How to Wrap Gifts in Fabric as a Green Alternative to Paper

Ditch the wrapping paper and learn to wrap your gifts with fabric this holiday season. This eco-friendly swap couldn't be easier.

Part of the joy of Christmas morning is watching a loved one open a gift you picked out just for them. And while it's what's inside the package that matters, it feels good to have gifts beautifully wrapped under your tree. But once our gifts are unwrapped, the wrapping paper goes into the trash. (Most wrapping papers can't be recycled because of all the dyes, laminates, and shiny additives.) The result is that an average of 4 million pounds (more than 333 million square feet) of wrapping paper are thrown away every year. You can help reduce that number while placing beautiful presents under your tree by wrapping gifts in fabric.

colorful grid of fabric wrapped gifts
Jacob Fox

Swapping out wrapping paper for pretty fabric is one of our favorite easy ways to go green. You will not only be green but also save green. According to a study, Americans spend around $7 billion on wrapping paper every year. Patterned fabric is a one-time purchase you can reuse every year or encourage your recipient to reuse.

Wrapping gifts with fabric is practical too! Fabric's pliability means it covers odd-shaped items and won't tear at corners. When you're done shopping, grab a patterned scarf or piece of fabric, and start wrapping.

Traditional Bow Wrapping

This method is similar to the wrapping method you are probably most familiar with. Any type of fabric can be used, but we recommend a piece about four times as large as the surface area of your gift. Try using a square patterned scarf or dishtowel.

Step 1: Place Gift and Fold

Place the gift diagonally in the center of a square piece of fabric. Make sure the edges of the package are perpendicular to the edges of the fabric. Fold the bottom left corner of the fabric up and over the side of the gift.

Step 2: Pull and Fold Fabric

While holding the bottom left corner in place, wrap the top right corner over the gift and hold in place. Crease the fabric along the right edge of the gift (the same way you would wrapping paper) and pull the edge taut as you press down on the top of the gift with your other hand.

Step 3: Tie Fabric Ends

Bring the right folded edge over the top of the gift and hold. Repeat the process on the left side. Tie the ends into a classic bow to secure the fabric. If a corner of fabric doesn't stay tucked, secure with double-stick tape.

Single Knot Wrapping

This method is similar to the method above but uses different techniques to ensure no corners come loose.

Step 1: Fold Fabric Over Gift

Place the gift diagonally in the center of a square piece of fabric. Bring the bottom left corner up to the opposite edge of the package. But rather than folding the corner under the gift, fold it under itself so the folded edge lines up exactly with the package edge. Repeat with the opposite corner.

Editor's Tip: Because this method involves making neat folds at each edge of the gift, it's best to use this technique on square or rectangular packages.

Step 2: Gather Fabric Edges and Pull Upward

Crease and fold the fabric at each end like you would paper. Bring both ends to the middle. The trick to this step is to keep a hand on the top of the gift at all times so that the fabric around the center of the gift doesn't become loose.

Step 3: Knot Fabric Tails

Cross one end over the other, pulling tightly. Instead of tying a bow, cross the ends over each other again to form a knot. Tighten the knot so it holds the fabric in place.

Double Knot Wrapping

Use this technique for large or odd-shaped gifts. A large square or rectangular piece of fabric (such as an oversize scarf, works best for this method.

Step 1: Place Gift and Pull Fabric Over

Place the gift in the center of the fabric and bring the top and bottom corners together, crossing them in the center while holding the fabric in place with one hand.

Step 2: Tie Fabric Ends in Knots

Tie the two tails in a knot on top of the package. Repeat with the side corners to create a second knot on the gift, securing the fabric in place. Once the gifts are unwrapped, store the fabric for use later!

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