It is very evident that you enjoy the process of creating every part of these gifts. They are sort of two-way gifts. A very lovely gift for the recipient and a the gift for you of using your creativity and hands while making them. And maybe a third gift, too. A gift for me and others as we read about your creations.

    1. You're right, live and learn. I really do enjoy creating things. I did as a child, too.
      have a great day!

  3. I love the tea stained wraps, and envelopes with the poem! Beautiful! I'm not as creative as you in packaging gifts. You do a lovely job! I know the recipients of these gifts will feel really special.

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Thank you, Angie. I hope you have a wonderful day, too!

  4. Wow, Lili, those turned out beautifully! A lot of the enjoyment of gift giving can be found in the process of creating the gift. Your gift recipients will surely enjoy those!

    1. Hi Mary,
      Thank you. I do enjoy the process!
      I hope your day is off to a beautiful start, Mary!

  5. I can tell you love to create gifts. There is something special about receiving a handmade gift (and I will never have your patience with making the beautiful wrappings!). I always feel like I have received a little piece of the giver's heart with handmade gifts. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      I feel the same way about receiving handmade gifts! It says so much to me that someone would take time from their busy life to create something for me.

      I hope you're having a great day, Kris!

  6. So lovely:)I love artsy things too. If I could spend my whole day doing art. That would be a perfect world.

    1. Thank you, Patti,
      I agree. There's so much enjoyment to me in making something that I find to be beautiful, even if no one else sees the beauty in it.
      Have a lovely day, Patti!


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