The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 18, 2007

Wrapping presents without tape or glue

Here are two Christmas presents I received tonight from a company I work for, each containing at least 4 pieces of Scotch (plastic) tape. One thing my friends and family know about me is that I can’t wait to open presents, and tonight was no exception. So I justified my impatience by resolving to figure out a way to re-wrap the same presents using no tape or glue at all.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been searching the web for instructions, hoping to find a way to wrap gifts without any tape OR ribbon. I even went to Borders after work tonight to look for a book on gift-wrapping, to no avail. The couple of books I found required double-sided tape. So I decided I’d just have to figure it out myself. I got part of the way there. The method I discovered does require some ribbon to hold it in place, but nothing sticky.

Why, you may ask, am I making a big deal out of something as petty as a little bit of tape? Well, I guess it’s not a huge deal when you look at the mountains of plastic in this world. But why use something if you don’t have to? And not putting tape or glue on the paper leaves it in better shape to be reused by the recipient.

Normally, I’m a terrible, lazy gift-wrapper, preferring reused gift bags and a bit of reused tissue paper. And I guess if I were going to wrap a box, I wouldn’t use new wrapping paper, but maybe a grocery bag or the comics pages from the newspaper, with twine or yarn instead of plasticy ribbon. But these are the materials I was given to work with, so here goes:

    1. Wrap the paper around the box and pull the two long edges together so that they meet in the middle.


    1. Fold both edges of paper over and flatten them down.


    1. This is what the seam looks like.


    1. On the side of the box, fold each flap of paper one at a time, clockwise.





    1. Tuck the bottom flap underneath the right flap and press it flat.


    1. Turn the box on its side and fold the flaps on the other side of the box in the same manner. Use the pressure of the box against the floor to keep the first side in place while working on the second side.


  1. If you were really careful, the paper might stay put without ribbon. But who wants to be that careful? Tie your ribbon or string or yarn very tightly around the box to hold the paper in place.

So you want to know what was in the boxes? A very nice Riedel wine decanter and two merlot glasses. Totally plastic-free! (I don’t know if there was plastic in the boxes before they were wrapped or not. A lot of people know I am not into plastic these days, so the gift-giver may have taken it out. Or maybe there wasn’t any in there to begin with. I’m just glad I only ended up with a tiny bit of tape!)

There are all kinds of other creative ways of wrapping gifts. Clever fabric bags, handkerchiefs, Japanese furoshiki, etc. What are your favorites? I’ll certainly be using the bare minimum of wrapping simply because I don’t enjoy doing it. But others love to wrap gifts. Please share!

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3 years ago

you could use cloth ribbons. I use them in my hair.

8 years ago

That didn’t help at all

10 years ago

Or you could just use gift bags! Those things can get reused a thousand times.

10 years ago

Thank you! I just wrapped a couple of packages for our clients and wished that I didn’t have to use tape – not only because it doesn’t look great with tape showing, but also because it isn’t eco-friendly! One google search later and here I am… thanks again

11 years ago

Awesome! I’m SO going to do this.

12 years ago

I wrap gifts in fabric and use cloth ribbon to hold it all together….no tape necessary! :D

13 years ago

Thanks for walking us thru this with pictures! Very helpful.

I was looking for this very idea because my dad (who passed away in 2002) use to wrap presents this way all the time. I never learned how to do it, and was just talking to someone about it yesterday. Got me thinking that I should learn it now anyway as a part of his memory.
He would like that.

13 years ago

Forgive me if this was already stated but I didn’t read every comment yet. It seems to me taht you whould be able to make a slit in the paper to tuck the flap in and that perhaps it would stay put. I’d also suggest looking into origami techniques if wrapping is necessary.

13 years ago

One nice idea is to wrap gifts in a towel, blanket, dishcloth, or scarf. If it’s a wedding gift, use a towel from their registry. If it’s a baby gift, use a baby spit up cloth. You can tie it with a ribbon and then they can use it again! Also, I like homemade wrapping paper that you can decorate yourself.

14 years ago

Thanks for the helpful photo tutorial! I hadn’t even thought of not using glue or tape. I’ve included a link to this in our article on DIY wrapping here.

15 years ago

I know I’m way late on this one, but I’m new to this blog! Anyway, what I did this last year for xmas was purchase the $1 reusable bags from the grocery store and put the presents in the bag.

What I did for presents was fill the bags with CFL bulbs, a certificate for a donation made in their honor to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and homemade bath salts with sea salt, epsom salts, baking soda, and essential oils, and put them in glass Ball caning jars.

All together the presents were something that everybody could use again and again, and they also helped to make a difference in the community. And my family loved it!

Mud Mama
15 years ago

One word – furoshiki

I’ve been using fabric scraps and japanese wrapping techniques for years.

The fabric can definitely be used again. I started with kids gifts and I was using silk scarves that got added to the dress ups (I found the silk scarves at the thrift shop)

15 years ago

neat idea. can’t wait to try it next time i have to wrap a present!

one thing though – i like to re-use things (i.e. old calendars) instead of wrapping paper. often the calendar sheets are not large enough so i tape together a couple (it makes an interesting pattern if they are from the same calendar.

i like that i can avoid wrapping paper altogether and re-purpose an item that would normally be trash. this does mean use of tape. any ideas how else to do this without tape? (and gift bags are a good idea too, but sometimes i do like to “wrap” gifts).

anna banana
15 years ago

this year i’ve wrapped with paper and ribbon (and tape) that i already had, but i’m totally excited about furoshiki for the “from now on”! thanks for the link!

one thing i like doing is putting the gift in the center of a piece of paper and then gathering the paper around the gift and tying it with ribbon in one or two places (think peppermint candy or the ridiculous “gift basket” plastic wrapping, only nicer).

Suburban Farmer
15 years ago

I wrapped all my gifts in tea towels this year. I just wrapped them like I would have with paper and then held them together with some gold curling ribbon. The curling ribbon is not the most sustainable item, but I had it from last year, so better to use that than buy something new, I figured. I cut labels out of some nice paper I had here and punch a hole for the ribbon to go through. Next year I will be a bit more organised with it all and make the tea towels myself from fabric bought at a secondhand store. I will also use some twine or similar instead of ribbon.
I am glad you have inspired me in this direction! Merry Christmas.

15 years ago

I made my own reusable cloth drawstring bags using Christmas fabric I bought on sale after Christmas last year. No paper, no tape, no ribbons. (Ideally the fabric would be organic but it’s not.)

15 years ago

I have been using cloth bags for at least 20 years .. Think pillow case with ribbon inserted in one seam .. The top is folded over and sewn so once its tied the pretty side still is showing

Easy to make and they fold flat for storage ..

For those with special needs kids (the original reason I did this) they do not tend to set off bi-polar, ODD/CD, ADHD kids as much as paper .. Perhaps because it looks like grocery bags (colourful but still similar), maybe its the lack of sound, or the reflections from the lights .. whatever it helped make presents less traumatic


terrible person
15 years ago

The system of folding the flaps under each other is truly brilliant in its subtlety, and subtle in its brilliance.

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd
15 years ago

Beth Terry wrote:

> I put a sticker or two on the
> flap to hold it down. Or some
> masking tape (which isn’t
> beautiful, but works.)

> But this post was about presents,
> not envelopes! :-)

Yes, well, this is how my laterally-thinking mind tends to work… Here in the UK, we have Sellotape which according to their web site claims to be completely biodegradable. This is what I use for resealing envelopes, so until somebody can show me that it’s not biodegradable, I will continue to use that for gift wrapping as well. Is it not available in the US?

15 years ago

If you’re serious about buying reusable gift bags, wrapsacks might be cool ( register the wrapsack and say who you gave it to, then that person registers who they give the bag to, etc. Kind of an experiment in six degrees of separation. Perhaps it would encourage people to actually reuse the bags?

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Jessica, that is a very good question. I put a sticker or two on the flap to hold it down. Or some masking tape (which isn’t beautiful, but works.)

But this post was about presents, not envelopes! :-)

I wish I could get inspired to wrap creatively like the rest of you. I guess I put all my energy into finding or creating the gift itself and then just can’t get excited about the wrapping.

But if anyone wants to make extra gift bags, I’ll buy them from you!

15 years ago

What a great idea! I actually bought glass jars of apple butter for my children’s school and am just wrapping it with a little colored ribbon with a tag. The jars stand on their own and are pretty. anna

15 years ago

We’re all about reusing the gift bags here. My stepdad wasn’t in on it and he wrote people’s names on the bags the first year he did Christmas with us. On the bags where you couldn’t remove it! I’m surprised my mom ever let him wrap a gift again.

I like boxes wrapped top & bottom separately so you can open them without tearing the wrapper.

I’m also a big user of gift baskets (they are cheap, cheap, cheap at thrift stores).

I used to use fabric wrappers but people kept keeping them and eventually I ran out. I might try to get more in a few weeks – right after Christmas the thrift stores are chock full of Chrismas scarves, tablecloths, and quilts.

15 years ago

No way would I go to that much trouble to save that little plastic! I do wrap with Sunday comics since gift wrap isn’t recyclable, and in the future I’d like to make some fabric bags. Didn’t get to it this year.

I’m so dismayed by excessive car use and the very existence of plastic grocery bags that it’s hard for me to get excited about tape at this point.


Green Bean
15 years ago

Very cool. Like Burbanmom, I’m mostly reusing gift bags but I am also re-using kids’ art work as wrapping paper so here’s where your instructions will come in handy. :)

15 years ago

Here is a good re-use for plastic bags: Cut them into strips, thin or wide, and use them as twine or string or ribbon. If you need a long piece, tie strips together. “”Twine” made from a plastic bag is strong, stretchy and flexible. You can get fancy with colored plastic bags, such as the bright blue of The New York Times, and use a lot of strips, tie them, then spread out the ends. Cut to the size you want. Use plastic bag “twine” for gifts for your Fake Plastic Fish-type friends who will then recycle it. Other folks won’t.

I LIKE that non-tape, non-glue tucking method.

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd
15 years ago

Just wondering — if you don’t use tape or glue, how do you reuse window envelopes?

Deb G
15 years ago

What a great idea! I use fabric and ribbons, yarn, or garden twine for most of my presents. Sometimes newspaper or reclaimed wrapping paper by wrapping it around the present and then twisting the ends and tying with yarn or ribbon. I also decorate/paint boxes with lids and then tie a ribbon around the box.

15 years ago

Awesome. Thanks for the instructions! I had been scouring the internet as well, but wasn’t able to find anything, which really suprised me.

Alas, my problem now is that I didn’t really want to buy any ribbon. I wish we knew an ancient oragami expert that could show us a super-secure way to wrap with paper only :)

Oh, well. Wrapping with ribbon is cool because it is reusable and tape is not.

15 years ago

I’ll be reusing the same gift bags I’ve been saving for years. I shouldn’t run out, since I’ve definitely reduced the number of presents purchased. But if I do, I’ll be sewing up drawstring gift bags. They’re easy to make, damn near indestructable, totally washable, and I’ve already got the fabric!

15 years ago

We’re going all fabric this year. I spent most of last Saturday sewing a variety of fabric bags in Christmassy fabric given to me by a relative and a bunch of Christmas table napkins bought very cheaply at second hand shop.
Pretty basic drawstring bags and I’m using ribbon already at home for the drawstrings. The idea is we’ll be able to use these bags each year, with maybe only a few added annually to take account of gift shapes etc.