Home & Garden

Last-minute holiday gift-wrap ideas

Magazine cuts-outs can decorate a shipping box.
Magazine cuts-outs can decorate a shipping box. Special to the Star-Telegram

You’re an absolute hot mess. The eggnog isn’t made, the Christmas to-do list seems to be multiplying itself, and stress is mounting.

You did manage to get all of your shopping done, aside from having to track down that package that went to a neighbor’s house, and now you are in countdown mode for the Christmas gift exchange. You reach into your gift wrap stash, and — lo and behold — you are short on packages, wrapping paper and other supplies. You need a midnight run to Wal-Mart like Santa’s elves need another Frozen doll to make.

Instead of speeding to the corner drugstore in your hair rollers and pajamas, take a deep breath and start looking around your house. Here are some fun, resourceful ways to package gifts with things you already have.

With these simple gift wrap ideas, you’ll have plenty of extra time to spike the eggnog before the family arrives.

Coming Wednesday: The procrastinator’s no-excuses guide to shopping on Christmas Eve.

Cool — beans!

You do happen to have a can of beans or soup in the cupboard, right? The family-size canned good is now your best friend. You bought that beautiful silver watch for a family member and are out of small jewelry boxes or gift bags. Not to worry. Here’s how to put that can to use.


▪ A large bean can (I used a 28-ounce can of Bush’s baked beans)

▪ Can opener

▪ Small 1/2 to 1 inch grosgrain ribbon and hot glue gun OR duct tape (optional)

▪ Scissors

▪ Hot glue

▪ 3 feet or more of twine or thick yarn (I used both)

▪ Alcohol and a cotton ball (if needed to clean tin’s label adhesive residue)

▪ An ornament you can part with, preferably silver, gold or white in color.

▪ Some shredded gift bag filler (or shred a brown paper grocery sack in your home-office paper shredder)

1. Take off the can’s label, open the can and stow the food inside in a plastic container or, heck, you probably have been rushing around and not eaten lunch yet. This is a win-win solution: Heat a serving of beans and enjoy while you’re crafting. Rinse the now-emptied can and dry well. Discard the top.

2. If your can has a rough top edge, using the can opener, smooth the edges as much as possible. You can also hot-glue grosgrain ribbon along the inside of the top of the tin can, covering any sharp edges. Silver duct tape works well, too, because it blends with the tin. Keep these elements on the inside of the tin and out of view from the outside.

3. My baked beans can had a very shiny silver finish, so it was instantly festive. Use a cotton ball and a little alcohol to remove any extra adhesive from the tin’s label.

4. Choose an ornament that you can part with from your tree, a wreath or even a holiday package. Use twine to tie on the ornament, wrapping it numerous times for a layer of twine at the top of the can. For a wintry look, wind some thick yarn around the top of the can, too.

6. Fill the tin with shredded gift bag paper (or make your own by feeding a brown grocery paper sack or brown shipping paper into a paper shredder).

7. Stash the gift in the shredded paper.

Personalized shipping boxes

Sure, the felines of the house love an empty shipping box and will attempt to claim it, but don’t be so quick to part ways with your boxes. Say you have a glamorous, fashion-worshipping teen and you have bought her the dreamiest shoes and perfumed lotion sampler. Grab a shipping box and make a collage presentation right on the box.


▪ 1 shipping box

▪ A small stack of fashion magazines or tabloid-style fashion publications.

▪ Scissors

▪ Glue stick or rubber cement

▪ A pretty bow or ribbon. (You can also use a chic scarf that you’re ready to part with.)

▪ Crystalized, clear glitter (optional)

1. Peel all tape and labels from the box.

2. Cut out fashion images of models and fashion elements from old magazines and newspaper fashion inserts or ads. Look for things you know the recipient would also like. Cut out a few words or sayings that can work well to speak to the recipient of the gift.

3. Using a glue stick or rubber cement, adhere images onto the box. I made mine look like a pack of models were standing in a group on the sides of the boxes. Keep on gluing the images for a collagelike effect. Use smaller images to cover any blemishes on the box.

4. Place the gift in the box and close it tight using recycled ribbon. A scarf of your own might also be a great topper for the box (and will be an added gift).

5. Swipe a little adhesive over areas of the images and dust some glitter over them for extra flair.

Empty shortbread cookie tins

I seem to either get these tins as gifts before the holidays or I pick them up to enjoy during the holidays with hot cinnamon-flavored coffee. Nonetheless, I usually end up with a stack of them — large and small. Some have beautiful winter sledding and snow scenes on their lids, some just the brand name. If you have a lid with a holiday or winter wonderland scene, you’re set to use them for small jewelry gifts or gift cards. Sometimes the top is pretty, but the bottom has product information that makes it unusable as gift packaging. This can be covered with spray paint, although that creates drying time that you may or may not have.


▪ Used cookie tins

▪ Alcohol and a cotton ball

▪ Metal or craft spray paint (white or any holiday color will work)

▪ Ornament, a small floral spray, a red bow or holiday florals that you might have stashed (optional)

▪ Hot glue

1. Clean out the tins of crumbs and cookie papers. Wipe clean. Use alcohol and a cotton ball to remove any adhesives remaining on the seal of the tin can. Let dry.

2. If desired, spray paint any area of the tin that needs it. On the mini tin, I loved the winter scene and only painted the bottom section. Spray paint lightly until the tin is covered. (You might need to give it a second coat to cover the original pattern and darker colors.) Let dry.

3. You can use glittery floral sprays or an ornament to decorate the top of the tin. Use hot glue to affix the decorative item on the lid.

5. Another idea: Cover a larger tin lid with a colorful, seasonal bow simply by hot-gluing it onto the top.

6. Fill the tin with cookies, candies or small items like gift cards, jewelry, embroidered handkerchiefs, a tie or other small items. These are nice for stocking stuffers, too. Tins are great for socks, homemade fudge, perfumes, makeup, concert tickets, mixed nuts, special soaps and more.

Lunch-sack gift wrap

Bag up a quick gift with pure winter-wonderland style. Kids can help make these bags, and they are great for holding quick food, fudge and candy gifts. Keep in mind that this solution is for small gifts that fit into lunch sacks, so make sure your item will fit.


▪ Brown paper lunch sacks

▪ White typing paper, newsprint or holiday cards.

▪ A hand-held stamp cutter or craft punch that works like a hole punch (optional)

▪ Hot glue or other adhesive

▪ Scissors

▪ Twine (optional, if you want a more 3-D look)

▪ Rubber cement or glue stick

▪ Hole punch (optional)

1. Using a stamp cutter or punch, cut images out of white paper. My stamp cutter is a snowflake, and I use it for making gift tags in a pinch. You can stamp-cut as many shapes as you like for the bag. I like to use a lot of these to make a really impressive little sack of snowflakes. If you don’t have a stamp cutter, simply trace a small star onto white paper and then multiply the stars, cutting each out one by one.

2. Glue the snowflake cut-outs to the bag. You can also use twine to wrap around the sack and make a garland of snowflakes. String the twine through the snowflakes or hot-glue them onto the twine. This gives a 3-D effect to the bag. To hold the twine around the bag, just wrap it around and hot-glue one or two paper stars or snowflakes to the bag. It will look like the twine is floating.

3. If all you have is a hole punch, then by all means, just start hole punching white paper. You can put tiny dots of rubber cement or a clear glue stick on the bag. Imagine snow falling and those hole punches of white paper are snowflakes. Glue down as many as you can or spell out someone’s name or first initial using the tiny white dots.

Handkerchief and linen gift sachet

Sometimes the best gift wrap can be from the linen drawer. Make your gift wrap a bonus gift by using one of your own linens that you can share or pass down to someone you love. The recipient is sure to love this sentimental presentation.


▪ Square linens, napkins or handkerchiefs, cleaned and pressed

▪ Twine or small, delicate holiday ribbon

▪ Gift tag (optional)

▪ Jewelry brooch (optional)

1. If needed, clean and press a square linen napkin or handkerchief.

2. Spread it out on a tabletop. If it has a pattern, place it pattern-side down. Place the small gift box or gift item in the center.

3. Pull the surrounding fabric up and tie it off with twine or small craft wire. Attach a gift card if you like. You can also use a thin, delicate ribbon to close the pouch.

4. Pin a small brooch or piece of vintage or costume jewelry to the pouch to make the gift even more special or to add some holiday sparkle.

Santa’s black bag

You have a huge gift for a child that limits options for wrapping, or so you think. Maybe it’s a very large stuffed animal or a small tricycle. You are in your jammies and the clock is ticking. Remember the black moving quilt in the garage? Well, it kind of looks like Santa’s big, black bag of toys. You might need another set of hands to make this happen but here’s how to make this idea work:


▪ A moving quilt (Other options might be a large black contractor-size trash bag that is cut open to make a large square or rectangle. A black bedsheet would work, too.)

▪ Twine or rope

▪ Holiday jingle bells or sleigh bells

▪ Thick ribbon

▪ A large piece of cardboard (about 4 by 4)

▪ Scissors

▪ Hot glue and glue gun

1. Spread the black quilt out on a flat surface, darkest side down. (You want the bag to look like Santa’s black toy bag, so use the darkest side.)

2. Place the toy in the center, then pull up the quilt like you are making a pouch or large sachet.

3. Tie twine or rope around the top to close.

4. Add bells and tie the whole thing off with a holiday ribbon, too, if you like.

5. Cut a large gift tag out of cardboard and adhere. Set this big bag by the tree or in front of the fireplace, so you can prove Santa made his holiday drop right on time.

Foiled by chocolate

You now have your excuse to eat more than your fair share of milk chocolate Hershey’s Kisses in holiday foil wraps.


▪ Couple handfuls of chocolate Hershey’s Kisses wrapped in holiday colored foil wrappings

▪ Magazines to recycle or a holiday card with an image of a Christmas tree

▪ Scissors

▪ Lunch sacks (brown or white)

▪ Hot glue and a glue gun

1. Remove the little paper ribbon that usually comes with the chocolates and discard.

2. Eat the chocolates! (Yes, we said, take one for the team and eat the chocolate.)

3. Wad the little colored foil pieces into tiny round balls. Set aside. These are no longer trash. They are little tree ornaments.

4. Find an image of a Christmas tree in a holiday card, magazine or newspaper and cut it out.

5. Glue the tree to a plain, paper lunch sack using a glue stick.

6. Hot-glue the little round foil decorations onto the tree.

7. Put some chocolates in the bag.

8. Fill the bag with a gift. This will become a conversation piece as you pass it along to the recipient. When you tell them you ate the chocolate to make the gift wrap, let them know that you saved a few for them. Direct them to the bottom of the lunch sack.

Sweater wine cozy

A few years back, I used an old holiday sweater’s arms to make wine cozies. This year, I’m using a very old, vintage, holiday stocking for wine gift giving. The feet of the stocking became worn and I just knew the stocking could double as a wine-cozy to give as a gift or to use to decorate around the house. The cozies look pretty sitting on a table or around the bar. You can reuse them every year.


▪ Old Christmas or holiday sweater, holiday stocking or leg warmer

▪ Scissors

▪ Ribbon, twine or yarn,

▪ Holiday ornament or yarn tassel

1. If you have an old holiday sweater that you can part with, chop off the arms and fold about a half an inch of the unfinished, cut edge under for a clean edge without all of the sewing. You can use a worn-out holiday stocking, too. Simply cut off the foot area so you are left with one long piece that can slide over a bottle of wine or spirits.

2. Wrap it tight at the top with twine, an ornament, a yarn tassel or ribbon. This works nicely as a festive wrap of the bottle, as opposed to a wine bag with a bottom.

Small packaging gift wrap

For small boxes, books and CDs, scour your supply of fashion magazines and catalogs for large, full pages of simple images. I wrapped two books in the prettiest glossy paper and recycled something headed for the landfill in the process. Tie your package with a ribbon or twine to finish it off.

Don’t forget about using newspaper, old sheet music with holiday carols, or photocopied pages of poetry or literature as wrapping.

You can type your own poetry or saying using a fancy font and print in black and white. This can be used to wrap a small box. Trim the box with twine, ribbon or strips of jute or burlap.

A paper or silk flower with a drizzle of glitter might also dress up newsprint or homemade paper gift wrap.