In my constant endeavor to live more graciously, haste is my undoing. I am often whirling through life on extended credit from the time bank, and it shows — especially in my gift wrapping.
During the holidays — when available time shrinks and gifts multiply — this failing is particularly obvious.
I start well. I wrap presents as I buy them in paper and ribbon that coordinate with my tree’s colors — lately teal and bronze. I take my time. I make a nice tag, signed with a color-coordinated pen in my best penmanship. I top it off with a glittery angel or sparkly ornament.
However, as the season wears on and I wear down, my wrap jobs degenerate. They go from looking respectable, to passable, to the dog did it. Soon I’m dashing (at times through the snow) to an all-night superstore for cheap snowman paper and a bag of sticky bows. When those supplies dwindle, and I’m out of paper, ribbon, tape or all three, I improvise.
Next, I’m cutting up the bags the gifts came in, sticking them together with chewing gum and return address labels, and tying them with old shoelaces and dental floss. Tasteful tags have given way to scribbling to and from right on the paper in whatever pen still works.
It is the North Pole opposite of gracious.
“The presentation is what speaks to people,” Nicholas Kniel, owner of Nicholas Kniel Fine Ribbons & Embellishments, of Atlanta, is telling me over the phone when I call to get a gift wrap pep talk and primer.
“The gift wrap is what everyone notices first. It should get as much thought as the gift. But it’s often the last thing people think about,” said Kniel, who opened his uber-chic gift wrap store in 2000 after studying fashion design.
He’s right, of course. And I feel like a Christmas clod.
Besides stocking unusual ribbons, feathers, buttons, embellishments and other wrapping materials, his store has evolved to offer custom gift-wrapping, and gift-wrapping classes. For those who can’t make class, here are some ways Kniel says we can upgrade our presentations:
• Get your stuff together. Have a dedicated wrapping box or tray to keep all supplies together, “so when you go to wrap, you don’t go to four rooms,” Kniel said.
• Choose a signature color scheme. Pick a gift-wrap palette that works year round, not just during the holidays. Pick two colors you like that go with your home decor, say ivory and crimson, or teal and black. Then add a metallic. Stock up on solid-colored paper and ribbon in all those colors, and you’ll be set for Christmas, birthdays or weddings.
• Coordinate your wrapping to go with your tree. And coordinate your tree to go in your home. Don’t feel obliged to use red and green, especially if your home is purple and orange, said Kniel. Use orange wrapping with purple bows.
• Make your own gift tags. Use the scrap ends of gift wrap. Affix the gift wrap to plain card stock using spray adhesive. Make a hole with a tag punch, thread ribbon through and you have a coordinating tag that looks chic. Hint: Do your tags before you need them, so they’re handy when you’re wrapping in the heat of moment.
• Scrimp on paper; splurge on ribbon. Solid color gift wrap is less expensive than patterned wrap and looks more chic. Besides, reindeer and Santa motifs don’t work year round. Craft paper comes in brown or white and is a good inexpensive solution if you have to wrap a lot of gifts. Newspaper – pick pages that don’t have color or much advertising – makes handsome neutral wrap. (Iron the pages to remove the crease). Accent the gray newsprint with a bright ribbon.
• Buy the best ribbon you can afford. Only buy ribbon you want to use again and again. Good double-faced satin ribbon is always appropriate. Black or metallic ribbon works on all backgrounds.
• Use white tissue. It’s cheaper than colored tissue, always looks right, and makes items stand out, said Kniel.
• Have two pairs of scissors. Use one just for paper, and one just for ribbon. “They don’t have to be expensive, just dedicated,” said Kniel. “If you cut ribbon with the scissors you use for paper, the ribbon will look chewed on.”
• Use double-sided tape. “It makes packages look so much better.”
• Tie it and top it. Wrap ribbon around a package once and tie a bow. Then wrap another ribbon around the other way and tie a bow, so you get four loops. Or just use bands of ribbons and glue the ends together, said Kniel. Then add a topper, such as small millinery flowers, a velvet bird or butterfly, a small ornament, or a pine cone.
• Avoid Kniel’s three peeves. Curling ribbon. “It’s inexpensive and looks inexpensive. No one keeps it.” Sticky bows. “Eyew. Tell me: Have you ever seen a sticky bow that’s beautiful?” Gift bags. “They say, ‘I ran out of time.’ The exception is the little blue Tiffany bag, other than that ... forget them.”
• Bask in the glory. “The biggest compliment you can get is someone saying: 'This is too beautiful to open.' That’s when you know you’ve done it right.”