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Monday, December 7, 2020

A Dozen+ Holiday Gift Wrapping Ideas Using Recycled Materials

Here's an opportunity to combine repurposing materials that were destined for the landfill or recycle center with staying out of stores this holiday season to minimize virus exposure. There are so many ways to use recyclables in creative ways. And in some cases, the end result can be so spectacular, one may permanently stop buying holiday gift wrap. Here's my list. If you have links or ideas, please leave a comment below.

cereal boxes

image source: http://stuffyoucanthave.

This creative box is the gift wrap and box in one, using an empty cereal box. Instructions and template on Stuff You Can't Have by Catherine McEver.

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Looking for something more, um, pop fun? These cereal boxes are not at all disguised, which is part of their charm. Instructions for how to make a "gift bag" from the base of a cereal box by Lisa on Cucicucicoo.

festive printed grocery bags as wrapping paper

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Some grocery stores print their holiday grocery sacks with fun and festive images. Cut open the bags along the back seam, smooth out, wrap gift, then add some red ribbon. Voila, festive gift wrap from a paper grocery bag. Leslie on A Creative Mint demonstrates how a Trader Joe's grocery bag is transformed into charming gift wrap with the help of red and white baker's twine, red and white Japanese printed papers, plain white gift tags, white paper doilies, and white adhesive label blanks.

paper gift shop or clothing store bags

image source: https://the-feathered-nest.

Small specialty gift shops in my area often use brown paper bags for purchases, sometimes adding a sticker or ink stamp with their store name and logo. You can cover the store info on the bag with a sheet of music (printed from your computer or from an old book of sheet music). Add a bit of greenery and wisp of thin twine with hot glue, and you've got a lovely gift bag. The Feathered Nest by Dawn Edmonson features this project and several others on her site.

I made this bag last year with an H & M shopping bag and some brief shots from 2 cans of spray paint. I used the bag in a gift exchange with my garden club. The first comment the recipient made was what a beautiful gift bag this was. Not seen in this photo, I also tied 2 of the spray-painted leaves from our Thanksgiving table onto the handle. I posted about how I made this bag in November of 2019.

potato chip bag

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Who doesn't love receiving a shiny package to open during the holidays? Potato chip and other packaged snacks often come in bags that have a silvery interior. Cut an empty chip bag along the bottom and main back seam to make one large sheet. Wash the silvery side with hot, soapy water and dry. You now have a large, sheet of shiny wrapping "paper" for stylish and chic-looking gift wrap. Of course, Martha Stewart does an excellent job of this.

your leftover newspaper

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We all know you can wrap a gift in the colorful comic section of the newspaper. What about making a gift bag from the Sunday funnies? You've seen how I make small gift bags out of copy paper (with sheet music and DIY celebration wrap). You can make larger gift bags from larger sheets of paper, such as a map or a newspaper. Here's a comic page gift bag, using 2 sheets of the Sunday newspaper, some cardboard squares to reinforce the front and back, some glue, and a couple of lengths of ribbon. Gwyneth on Yours Truly, G gives all of the how-to's that you might need to turn your Sunday funnies into a cute gift bag.

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Another option for your leftover newspapers is to simply use them as the gift wrap. Black, white and red make a classic holiday combination. If you're like me, you have a stash of saved red ribbon from previous years' packages. 

If your gift didn't come in a box, you can repurpose empty cardboard packaging from cake mixes, mac 'n cheese boxes, cereal boxes, or cracker boxes to give your newspaper-wrapped gift a more polished look. You can even cut a larger box down to size to fit a smaller gift.

Add a sprig of greenery from your yard or houseplant and you've got a beautifully-wrapped gift. I also love the look of black or red ink stamped images on the newspaper. Rittika from One Brick at a Time offers 25 different ways to use newspaper as the base paper in wrapping gifts -- all of them are very lovely.

catalogs or magazines

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Are you inundated with catalogs this season? Or do you have a stash of magazines in your basement? You can do lots of clever things with magazine/catalog pages. The covers (made of heavier weight paper stock than the interior pages) are perfect for making bows. Magazine or catalog pages can be taped or glue-sticked together to make larger sheets or use single pages for smaller gifts. 

Think outside the box, here. For instance, scientific magazines have a unique interest factor and often darker color combinations for gift wrapping. Vintage-y holiday versions of catalogs (like Victorian Trading Co or Vermont Country Store) have images that are perfect for turning into Christmas gift tags. Real Simple magazine used a 2-page spread of images of cookies to wrap a gift. I see possibilities for that stack of old Women's Day and Family Circle magazines that I have stashed in a cabinet.

image source: https://www.salvagesisterand

Salvage Sister & Mister show how even an obvious catalog page with prices and item numbers can look sophisticated as gift wrap. I love the folded star embellishment added to the package, too.

bows and ties

For tying gifts: raffia, baker's twine, jute or butcher's twine, kitchen string, pinked-edge fabric scraps, cotton yarn, and cut strips of paper, potato chip bags or plastic wrap will all do the trick.

"Bows" don't have to be bows. Some of the most beautiful adornments for holiday packages are made from garden greenery, cinnamon sticks, pinecones, and twigs. However, if you're after that more traditional look, bows can be made from paper scraps.

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Charlet Mallett from Charlet's Website provides all of the measurements and instructions needed to make star bows out of wrapping paper scraps or magazine/catalog pages. 

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Martha Stewart shows how to make additional styles of bows out of ribbon, but these two could also be made with cut strips of paper. For Martha's details on bow-making, see this article.

gift wrapping as part of the gift

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While these are all wonderful ways to breathe one last life into something that might be garbage, I also like the idea of "wrapping" a gift in something that can be used again by the recipient, such as a small gift that is wrapped in a scarf, handkerchief, dish towel, or cloth napkin. 

How about "wrapping" a gift in a reusable container that was reclaimed from the garbage/recycle bin, like a glass jar that is either lined with opaque paper/fabric or is covered with acrylic or spray paint. Linda from Mixed Kreations shows how she made these beautiful mercury glass jars. I think they would make fabulous wrapping for a special gift. The recipient could reuse this jar as a personal or bathroom storage container.

making a plan for saving this year's bows and ribbons to use next year

Finally, why not make a dedicated "recycle gift wrap and bows" box to use on your gift exchange day for saving those special wrapping pieces to use next year. If your group knows in advance where to put beautiful bows for saving, there's less chance these items will be tossed into the garbage. The box doesn't need to be anything fancy, simply a dedicated box to store all the wrapping items that you wish to save.

edited to add:

Kris linked to these adorable gingerbread house gift bags made with brown paper bags and white puffy paint. Super cute! 


  1. What a nice compilation of gift wrapping ideas. When I have a little more time, I'm going to go back and follow the links. Another thing we use for wrapping is deflated mylar balloons. Sometimes we use them as a gift bag and other times as wrapping paper.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Getting more use out of mylar balloons is an excellent suggestion. It's such waste to use them once then throw away. We've only had a few of those balloons over the years. I do recall cutting one open to use as gift wrap. A mylar gift bag would also be super cute. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. My head is spinning from all these ideas! I did some Christmas shopping at local small businesses this year and used the trick where you cover over the store's logo on the bag, except I used old Christmas cards to cover the logo. And I borrowed a trick from my sister and used them to decorate wrapped boxes, as well. I noticed this year that the back of the cards sometimes have a small decoration on it, so I cut that out in the shape of a gift tag. As you say it saves me a trip to the store.

    I saw this and thought it was a neat idea--for you seamstresses out there, you could probably easily make the bags yourself.

    I think I've shared this before, but I still love it .... and it's great if you have kids who want to decorate their own gift bags (my daughter did it one year).

    Which of these ideas are you trying, Lili?

    1. Hi Kris,
      Both of those gift bag ideas are adorable. I edited my post to add the gingerbread house gift bag idea.
      As for sewing gift bags, I've made some simple (no drawstring or casing) bags from fabric. One bag was from a holiday toddler dress while others were from fabric scraps from sewing a tablecloth and holiday fabric bought specifically for making gift bags. We reuse these bags in our household every year.

      My three favorites of all of the ones I posted yesterday are the newspaper with red ribbon, the inside out chip bag, and the faux mercury glass jars. I'll also be using images from a Victorian Trading Co catalog to make gift tags, glue-stick cut-out images onto 3x5 notecards, then trim around the edges of the image. I love your idea to glue the front portion of an old Christmas card onto a merchant bag to cover their logo.
      Thanks for adding your suggestions!

    2. Thanks for linking the brown bag idea. When my daughter did it, she used a white crayon. Easier for little fingers to manage.

      I'm sure you have thought of this, but to take the glueing a card to a bag up a notch, if you have scissors with a decorative edge, you could use that. recently had a post on fun projects with old Christmas cards. If you have kids at home looking for something to do, these would be low cost activities.

    3. I love the idea of using decorative edge scissors on an old Christmas card before adhering to a bag. Thanks again, Kris!

  3. I still love these ideas! When/If we get back to gift giving, I'll be sure to look them up.

    Kids get lots of stuff during the year, so once again there won't be gifts under the tree. They need it more during the year than to save it for Christmas. Once everyone is "settled" in their homes and lives this might change.

    BTW, the newlywed couple are doing fine and have recovered from covid. Very thankful for that.


    1. Hi Alice,
      first of all, I'm so glad that your daughter and son-in-law have recovered. Thanks for updating us.
      I'm glad to have provided some ideas that may be of use to you in the future, Alice.

    2. Glad to hear the good news, Alice.


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