For Sloane Simmons, her holiday nemesis arrived in the form of an eight-foot steel alligator. A customer at her Brookside store, Stuff, bought it for her husband, and she wanted it wrapped.
Simmons and her store’s co-owner, sister Casey Simmons, wrap 1,500 packages a week during the busy season. There was no way the alligator would win. The answer? A dismantled reptile wrapped in three pieces, each stuffed with paper so its shape wouldn’t be obvious.
“She gave them to her husband one piece at a time, and he had to figure it out — the head, torso and tail,” said Sloane Simmons.
This year the store carries a 12-foot alligator. Just because they needed the challenge.
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It’s that time of year for ribbons, bows, gift bags, and yards and yards and yards of tape. And this year, plant-based ink, recycled bows and personal touches.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate, wrapping experts say. Not everyone has the gift of well, gifting.
“I’m the world’s worst wrapper,” said Celia Thomas, owner and president of MAC Paper Supply Inc. in Sedgwick, Kan.
It sends gift-wrapping supplies to stores and customers nationwide, It supplied all the wrapping goods for the show “Friends” every holiday.
There are more businesses asking for custom orders with their names and contacts on the paper. There’s a jewelry store chain on the East Coast that picks a different custom paper each year. This year it wanted something on the version of “brown-paper packages tied up with strings.” The standard brown paper was a little too light, it thought, so it ordered gold paper embossed with subtle stars.
The thing that surprises Thomas most is how holiday colors change every year from the typical cherry red and glossy Christmas greens. Last year it was a dark spruce green and dark burgundy that graced the most popular papers. This year it’s lime green and turquoise.
“There’s really a trend away from traditional holiday wrapping and colors,” Thomas said.
Jill Shepard, owner and creative director of Ruff House Art (RuffHouseArt.com), which is opening its first stationery store in Lawrence this month, said heavier paper really makes the difference — and an impact.
The wrapping paper she designs includes earthier reds and greens, including a chevron style and a Christmas collage. (My favorite is the retro owl print.) It sells paper to Nordstrom and World Market as well. It’s not cheap — about $3.50 per sheet, which will cover a shirt box.
“It’s lighter than cardboard paper and thicker than copy paper, and it has a nice matte finish to it. It’s high-end,” Shepard said, adding that the store uses 30 percent recycled paper with vegetable-based ink, all of it printed in Lawrence.
“Owls have been popular in general for a while,” she said, “but now foxes are kind of trending.”
So now you’ve got your paper, impressively heavy, definitely trendy. Don’t worry if you’re no good at wrapping. Even if you didn’t buy a gift at one of the many stores that provide gift-wrapping services, you can bring your garden gnome (why? why?) to Mail It in Leawood, which will make you look good for $8 to $25, depending on the size and difficulty.
“We tend to get a lot of men in around this time of the year,” said Janice Barrett, who has worked at the store for 18 years. “We’ve had people come in with things they wrapped, and it looks like they turned off the lights and brought out the tape.”
Tricycles present particular challenges (she suggests a big decorative bag,) but she does remember one annual customer who buys all his employees presents from Brookstone and has them delivered to the store for wrapping.
“He brings in a whole typed-out list of what present belongs to what person, and we do the rest,” she said.
The truth is that it’s fine to ask someone else to wrap your present, and yeah, it’ll probably look better than what you can do. But just adding a small personal touch will take your gift from “Thanks!” to “Wow!”
Louise Meyers, owner of Pryde’s Old Westport, recommends a quick walk around the yard a day before the gift giving begins. Find a sprig of holly. Some pretty leaves. A bough off a pine tree.
“The proverbial trash bag is the worst, or something that’s just not wrapped at all and someone says, ‘Here you go,’” said Meyers. “My husband does that a lot.”
Her sister, on the other hand, goes the other way — matching mermaid wrapping paper to ocean tissue paper and a mermaid birthday card.
“She really thinks it out, and it’s beautiful and artfully done,” said Meyers, who then started laughing. “It’s not my style.”
Pryde’s offers free gift wrapping of any purchase (as does Stuff), and they are fans of tissue paper and cellophane for particularly challenging presents.
Both recommend a simple approach — brown-paper packages tied up with strings — and then adding candy canes, comic strips or something personal.
Sloane Simmons from Stuff always starts with the brown-paper approach and then adds colorful bits of ribbon and paper and fluffy bows. One present came taped with bandages featuring a child’s favorite character, she said. She saves her own favorite bits and pieces from presents past.
“I have bits of present wrapping over the years — I mean, a 6-year-old wrote my name on it. I’m not going to give that away,” she said.
Five tips for presenting your presents
1. Heavier paper makes it easier and looks better.
2. Don’t mummy it up. Put the gift on paper and measure to fit.
3. Tape matters. Double-sided tape means it won’t show.
4. Personality counts. Use cartoon stickers instead of tape. Or bandages.
5. When in doubt, a gift bag is fine.