Waste not, want not

We recently helped to clear some sheds that contained the treasures or junk (depending on your point of view) accumulated over decades of collecting and hiding away. Returning home, it made me look at my own space in a slightly different light, particularly the fabric I have squirrelled away in a chest of drawers. There’s fabric left over from sewing projects when the pattern stated 2 metres but I bought an extra half metre in case I made a mistake, old clothes that I loved so much that one day I will use the fabric for something else and some fabric still in its bag that I haven’t got around to using just yet. All neatly folded and colour coded. If only.

In truth, I could barely shut the drawers, which is the point at which I sort the fabric and send to recycling or the charity shop that which I know in my heart I shall never use (for I am old and wise enough to know that using another drawer is not the answer).

Having sorted and stored away the good and discarded the bad, I had left over some very small odd shaped pieces of fabric I liked and several squares of cotton that were the result of some recent fabric printing, natural dyeing and bundle dyeing, which weren’t good enough to make into something lasting.

Fortuitously, while trying to find out more about dyeing with walnuts, I landed at Something From Seaview and having read about Katherine’s walnut dyeing I flicked to the following post and discovered #GiveWrap. Give Wrap replaces wrapping paper with hand-made re-usable fabric wrappers, which is a notion that instantly appealed to me. Years ago we had a Japanese visitor who handed us a gift beautifully wrapped Furoshiki style in two layers of fabric and I was so taken with it that I made fabric bags that I use each year to wrap Christmas presents for the immediate family. Also, I hate the fact that perfectly good wrapping paper gets ripped from presents and wasted (I am that person who carefully peels back the sticky tape, unwraps the paper and neatly folds it up ready to be used again).

Katherine and her cousin Polly make beautiful wraps that tell stories and make use of old family linen, hand printed fabric and worn out clothes. I suspect that many are so special that they aren’t re-used as wraps but kept by the recipient to use in some other way. Take a look at Katherine’s post to see some of them and find out how Give Wrap started with Rebecca’s original idea on needle & spindle.

jelly print book in fabric gift wrap


Duly inspired, I dragged out my sewing machine to make a few Give Wraps of my own, each with a label sewn onto the back explaining what they are.


As ever, I started off fired up with enthusiasm and in my rush to get going did little in the way of planning but just cut and sewed. Now that first phase has been worked through I shall plan a little and perhaps dye and print some fabric specifically for this. The fabric in the central section of this pink wrapper is Ruth’s experiment with thermofax printing (the insects) and some jelly printing (the blue,red and yellow).

I’m not pretending that mine will be works of art, for my sewing is far too slapdash, but it’s a good way to use fabric remnants and must be better than single use wrapping paper. My sister Jo wraps everything with love and care to make them look beautiful but I’m a hopeless wrapper and can make a square box look like a ball so I hope this will make my gifts look a little more appealing.

Do you rip paper from presents or are you a careful unwrapper?

Recycling wrapping paper – environmentally thoughtful or plain miserly?

50 thoughts on “Waste not, want not

  1. I love this idea Anne. I’m a careful unwrapper and will keep paper that I like (see – not THAT environmentally-good!) to use again. I love wrapping presents and like to use proper ribbon in the hope that it’ll be used for something else (I have a drawer full of off-cuts) but wrapping in fabric hadn’t occurred to me before. It’s a lovely thing but I doubt it’ll become commonplace, sadly, as I think environmentally conscious people with sewing skills and time are probably in a minority. I’d love to be proved wrong though. I really like the label to explain what it is. I wonder where yours will travel…

    1. I must admit that I love to receive beautifully wrapped presents and really don’t care about the environmental impact! One of the layers on our Japanese gift was a beautiful headscarf so they don’t have to be handmade though I agree with you that it will never become commonplace.

      1. Using a scarf is a great idea – two presents in one! But you’d have to give them to appropriate recipients 🙂

  2. What a wonderful idea Anne, I have quite a bit of fabric I’ve been squirreling away and I think I will drag out my sewing machine and make wrap. I love it, it’s not wasteful and is so pretty. Love your fabric and those tags on each is wonderful.

  3. Like most men, I guess? I am a hopeless wrapper. Fortunately other family members are talented with the ribbon and bows, espicialy the florist.
    Wrapping with cloth may be a little easier it won’t tear at the critical moment!

  4. I’m a terrible wrapper and a terrible unwrapper – I just rip it all off and throw it away. In fact I’m so anti-wrapping paper (or maybe just too tight) that I just buy crepe paper. I do like the idea of Gift Wrap – I could probably crochet granny squares with all the odds and sods of wool I save.

    1. Crochet would be good and you could make it exactly the right size and join all the sides together to make a continuous wrapper. I guess you’d have to leave an opening though.

  5. How nice to read your post, Anne, about the making of your gorgeous GiveWraps! Interesting to read the comments above too. I do agree with the person who said that you need to chose appropriate recipients – both Polly and I have found they are completely wasted on some people. I also appreciate all too fully that they are too time-consuming to be realistic in this busy busy world. What I have found is that I still use paper (often old paper unwrapped with care as you do!!) for many recipients, but I love making a special GiveWrap for a special recipient – it feels so different to give a purchased gift if it is wrapped in something I have made – like a little bit of my love travels with it. 🙂 I have also found that it is a use for so many “special” bits and pieces put aside for that “special” use that never seems to arrive. And if the piece is so very “special” that I can’t bear to part with it – well, then the GiveWrap is used for my husband’s presents!

    1. Oh yes, the ‘special’ bits of fabric that need a ‘special’ use just like the ‘special’ sheets of paper that I can’t bear to put a mark on. There are some people that I wouldn’t dream of giving one of these 🙂

  6. That’s gorgeous! I love the little labels. Great idea too. I made fabric bags for gift-giving a couple of Christmases ago with the idea that people gave the bags back to me to be reused but most people took them. I hope they’ve been reused for wrapping (because they were not shaped like useful tote bags) but I suspect they’re just shoved away somewhere. Shoulda labelled like you!

    1. I wouldn’t have thought to put a label on the back if I hadn’t read that’s what you should do. I wonder where your bags are now. I grab back the Christmas bags each year, but that’s the advantage of only giving them to my own children.

  7. Oh I do love a well wrapped present. I think you passed on one layer of the Japanese wrapping fabric to us. It was red one side and blue the other and made from lovely silky fabric. How do I remember this? Well, safe in the knowledge that Oscar (age 15) won’t read this, it became one of his favourite things as it was similar to the silky labels he loved so much when he sucked his thumb and it is still in his bedroom somewhere. So we didn’t recycle it but it’s never gone to landfill and it is very special to him!

    1. I always think it’s unfair that your presents look so good but in return you get a bit of a mess. How Oscar would love it if he knew he was being discussed here!

  8. Yes! I love this project. I hate wrapping presents and do the worst job ever when I have to do it. Just can’t help myself. I also hate the waste of wrapping paper. Will have to give fabric a try. I love the way you’ve added a little explanatory tag.

  9. Oh and PS we use (and re-use) decorative paper gift bags. Its not my favorite but it beats the tedium of wrapping with paper. Still I think fabric sounds like an improvement.

  10. I always keep nice wrapping paper and re-use it. Just the other day I re-used a vintage piece to wrap a present for my son and then brought the paper home with me. I love the fact that the same piece of paper had probably been used two or three times and possibly more and will be used again. Our single-use throwaway society really depresses me. I’m knitting mittens from local alpaca wool for a couple of very special people and I like the idea of making a simple drawstring bag from off cuts to present them in. Christmas is such a dilemma if you’re eco-conscious.

    1. I find I have to choose the recipient before I re-use paper as some people think it’s a bit cheapskate. Also, I quite like it if I can bring it home again like you did. Lucky people to get mittens and what an excellent idea to put them in bags.

  11. I’ve been using Give Wraps too, since I ‘met’ Rebecca and we became virtual chums. Mine are nowhere near as colourful as yours though … it’s lovely Anne :o)

  12. Good use of scrap fabric. I made a huge quilt for our bed from scraps + old clothing that were too far gone to give away. Consequently, we have what I call a ‘biographical object’ on our bed that tells a story of all the things it has been made from. I like your concept of passing it on, particularly as wrapping ‘paper’. I have quite a bit more scraps left, so who knows, perhaps they might be transformed as wrappings. Thanks for the idea!

    1. I love a biographical quilt. I made one for a niece and sent with it a list of where all the fabric had previously been used. Give Wraps certainly make use of all the really small scraps.

  13. Your wrap is beautiful. I love the combination of fabrics and prints and your design around the central square. It’s a fantastic idea, I think. After our email exchange about it, a few weeks back, I’ve had a go using a TS Eliot poem as a kind of hidden narrative / theme. I can’t decide whether to add a panel to the front using that printer-friendly fabric with a quotation from the poem or not. The rest of the household thinks it will sit too starkly on the front (the panel would be white, while the rest of the wrap is deep reds and pinks) and I don’t know how long-lasting the printing would be anyway. Also, when I explained the idea was to give the wrap away there was an uproar of horrified protest that no one would remotely appreciate it and clearly from the comments here, others agree that you’ve got to choose your recipient rather carefully! It would indeed be rather sad to have spent so much time and care making something, however ephemeral, for it just to get consigned to the bin, whether the recycling bin or other! But sometimes you’ve got just to cast your bread on the waters – might go soggy and sink without trace but alternatively you might get back hot, buttered toast so to speak! How did you make your label by the way? I like it very much that it’s your own handwriting on it. Did you use a special pen? Have a lovely weekend! E x

    1. I knew you’d have a go at making one 🙂 Yours sounds wonderful. I just used an ordinary fineline pen on the basis that it won’t get washed so will last. If I was going to make lots then I’d get a thermofax screen made, though I might try fixing the fabric to freezer paper and running it through the printer.

  14. Lovely to hear your GiveWrap story intertwining with mine and Katherine’s. I make them because I enjoy it and people I give them to enjoy them too (assuming the few who don’t say anything still have received something…..). A small way of spreading love and beauty.

  15. When I first moved to NZ my family and friends would always send me gifts wrapped in Union Jack paper of some description…I kept them all! I carefully peeled away the sellotape and gently unwrapped and smoothed out and kept 🙂 I love the idea of reusable wrapping. I went through a phase of making little drawstring bags to put presents in. I know friends who still have them. So nice to leave a bit of yourself in a friend’s house or be passed on to another friend.

    1. Isn’t it lovely when people keep and use them? The year I gave gifts in drawstring bags, several people gave them back to me so I could use them again, which was just as good, even if they had slightly missed the point of them.

  16. Mike is the wrapper around here because, as ever, it defeats my limited reserves of patience. I’ve often toyed with the idea of using fabric for gift wrapping because I have huge reserves of it and can never find what I’m looking for paper wise online. But what really makes this special is the label. How wonderful to receive something that has a travel history and for you to wonder where your own wrap might end up.

  17. I love your idea of sewing scraps together to create a wrapping. I’m not much of a sewer but I enjoy wrapping . I often use new kitchen towels to wrap gifts. You could make a quilt from your wrapping pieces.

  18. what a beautiful story! your wrapping is as much the gift as the object inside.
    if it’s beautiful paper, i’m a careful unwrapper and I keep if for re-use. I get that from my mother, who still has paper from my baby presents (i’m not telling you how old I am, but let’s just say we could use the word ‘vintage’ to describe the paper).

  19. Re-using wrapping paper is a good thing to do. It does save money, which I think is a good thing, anyway, but it’s such a shame to just put it in recycling because of the environmental cost.

    Give Wrap is a beautiful idea, though.

  20. Anne, for ages I haven’t been receiving any of your posts. I assumed you had stopped posting. Just now I tried a link from Maree’s blog and here I am. You must have somehow dropped off my follow list. Damn it!! BTW Great idea.

    1. Why does that happen? Every now and then that happens to me and when I realise, I wonder who else has dropped off my follow list and I never even miss them.

  21. As a long time sewer, I have shelves of all kinds of material and have used fabric for gift wrapping a lot although you’ve reminded me that I should start now for Christmas so that I can spend a little more time to make better pieces.
    I love beautifully wrapped gifts with ribbon and special ornaments like shells or pine cones but careful as I try, I’ve never been able to make them look quite right with paper wrapping paper. I live the gift bags, especially for those awkwardly shaped items and keep them from year to year with my wrapping supplies.
    One thing that I like doing is buying dish towels (I think you call then tea towels) to wrap things like bottles of wine, especially for a hostess gift or for showers. There’s some very cute cotton towels out now and you just pull them up around the bottle, tie a ribbon at the top and you’re done. Then they also have the towel as a gift.

    1. Me too. I love to receive beautifully wrapped gifts too but just can’t do it myself. Dish/tea towels seem a really good way to wrap – the only problem is that I buy in some to have to hand for gift wrapping I shall end up using them.

  22. Such a great idea!!! I love wrapping presents, it’s almost as fun as the making/buying part… As for the paper, sometimes I’m careful and sometimes I go a little crazy and just rip it…

    Jodie xx

Comments are closed.