It’s a wrap: 11 ways to make your Christmas gifts look pretty presentable

Don’t be looking for the Sellotape on the 24th, spend time now on gorgeous gifts


Presentation is everything. We eat with our eyes, pass judgements on people on how they present themselves and receive gifts with more enthusiasm if they come well turned out. We believe it shows you care. But it takes time and shouldn't be attempted on Christmas Eve after drinks with the neighbours. Start now and enjoy the process. Paperchase, available at Arnotts, has a mind-boggling array of paper sheets, gift tags, ribbon and stick-on bows that, if you're not careful might end up costing you more than the present itself but do add to the sense of occasion. Its sells rolls of wrapping paper in three and five metre lengths that include festive gingerbread men and Brussel sprouts, from about €5 each, but the stack here has a balloon on top, a simple but effective way to display the presents for each member of the family. Blow up the balloon and carefully write each name on it in a thick felt tip pen.;

Lia Griffith

Crafting and its customisation options is a $36 billion dollar business in the US according to Forbes and you can pick up tips from the comfort of your own home. Lia Griffith is one of its rising stars who has turned her hobby into a lucrative business. Her site offers hundreds of easy-to-use project templates and step-by-step tutorials that you can do with the kids or with your friends, sharing a bottle of wine, as you might at a book club. American-based, a monthly membership costs $9.99 and renews automatically so read the conditions carefully, but would be worth the investment for families of small kids. It offers oodles of thoughtful and considered ways to make your gifts stand-out, including these toppers, a cut-down to size snowflake doily, the paper pom, a pretty folded star burst and the paper bow.


Apply some string theory and bring a third dimension to help bring your gifts to life. Hobbycraft is a UK-based chain that offers really easy ways to animate presents that the kids will love putting together. This reindeer to the left of the shot has oogly googly, self-adhesive eyes, €2.49 for a pack of 55 pairs; a red pom pom nose, €1.49 for a pack of six, and black card for the antlers, a pack of 10 A4 sheets cost €2.49. A glue gun is very easy to use with older kids but a Pritt Stick will work really well with smaller kids. You will also need kraft brown butcher paper, €4.49 for seven metres, and red and white candy stripe twine, €3.49 for a pack of two, one brown twine. The Irish chain Art & Hobby will be able to supply most of the above, as will good art shops like Evans in Dublin 1.

Paper marbling

Paper marbling is a craft tradition. You can cheat and buy it from UK-based L'atelier Nicola Willmott where a set of six sheets of hand-made paper, from recycled cotton, 76.5cm by 57cm in size, costs about €33, ex delivery. Or you could make your own. Crafter Robert Mahar will show you how to get beautiful results using a Japanese suminagashi technique, which translated means floating ink. You will need sumi brushes, special paper, inks and a shallow vat of water, blowing on the inks to move them around and to play with the pattern. The materials are not cheap but making the paper is incredibly meditative if slightly messy. Killarney-based Muckross Bookbinders makes a range of A5, €15.95 and A6, €11.95 goatskin journals, featuring handmade European marble papers sourced from Relma in Paris that you can order from Paris by phone. Easons sells similarly cool printed gift paper including Indonesian batik and Japanese kimono, with its wrapping small sheets of paper, 45cm by 60cm, costing €15.95.;;;;


The Irish Times

Back in our grandmother's day every home had a biscuit tin filled with buttons and ribbons, all kept from old garments and presents that came into the house and were repurposed when the need arose. It's a bit late in the year to be suggesting you do likewise but for the readers that are planners you could start saving this year's gift wrapping to repurpose next year. In the meantime you can buy spools of ribbon from shops like Flying Tiger or fabric shops like Hickey's Home Focus. You can add a sense of luxe by layering on colour of ribbon atop a second wider band and there are bow-tying tutorials online as well as lessons in how to curl the ends of paper ribbon. The monies spent on ribbon could be your only expenditure if you elect to repurpose old copies of The Irish Times as wrapping paper. Its broadsheet form works well with larger gifts. Equally, you could include a subscription to the paper, a standard costs €36 for three months while the premium costs €192 for 12 months, or give a loved one home delivery of the weekend edition, €3.20 a week within the Dublin area, as a gift. Pictured is a selection of ribbons from John Lewis & Partners.;

Tea towels

It’s a wrap. A lovely way to “wrap” a bottle of something is to swaddle it in a smart tea towel, not a gift that is high on anyone’s wish list but a very, very practical addition to the festivities as there ends up being loads of hand washing to do at festive parties. Hosts and hostesses take out the good stemware and most of it isn’t dishwasher proof. The Irish Design Shop is selling a lovely banded linen design from Emblem Weavers, price €18. And if bringing several bottles to several parties then the tea towel also protects each glass vessel from knocking off each other. The rectangular shape of a tea towel will also wrap boxes of sweets or toiletries, as pictured, using Folds, reusable cotton. You could also use bin ends from your local fabric shop.


These beautiful drum-shaped boxes from Sostrene Grene are perfect for the time poor and the craft refusniks. They come in a variety of sizes and will also look really smart under the tree, by the fire or at the end of the bed or the foot of the stairs – where your family tradition dictates presents be left.The range comes in five different sizes; 10cm by 14cm, €1.66 each; 12cm by 16cm, €2.49 each; 14cm by 18cm, €2.99 each; 16cm by 20cm, €3.59 each and 18cm by 22cm, €3.99 each. All you need is a selection of stick-on bows for the top and you're good to go. Just remember to get a gift receipt for any purchases and to put the gift receipt into the relevant box. You can then scribble each name in pencil on the base of the drum and the boxes can be reused after Christmas.


Modern technology has given us a huge selection of battery-operated LED strings of lights that can also do double duty as binding for your gifts. Pictured is a cushion that costs €26 from from Oxendales, with gifts wrapped in string lights, Penney's has short strings with leaf, €5 or flower, €7, motifs that will emulate this look. These come with the added benefit of glowing in the dark and it might be fun for aunties, uncles and godparents of small children to hide their present somewhere in the house, kill the lights and have the little ones try and seek it out in the dark. You could also add a trail of glow in the dark stars to help guide them to their gifts – all subject to their parents allowing such horseplay. Pom pom strings, strings of beads for the tree and tinsel, back in from cold, can also be used to jazz up plain wrapping paper. Japanese washi tape is another option. And instead of bows you can use decorations from the tree or tassels as a focal point.;


The Vintner theme this year at Ikea is traditional, one that riffs on the Scandi classic red and white and also mines a more environmentally friendly ethos by using lots of undyed brown paper and card that is easier to recycle. Its wrapping paper, €4.75 for a four-metre roll, white ribbon, €2 for 100 metres, candy cane coloured red and white string, €2.50 for 40 metres offers great value. So do its brown card gift boxes, €4 for a set of three. These are all 8cm deep and measure 14cm by 12cm; 22cm by 18cm and 30cm by 25cm. Ikea also sells deeper patterned white and silver boxes, 10cm deep and 20cm by 20cm. The set of two costs €2.

An Post

You could personalise simple butchers or craft paper using stamps, even creating fun statements like this paper pictured, €5.17 for a sheet 50cm by 70cm, ex delivery, from Preposterous Pigeon on Etsy. An Post is selling prepaid gift boxes, €9 each. They measure 31cm by 23cm by 14.5cm in size, and can be delivered to anywhere within the Republic. For the harried – at least those with access to Dublin's GPO on O'Connell Street there is another way. To the left of the main hall is the parcel room where An Post staff man the beautiful brass edged counters and will help you wrap your presents and suggest the most affordable ways to mail them. It and other An Post offices sell parcel boxes but those on duty here seem to go above and beyond to help you squeeze goods into the most affordable option for you; when this writer visited, lightweight plastic envelopes were suggested. If you're looking for a lot of help then it might be an idea to come armed with some Roses or Celebrations to show a token of your appreciation.;


Cambridge Imprint is a small firm based in the UK university town that combines the talents of painter Claerwen James, textile artist Jane Powell and ceramicist Ali Murphy to deliver joyfully illustrated, typographically interesting wrapping paper that has a hand-blocked feel. The prints pictured in the stack of presents includes, from top, the patterns Kaleidoscope, Dandelion, in both navy and red, and clamshell in French ultramarine. Each sheet, 50cm by 70cm, costs about €3 and is set rolled not flat. Article, Dublin, sells a book of wrapping sheets of paper by Dutch-based Pepin Press, €12.95 for a book of a dozen similar-sized sheets.;;

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors