Yes, I DID Wrap All of My Christmas Presents in Newspaper and Brown Paper Bags

Holiday Crafts

handmade holiday graphicChristmas presents wrapped in brown paper bags and newspaperStore-bought wrapping paper offends me for a lot of reasons–the wasted money, the wasted resources, all the energy misspent on planning out and carrying through unnecessary purchases.

And yet brown paper bags and sheets of newspaper, the go-to gift wrap for the thrifty and eco-minded, aren’t so much…well…cute. And what will my relatives think of me, when I hand them a gift that was clearly wrapped with paper taken straight from my recycling bin?

To solve the cuteness dilemma, I spent a lot of effort decorating my first several packages with various upcycled materials and stash components. And then…

…I did something different.

toilet paper roll snowflake on a brown paper bag gift

My first efforts were spent disguising the brown paper and newspaper with various decorative elements, also stash or upcycled. For my cousin Zack’s present (zombie-themed targets for the rifle range, in case you were curious), I painted his name and a background directly onto the brown paper. This turned out great, and didn’t take a ton of time. I spent more time putting together the three-dimensional snowflake from toilet paper rolls. It turned out great, too, and was fun to make, but it took WAY too much time to create, and getting it sturdily hot glued to the gift without letting giant amounts of hot glue show was a pain in the butt.

junk mail snowflake and brown paper bag presentI also painted my Uncle Art’s name on his present (more zombie-themed targets!)–this may be my new favorite gift wrapping trick. To decorate his package, however, I cut out a junk mail snowflake, which took mere minutes, but actually gluing it to the package was fiddly and time-consuming, and I was really disappointed with how it ended up looking. Another fail!

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Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life, and my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties.


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  1. These are so cute! I used brown paper (saved from a year of Amazon delivery packaging) to wrap a lot of our gifts this year, too. I fancied it up with pompoms and old Christmas ornaments. I love the TP roll snowflakes you used on yours – genius.

  2. For our Christmas gifts, (most artfully made using recycled materials), we used the Sunday comics that I’d saved since last Christmas by my mother-in-law “sharing” her newspaper with us. After wrapping the present with the paper, we wrapped a strip of colored tissue paper (saved from Birthday parties) around the middle and topped with a rectangle cut from last years Christmas cards to write our To: and From: on. Around it all went ribbon that was either recycled or bought on clearance after Christmas last year. The result was a very colorful, festive pile of presents that clearly represented an earth friendly point of view. Items that needed to be boxed before wrapping were placed in boxes recycled from from the audiologist office next door. She saves her boxes for me, mostly smaller hearing aid shipping boxes, that work out great for the many crafty things we do at my art studio for kids.

  3. I hate the thought of buying wrapping paper as well, but this year I caved. My kiddo decided she wanted to believe in Santa (about 2 years ago she asked if Santa was real and we always tell her the truth). Gramma makes Christmas so exciting with Santa visiting and such that the kiddo decided she wanted to believe. We are more than ok with that. So anyway, this year all the gifts from us are wrapped in old paintings of the kiddo’s, but the gifts from Santa will be wrapped in wrapping paper. Maybe next year we will try the brown paper and stamp it with Santa stamps or something.

  4. Love it! To add what we do, we save last year’s Christmas greeting cards that we received and tear off the top to use as a gift tag. You just write the to and from in indelible marker and tape the whole thing on. Very pretty! Our midwife gave us this idea.

  5. i feel the same way about store-bought wrapping paper, but am not as hard core about it…i do have some, but honestly, i really prefer the look of brown paper, and white paper, or even recycled tissue paper, with a solid color ribbon. i always scan the thrift stores (opp house is the best for this) for ribbon scraps, some meant for packages, some meant for sewing projects, and use those for presents. cloth ribbon looks so much nicer, and tends to get saved and reused. i also love finding vintage wrapping paper at thrift stores, but that rarely happens.
    I think after reading this, I vow to never buy holiday wrapping paper again! the newspaper is a great idea, and would be sufficiently dressed up for my taste, with a lovely red ribbon. Merry Christmas!

  6. This is a really great idea. I wrap all my adult presents in newspaper with homemade newspaper bows and for children (who don’t yet understand the concept of thrift) I use brown paper with last year cards cut out and glued for extra aesthetics. Saving last years cards is also good for free gift tags. So far everyone loves it.

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