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My grandmother’s gifts were easily identified under our Christmas tree: they were always the most beautifully wrapped. She used shiny foil paper and elaborate bows. The gift card on my package was attached to a tiny ballerina ornament with cascading ribbons tied at her waist. Even as a child, I knew that my grandmother had spent an inordinate amount of time wrapping our gifts. Each year, I eagerly awaited her presentation.

What is on the outside of a present can be just as memorable as what is on the inside. Out-of-the-ordinary containers and personalized wrapping paper are just some of the ways to make your holiday gifts unique. Another tip: save time by wrapping the packages as you purchase them. Don’t put the bows or other crushable items on the gifts until you are ready to deliver them.

Think Theme
When purchasing gifts, think theme. Focus on a hobby or interest of the recipient. For example, create a one-of-a-kind Kentucky gift basket. Line a container with red gingham and fill it with Kentucky favorites such as Weisenberger raspberry muffin mix, John Conti coffee, and Ruth Hunt Blue Monday candy bars. Add a copy of Kentucky’s Best—Fifty Years of Great Recipes, by Kentucky Living cooking columnist Linda Allison-Lewis.

Throughout the year, pick up handmade ornaments, painted gourds, and delicate angels at Kentucky craft shows. Have fun building on a theme. If possible, choose a special container that fits the theme. Get creative. For a camper, pack gifts in an ice chest. For a golf or tennis player, use a wire ball caddy.

Containers
Everyday objects can be used as containers for gifts. Stuff shredded colored paper inside a terra-cotta pot and fill it with gardening tools, soaps, and gloves for the gardener on your list. For the cook, use a chef’s hat. To find novelty hats that match your gift’s theme, shop at a party supply store. Surprise a country music fan with CDs wrapped in a cowboy hat. Selecting a unique container makes a gift stand out. Here are more ideas to get you started:

Baskets
“Wrap” gifts in decorative baskets. Inexpensive baskets can be found at craft or discount stores. For the holidays, spray paint the basket a bright red or shimmering gold. Add ribbon or hot-glue small objects such as racecars, puzzle pieces, or hair bows to the handle of the basket to individualize the gift. Shop the local dollar store to find low-cost decorative items.

Boxed In
Half the fun of a gift is unwrapping it. Place a present inside a box and wrap it. Continue to place the gift in bigger and bigger boxes, wrapping each box. The gift in a series of boxes is especially appealing to elementary-aged children. Save boxes throughout the year and when the holidays roll around, you will be prepared.

Think Outside the Box
Instead of placing presents in gift boxes, recycle common household items. Coffee cans, oatmeal boxes, and glass jars make inexpensive containers. Create a rustic look by wrapping presents in bandanas, burlap, or camouflage cloth that is tied with raffia, twine, or rope.

Christmas Tree Tower
If you are purchasing several gifts for one person or for a family, wrap each gift in a different size box. Place the largest box on the bottom and add gifts according to size until the smallest is on top of the stack. Tie ribbon or hot-glue it from the top down the sides. Place a decorative ornament on top and deliver a towering “Christmas tree” to your loved ones.

Organza Bags
Sheer fabric organza bags with drawstring closures are available in a variety of colors and sizes. These chic bags are ideal for soaps, sachets, jewelry, and cosmetics. If you wrap the gift in tissue paper, the recipient won’t be able to see the contents.

Gift Bags
Don’t buy expensive holiday gift bags; create your own. Solid color bags or even brown paper bags can be dressed up by punching holes around the top of the bag and threading ribbon through the holes. Tie a handled bag shut with a ribbon. Embellish the bag with a nonbreakable ornament, candy canes, or small silk flowers.

It’s a Wrap
You can spend a fortune on designer wrapping paper, or you can try some of these simple ideas to create your own signature line of paper.

Funny Business
Start saving the Sunday comics. Wrap gifts in the funny papers and add colorful curled ribbon.

Tissue Paper
Several sheets of tissue paper can be used to wrap soft gifts. For example, roll up a T-shirt in tissue paper and tie a ribbon around each open side to create a package that looks like a large piece of toffee.

Kraft Paper
Rolls of Kraft paper come in white or natural (light brown). Create custom gift wrap by stamping or sponging the paper with holiday art. This is an easy way for young children to help with holiday wrapping.

Gift Certificates
If you are giving someone a gift certificate, don’t just hand over an envelope. Enhance the gift with a little creativity by pairing the certificate to an object that compliments it. Wrap up a pretty dinner bell and enclose a dining certificate. A box of popcorn can accompany a video rental certificate, or give an aromatherapy candle with a spa certificate. For the book lover, present a gift card in a tote bag with a reading light and bookmark tucked inside.

Crowning Touch
Even simply wrapped packages can be given a stunning topper. Items that can be easily attached include: jingle bells, holiday cookie cutters, and ornaments. Tie a small bundle of cinnamon sticks with raffia for instant holiday aroma.

Big Bows
If you can tie your shoes, you can make a beautiful bow out of tulle. Tulle is a fine machine-made mesh usually in a small hexagonal weave. It is often found on wedding veils. This easy-to-tie fabric comes in a rainbow of colors, including emerald and garnet. Tulle is inexpensive, so use several feet to make an opulent bow. The stretchy nature of tulle makes it a great choice around baskets or odd-shaped packages.

Gift Tags
Once a package is wrapped, add a personalized gift tag. Office supply stores are a good resource. Purchase ready-made tags or card stock. Remove the string from tags and replace with ribbon. Use metallic pens to write “To” and “From.” Decorative-edge scissors can be used to cut card stock into unique designs. A delicate snowflake tag can be made by folding small doilies in half. A final personalization of your gift is the message you write: “Homemade from _____________’s kitchen” or “From the ___________’s home to yours.”




CREATIVE INSPIRATION RESOURCES

Books
Creative Gift Wrapping: Unique Ideas for All Occasions (Reader’s Digest) by Gill Dickinson

The Gift Wrapping Book: Over 150 Ideas for All Occasions by Caroline Birkett

Quick and Easy Enchanting Gifts Wrapping 149 Items by Yoshiko Hase

Web sites
Offray, www.offray.com, is the manufacturer of “The World’s Most Beautiful Ribbons.” The company Web site has a How To section.

Michaels, the arts and crafts store, has dozens of holiday gift bag ideas, guides to using rubber stamps, and ornament projects online at www.Michaels.com; click on the “Christmas” tab.

Kentucky Crafted, www.kycraft.org, lists “Where to Buy” Kentucky crafts and has a searchable database of merchandise.




THE HISTORY OF GIFT WRAP

The creation of printed gift wrap was accidentally invented in 1917. When Hallmark’s founder, Joyce C. Hall, ran out of the red, green, and holly tissue paper used for wrapping holiday packages, he quickly found a replacement. Substituting French envelope lining papers, he sold them for 10 cents a sheet. That was the day the decorative gift wrap business was born. Today, gift wrap is a $2.7 billion a year industry.

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