Get Christmas wrapped up
Lifestyle guru Sharon Hearne-Smith on the art of perfect gift-wrapping
Top wrapper: Sharon Hearne-Smith has worked with everyone from Jamie Oliver to Lorraine Pascale. Photograph: Alan Betson
I’m not very good at rapping – but I’m okay with that. We can’t all be Jay-Z. But I’m also very bad at wrapping, which is not okay. Give me a present to wrap and I’m bound to make a bags of it.
I need an expert to show me the ropes (and ribbons and gift tags), so I visit the home of food stylist, writer and all-round household guru Sharon Hearne-Smith. She’s worked with everyone from Jamie Oliver to Lorraine Pascale, appeared on numerous TV shows in both Ireland and the UK, and is brand ambassador for SuperValu. She’s also an expert in fashion, crafts and interiors, and she’s agreed to give me a crash course in wrapping Christmas presents – by the end of it, I’m hoping my gift-wrapping is so good, no one will even want to open their presents.
Get the right materials
“Start with good-quality paper and good-quality ribbon, and keep it simple,” advises Hearne-Smith. “My top tip is to have a paper that is neutral that you can use all year round, in plain colours. I always keep a roll of brown postage-packing paper, you can use it for any occasion and I think it really lends itself to Christmas. You can get the kids to do potato printing on it to make it festive – Christmas tree shapes or star shapes. It’s a great idea to get kids involved and keep them busy. You can use plain twine or one that’s white and red to match the Christmas theme. Then decorate it with a rosemary plant or other Christmas herb, or a piece of holly, and suddenly it looks like a wow gift. You can use other colours like pinks and greens – they work very well in a festive setting.”
If you find Sellotape too fiddly, Hearne-Smith recommends washi tape, which you can get in craft shops and stationers. “It’s good to use for wrapping because it comes in all sorts of prints and colours, and it’s good to use on paper because if you make a mistake the washi tape comes off quite easily. It can also be a feature on your gift wrapping.”
Wrapping a rectangular present
“Put the gift down on the paper and measure it. You don’t need a big overlap – I’m leaving just enough at the ends that I know it will cover the present. Bring the paper right to the edge of the gift and then stick it down with a small bit of tape – that will get the gift to stay in place while you continue wrapping. It’s important to get sharp edges when you’re folding it over at the sides. Get your nail in there so you get those mitred corners and tape each piece down as you go.”
If you can tie your shoelace, then you can tie a ribbon around a present, says Hearne-Smith. “I’m using a thin ribbon, so I’ll wrap it round a few times, starting underneath the present, because I like to do a crossover. Then tie it in a bow, and you can also tie a double bow to make it really fancy – it works well with thicker ribbons, or ribbons with wire edges, so the bow really stands up. To trim your ends nicely, just cut them diagonally, or fold the ribbon over on itself and snip diagonally so you get that pointy v-shape.
“You can tie a small ornament or a Christmas cracker on the ribbon and write the person’s name on it – it doesn’t have to be a tag.”
Wrapping an irregularly shaped gift
Alas, not everything comes in neat, rectangular boxes – every year I’m confronted with an awkwardly shaped gift that requires a feat of structural engineering to wrap. There are a couple of ways around this, says Hearne-Smith. One is to put the present in a box, with plenty of padding, and wrap it as above. If you don’t have a box, don’t try to wrap it the same way you would a box – there’s a different technique to it.
Hearne-Smith uses a roll of cellophane, combined with sisal paper, a thin, flexible paper that handles awkward shapes well.
“It’s very light, very gossamer, and it can also be used with your regular paper to give it a nice texture.
“Lay out your sheet of cellophane, put the paper down over that, but at an angle, so you’ve got lots of corners. Put your present down in the middle and just pick up the corners and gather them together at the top. You can use Sellotape to hold it in place while you get your string ready to tie it all together. Pull apart the corners to make it really bloom. Then add your ribbon and weave a tag onto it.”
Making potato stamps
Potato stamps are a great way to get kids engaged in the wrapping process, and they should be able to make them under adult supervision, says Hearne Smith. “Just cut a potato in half, mark out a Christmas tree shape or a star shape with the tip of the knife, and then cut away the outside just enough to leave the shape proud. Pat it with a kitchen towel to get rid of excess moisture, then get your poster paints and start stamping.”
Make wrapping a family tradition
“Christmas wrapping doesn’t have to be in ordeal – you can actually make it fun. Why not make it a family tradition? Put on some Christmas music, make some mulled wine or mulled apple juice for the kids, get some mince pies, put your Santa hats on and make a family evening of it.
“Afterwards, you can all sit down and watch a Christmas movie.”