Beyond Boxes: Read on for more details on wrapping a wine bottle.
Beyond Boxes: Read on for more details on wrapping a wine bottle.

Wrap a Gift Like You're St. Nick

Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 16, 2007

There are those who eagerly scramble for the holiday gift wrap, bows and tags as soon as the last Fun Size Snickers leaves the plastic pumpkin. And then there are the rest of us, who wish brown paper packages tied up with string still passed for most people's favorite things.

So we rounded up a few experts and asked them to share a few gift-wrapping tips. Call it an early present -- and you don't even have to send a thank-you note.

DON'T SKIMP ON TIME OR SUPPLIES. If you're not a gifted wrapper, waiting until the last minute means the job is likely to look rushed, says Manuel Cortes, owner of Groovy DC, a card and gift wrap boutique on Capitol Hill. "When I see that a gift has been nicely done, I know that person took their time to make it look special for that occasion," says Cortes, whose mother taught him to wrap presents as a boy in Puerto Rico. "When you put in a little extra time, it can be an art." Setting aside five to 10 minutes per gift should be enough.

Armeta Duell, who has been deftly sliding ribbons over boxes at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase for 35 years, suggests investing in supplies. "Really sharp scissors and plenty of ribbon" are essential for her store's trademark "fluffy bow." Satin ribbon is the way to go, she says, because of its stiffness. And whatever sort of bow you make, be sure to pay attention to the details: A bow by Duell isn't finished until she folds each end of ribbon in half lengthwise and snips away a triangle at a 45-degree angle to "bird wing" the ends.

Good supplies don't have to be expensive: Real Simple magazine's editors voted Acme United's titanium-bonded eight-inch scissors ($9.99 at the best for paper. And add double-stick tape to your essential-tool box. In Georgetown, the Paper Source's ace wrapper Jana Svrzo swears by it. "It's much neater," she says.

MASTER THE BASICS. When Cortes is wrapping with printed paper, he measures and visualizes where the edge of a pattern will land to ensure that it matches up neatly to the other edge. "It's almost like doing wallpaper," he says.

Always cut a little more paper than you think you'll need so you can fold it over for a smooth, even edge. As you pull the paper up and over the sides of the box, run your fingers along the edge where the paper meets the box, advises Cortes, for a sharp crease that looks neater. (All that, and it ends up on the bottom of the box.)

If you have too much paper when folding in the sides, trim it down to avoid bulky edges.

DON'T STRESS WHEN YOU WANT TO IMPRESS. If you think your mother-in-law is eyeballing the wrapping job on that bathrobe critically, imagine being in Tiffany Davis's shoes. She's responsible for wrapping all the gifts given to heads of state on behalf of the president, vice president, secretary of state and their spouses.

" 'Keep it simple' is our method," says Davis, who adds that the process isn't nerve-racking but acknowledges, "We just want each gift to look perfect." That means sticking with the official gift wrap selected by the giver (typically gold paper), a ribbon and a personalized gold seal.

If you don't happen to have a seal lying around that indicates you're in charge of, say, the entire country, how about the luxe-looking monogram stickers from Williams-Sonoma? They're $19 for eight and available in a variety of colors at Finishing off the package with the sharp edges, invisible tape and satin ribbon her peers rely on is a must, Davis says.

A LITTLE EXTRA GOES A LONG WAY. Attach a sprig of pine or holly, a small family photo or an ornament to the top of a box to complete the look: whatever suits the print on the packaging, Cortes says. And whatever will resonate with the recipient, Svrzo adds. "Always remember the little things," she says. "It's not just the paper. It's which ribbon and which little adornments and touches will make it personal."

Bottle Basics

If you're bestowing a bottle of Veuve, why settle for a chintzy gift bag bearing a grinning snowman? There are two superior alternatives to wrapping those tricky wine and champagne bottles. The first: Cut a sash of wrapping paper and roll it smoothly around the bottom two-thirds of the bottle and seal with double-stick tape. Tie a chic gift tag around the exposed neck, and you're done.

Or, to cover the entire bottle, follow the lead of the Paper Source's Jana Svrzo, who recently demonstrated a bottle-wrapping technique in less than two minutes as shoppers milled around her shop. (Store employee Katrina Walasik shows the technique above.) Cut a piece of paper that is about one inch longer on the bottom end of the bottle and about six inches longer on the top.

1. Roll the bottle tightly in the paper, securing with double-stick tape.

2. At the bottom, make small overlapping folds, tucked into the bottle's base, and seal the folds closed with tape or a round, decorative sticker.

3. Neatly fold over the paper above the bottle, as you would a paper lunch bag.

4. Close it with a sticker or use a hole punch to make two neat holes, then tie closed with a ribbon.

-- C.K.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company