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The Upcycler’s Guide to Gift Wrapping

We have published lots of articles about how to make and give upcycled gifts but of course most people expect to receive gifts wrapped – so if Upcycling is your thing it makes sense that you would want to use upcycled gift wrap as well!

Here is a collection of our favourite ideas with links to instructions.

Upcycled Gift Boxes

Basically any box or container that is the right size for your gift can be upcycled to a gift box. No need to buy brand new!

In the lead up to Christmas or birthdays have a look at the boxes that you receive as packaging in shops or in the post and squirrel away the ones that might be useful as gift boxes.

Upcycled Cardboard Boxes

Check out this fab how to Guide from Hazzy’s Creations about how to make an old shoe box into a trendy looking gift box.

You could use any shape box for this of course and any type of paper. Take a look at the packaging for anything you open or receive in the post and set aside those where the shape and size might match a gift you are planning to give.

You don’t have to cover the whole box with wrapping paper either to upcycle it.

Sum of their Stories has a great tutorial about using decoupage to hide branding or other writing on a gift box you are planning to upcycle.

She used floral cut outs from a magazine and we think the result is a gorgeous box anyone would be proud to gift.

We were so inspired by those two tutorials we created our own with 6 different ways to upcycle box packaging by using other items around your home to transform them including scrap fabric, craft paper, old Christmas cards and reused tissue paper.

Upcycled Plastic Containers as Gift Boxes

You could also use other types of containers depending on the size of your present. Here are a few examples we like:

The blue and pink one from Frugal Family is a decoupaged ice cream container and the pink floral one from Vicky Myers is a spray painted and then decoupaged sweet tin (the plastic kind – Celebrations or Quality Street for example for our UK readers).

Basically any plastic food container with a lid can be upcycled in the same way.

How much nicer is it to give them a reusable pretty container as well as whatever you are gifting them inside?

Make a Gift Box from Greeting Cards

Did you know you can make your own gift boxes out of last year’s greeting cards (or any other type of thick card) by mastering a box folding origami technique?

We’ve found a couple good tutorials here and here you can try.

Upcycled Gift Bags

We talk about fabric as gift wrap in a section below, which includes using clothing or scrap fabric as gift bags.

This section is about creating more rigid traditional style gift bags but with upcycled materials. Probably the easiest version of this is to use a cereal box.

Gift Bags from Cereal Boxes

  • First cut the top off the box
  • Next decide what shape you want the top of your bag to be (curved or square for example)
  • Option 1: Draw on with a pencil where you want your handles holes to go – make sure to make them thick enough that they won’t break – then cut out
  • Option 2: Use a whole punch to create a hole for your ribbon, twine or other material that you will use as a handle. Thread the cord or ribbon through the whole and tie a knot on the inside to secure it.
  • Optional: Decoupage or paste more decorative paper to the outside.

This is a cute one to do with the kids or grandkids.

You could of course also cover the boxes with scraps of old wrapping paper or get the kids to draw a picture and glue it on to the side.

Crafty Journal have a great tutorial for using these gift bags as valentine’s holders, but you could use the same technique for any small sized gift.

Gift Bags from Newspaper

Another great way to make upcycled gift bags is with newspaper.

Living on the Cheap have a good tutorial here that shows you all the steps.

We love how they’ve used comics as well, great for a kids gift. Do kids still read the comics? If not its a bit of retro fun!

Reusable Fabric Gift Bags from Leftover Fabric

reusable fabric gift bag
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

If you sew or quilt, these super simple no measure fabric drawstring gift bags can be a great way to do some last-minute gift wrapping while using up leftover sewing fabric or even old clothes!

Upcycled Gift Tags

Where do we start?

There is literally no end to the list of what you can make a gift tag out of, including old Christmas and Birthday Cards.

We challenge you to not be able to find something suitable in your own home.

Cleverpedia have a cute tutorial about using pages from an adult colouring book (that you’ve already coloured in!) on a gift tag.

And we love the cute addition of the Harris Tweed Hearts on the tags above by Just Sew Yorkshire.

You could modify this to make shapes from old newspaper, ribbon, sweet wrappers or even junk mail.

Our top tip for how to make tags like these from almost any kind of paper or card is to use a gift tag punch. The one below even embosses the hole to string your ribbon or twine through to fix it on to your present.

It’s the same punch we used for this post about homemade gift and product kraft tags. And also for this post about Christmas Gift Tags made from cardboard and scrap fabric.

Upcycled Gift Wrap

Do you know that brown paper they stuff inside the Amazon boxes to make sure your purchases don’t move around too much in transit? That is your starting point for this one. Use that paper, some tape and some twine and literally anything else you can find to make gloriously sentimental and personal gift wrapping. You can do similar things with newspaper, magazine paper or any other kind of left over paper you have as well of course.

We love the simplicity of the idea above of the plain Kraft paper with a black bow drawn on with a sharpie! So simple and so lovely.

Thankfully using Kraft paper and newspaper for gift wrap is becoming a bit trendy these days, so your gift wrapped creation will look extra fancy and of the moment – as opposed to falling into the stereotype that upcycled or handmade is somehow less desirable.

Upcycled Fabric Gift Wrap

Using fabric or old clothes to wrap gifts can look super sweet. We think it adds a bit of texture and interest to the pile of gifts under a tree. What do you think?

Below are a few different ways to use fabric as gift wrap and gift bags, from traditional Furoshiki fabric wrapping to using the sleeves of your old sweaters as wine bottle bags!


Using fabric to wrap presents is actually a Japanese idea called Furoshiki. The practice is traditionally done with thin Furoshiki cloths but you can use any piece of scrap fabric or fabric remnant that is large enough to use for the gift in question.

The below graphic shows some of the most common types of Furoshika fabric wrapping.

You could of course also cut up old clothes or bedsheets and use the same techniques as this. See the next section for more on using old clothes as gift wrap.

Here is some Furoshiki in action so you can visualise what your gifts will actually look like when you are finished.

There are lots of ways you could make this Furoshiki technique your own and upcycle all sorts of fabric in the process.

You can use a ladies scarf (which becomes an extra gift in the process!) or use a tea towel like My Poppet Makes did (last photo above with the lobster and tea kettle prints).

In fact My Poppet went one further and made her own tea towels before using them as gift wrap, but you could equally use a tea towel you already own or one you found in a charity or thrift shop.

Anything you use becomes an added ‘bonus’ gift when you use it as gift wrap.

Reuse Clothes as Gift Wrap

Along similar lines to the Furoshiki idea above, you can also reuse old clothes as gift wrap.

You can cut it into single pieces of fabric and then use it to wrap in a very similar way as you would with paper (except using twine instead of tape), or you could sew it into the perfect bag shape for the gift you are giving.

Use an old sweater, shirt or scarf to give a lovely tactile gift. If you sew your fabric into a bag shape to use as wrapping then the recipient can reuse it for all sorts of things as well.

We found two great tutorials for making gift reusable cloth gift bags.

Grateful Prayer Thankful Heart (the grey sweater gift bags) have a tutorial for using sweaters to make both gift bags and Christmas stockings. You can find it here.

The other tutorial is from Sustainable Cooks. She wasn’t using pre-used fabric or clothing but you can follow the same instructions using any piece of clothing that is the right size, like an old t-shirt or dress shirt.

upcycled pyjama bottoms as gift wrap

The photo above was our take on Furoshiki style wrapping using old clothes. In this case pyjama trousers that had already been ripped. The tutorial for this gift wrap project and several others is here as part of our 6 ways to reuse packaging as gift wrap.

Or you could skip the clothes and the sewing altogether and use an old pillow case!!

Upcycled Wine Bottle Bags

A bottle of wine has always been the quintessential gift to bring for your host or hostess.

This is true of Christmas parties as well as dinner parties all year round.

We love the idea of using the sleeve of an old sweater or shirt to make a reusable wine bottle bag.

If you take turns hosting you might even get it back!

The best tutorial for how to make a sweater or shirt wine bottle bag is from My Crafty Spot. They have a great step by step guide that includes lots of helpful photos.

Have you used anything unique and different to wrap your christmas presents this year?

We would love to hear your upcycled gift wrap ideas. Leave us a comment or join the chat in our Facebook Group – Upcycle My Stuff Share My Stuff.

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Upcycled gift wrap

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