That's A Wrap!
Shoofly collectibles columnist, Martha Whitney Butler, wraps up this year by exploring the art of gift-wrapping.
I am, in fact, a second-generation gift-wrapper. It's in my blood! My mother was bored one holiday season and took a job wrapping gifts at the department store she modeled for called Sullivan’s in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
One of her best gift-wrapping anecdotes is the time June Carter came in and purchased 100 pairs of panties for her staff and friends and my mom had to wrap them all. After all of that, Ms. Carter left her a $4 tip.
Which brings me to my first holiday hint: tip your service people adequately! They're working in an extra-high-stress environment and their ultimate goal this time of year is to please every single person they encounter, and that's certainly a feat that merits monetary encouragement.
I wonder how many people out there stop to think about the origins of the particular practice of gift wrapping. It is, after all, almost an instinct to hide the gifts once we purchase them.
This notion has held true for centuries. In fact, the practice dates back to the invention of paper by the Chinese in the second century B.C. Almost as soon as humans invented paper, they started wrapping gifts in it. Amazing.
Then, the paper was made of fibers like hemp and bamboo, and was often coarse. Other papers and fabrics were employed, but it wasn't until Hallmark started coming out with decorative paper that we started to yearn for more possibilities. Boy, are they infinite!
Personally, I fall prey to a good printed paper. I want my gifts to stand out under the tree. I like to visually keep track of them as they are passed around the room. Each year, the paper is different, but the technique (passed down from my mother) is the same.
At my store, I like to giftwrap purchases with vintage wallpaper, newspaper, or brown craft paper. The paper I use is thick, durable, and easy to crease on the corners. Holiday hint: crease all corners of the wrapped box for a sharper look.
I love using the newspaper and craft paper because they just remind me of a time when giving and receiving gifts was rare and tape hadn't been invented. I consulted my grandmother on depression-era gifts and she told me she “was lucky to get a candy cane” at that time. She did tell me that she remembered wrapping gifts in newspaper and making her own paste with flour to seal the packages. Then she'd top the gift with a big red bow. I think this is a classic look that will never go out of style. Craft paper with a plaid bow is also a look that will never be surpassed by the likes of 100 grinning snowmen.
If you buy paper from a school fundraiser, pick something you like. You will most likely have plenty left over the next year. When you buy from a store like Walmart, make sure to check how much you are getting. It might only be $1.50, but when you run out halfway through your second gift, you'll be cursing.
Also, the thicker the paper, the cleaner the cut. Holiday hint: thicker wrapping paper allows to you slide the scissors through rather than chomp angrily at it.
Some more tips: When it comes to the actual wrapping, if you're OCD like me, you'll want to get the paper with the grid inside. As for tape, please get the clear kind, not the unsightly frosted type. For a clean, professional look, make sure the paper exceeds the boundaries by one inch, then fold the excess under at the edge of the box and tape horizontally.
You can find many resources on YouTube for professional wrapping tips and bow-making. However most stores in Old Town offer this as a courtesy with your purchase. I have several clients that drop their gifts off with me and I wrap them all for a fee. I've been doing it for the same people for years and nothing makes me grin inside like knowing what everyone is getting for Christmas. It’s a great feeling and a special way to wrap up the end of the year.
For professional gift-wrapping services, please contact The French Potager at (228) 364-3091. Accepting gift-wrapping orders until 12/22. You make the list, we check it twice. We wrap anything for anyone, naughty or nice!