Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wrap Your Gifts With Thrift

Though the holidays are behind us, I thought I'd share with you a project that was well received this past season of cheer. With all the time and money that we put into finding the perfect gifts for our loved ones, we naturally want to present those gifts in wrap worthy of their purpose. But after all that shopping, who wants to spend another fortune on gift wrap?

If that sounds like a sales pitch, I'm starting to view sharing advice about thrifty living as a pitch for better living. You just might be able to have your cake and eat it too.

Don't worry, I'm not going to suggest something like wrapping your gifts in newsprint and fastening it with staples (I had a friend who wrapped gifts intended for his girlfriend this way). Instead, I'll describe my strategy for finding quality and creative gift wrap supplies for cheap at the thrift store.

No matter what I go hunting for at the thrift store, it's important to pay close attention to quality. I consciously try to remind myself that a lot (if not most) of the things at the thrift store are there for a reason: they're junk.

With that idea firmly in my mind, when I hunt through the rolls of wrapping paper (and shelf paper and wall paper - they all get thrown together) I feel each roll for the durability of the paper. Cheap paper is thin, it wrinkles easily, it tears easily, and in the worst cases you can scratch off the printed ink with even light pressure from your fingernail.

If I'm going to be paying money for someone else's partially used roll of wrapping paper, you'd better believe I'm going to look for the best. Lucky for me, I found a few rolls with classic, vintage-like prints that were decent quality and quantity. The prices for each roll were between $0.49 and $0.69.

Another thing to note: even the nicest roll of gift wrap was pretty beat up, but it was only the outer layer of paper that was in really rough shape. I just cut off a few inches and started with the good-as-new paper preserved beneath.

After quality, the next most important thing to keep in mind is that so many things have hidden potential. For example, I've known for a while the ACTS Thrift Store in Pasadena is my go-to spot for thrifted crafting supplies. They have bins filled with grab-bags of yarn, and even though I don't knit, I knew these would come in handy someday.

This year, I decided to tie up all my packages with string, or yarn, rather. I do sometimes find decent ribbon at the thrift store, but often there isn't much of it and the quantity-to-cost ratio on yarn is much better.

I chose a few packages that had holiday-like colors, but which would work well for other occasions. So I ended up with a lot of reds and whites. Each bag of yarn had about 4 different varieties, and cost $3.99 or $4.99.

You'll also notice some flowers in the photo above. That was my blockbuster idea this year  - instead of bows my loved ones would get bouquets. I didn't actually buy much in the way of faux foliage for this project as I had plenty left over from my Pottery Barn Knock-Off - Faux Spring Flowers.

I tried to make my selections of yarn, flowers, and paper coordinate, if not match. I combined several strands of yarn at once, and made pom-poms by adding bundles of 2-to-3-inch pieces of yarn to the finishing knots atop the gifts.

Flowers were similarly tied into the yarn knots on top of gifts, and I wasn't shy about mixing various green tones or overwhelming small gifts with lots of flowers!

Ultimately, the gift I received from this project was a few oohs and aahs before my gifts were even opened. Well, that and a few compliments comparing me to the great Martha. At no more than a fraction of a dollar per gift, and with plenty of supplies left over for holidays and birthdays to come, I'd say this project was well worth the hunt.

(By the way, the plaid tree skirt is actually an old round table cloth with a hole cut from the middle. As I said, keep your mind open to the hidden potential in everything!)

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