Wrap it up with style

Have them oohing and aahing before they even open the presents

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Think presents with presence.

That's what gift-wrapping experts advise as you prepare to tackle that pile of gifts and create the important first impression for the recipient.

"A nicely wrapped gift says a lot about what you think about the person you are giving it to," says Carolyne Roehm, author of Presentations: A Passion for Gift Wrapping (Broadway, $29.95). "It says you have put thought into making that person happy and that you have taken the time to make it special for someone."

So pick up a good pair of scissors, a ruler and a few rolls of double-sided tape; clear off the dining-room table or set up a card table; and troll your house, store aisles and the Internet for wrapping paper and ribbon to help you create the "best-dressed" presents of the season.

"You don't have to be an artist to wrap a nice gift," insists Ellen Timberlake, a wrapping consultant for 3M, makers of Scotch Tape. "You just need to literally think out of the box, assess what you have around the house, buy the few items you might need and then let your imagination run wild."

Timberlake should know. The Texas resident was the winner five years ago in the "Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper" contest. Timberlake, who has taught gift-wrapping classes, doesn't see wrapping as one more holiday chore. She views it as an inexpensive outlet for holiday anxiety that not only soothes the nerves and inspires the mind, but also can make the gift giver and the receiver feel special.

Roehm suggests starting simply.

"Get some white glazed or matte paper; measure the box; measure the paper; grab the tape; and wrap and fold the ends over until the box is covered," Roehm says. Then, she advises, dig around the house for some unfinished rolls of ribbon, and look to the possibilities.

"Pick your three favorite colors of ribbons and use them together," she says. "Or look for texture in ribbon" and use grosgrain, velvet, wired or raffia instead of the traditional curling ribbon.

Tie a simple "shoelace" bow if a more intricate one seems too challenging, she says, and then get creative with some glue. Embellish the package with pine cones, nuts, cinnamon sticks, ornaments, silk flowers, pompoms, feathers or any other coordinated adornment at the bow's knot. Add a color-coordinated, hole-punched gift card that can be attached with a piece of ribbon. The result is a present with pizazz.

Experts agree that 2005 is a creative cornucopia when it comes to wrapping-paper designs and trends. As with fashion and furnishings, wrapping papers and ribbons are reflecting a love of retro, with bold graphic designs, polka dots and untraditional colors, including hot pink and turquoise. A return to earth tones is also prevalent, with shades of browns, sage greens, coppers and golds being featured on the more elegantly wrapped gift.

You can never go wrong with the traditional red and green, a combination that this year includes variations ranging from cranberry to cherry red, and forest to Granny Smith apple green. Use colored netting, tulle or lace over wrapping paper for an especially eye-catching look. Die cuts of snowmen, stars or other holiday images can be affixed to plain paper. Sequins, crystals and beads are in as well. Paste them on gift-wrapping paper for some holiday bling.

Have a little Christmas mischief in your heart? Then surprise recipients by disguising the gift. Timberlake loves the element of surprise, and has these suggestions: Use bubble wrap to "build" a tree form around a package and then wrap it to look like a Christmas tree; use big boxes for little gifts or build your own boxes for unwieldy items; wrap a "tower" of gifts in the same paper and bundle them with a single ribbon, card and decoration to save time when several gifts are going to one person. Tuck gifts like golf clubs, umbrellas or posters into dryer venting and then fashion the vent into a candy cane. Jewelry and small gift items can be tucked into empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls that can then be wrapped to look like candy sticks.

For many, the shopping, baking, decorating and cleaning for holiday get-togethers leaves little time and less ambition for wrapping. The answer is to plan some time when wrapping might not be too inconvenient.

Those who put gift wrapping the gifts near the top of their holiday "to do" list call the effort "a labor of love."

"I want people to be excited when they see the present," says Cindy Rogers, a Plainville, Conn., resident whose detailed but economical gift wrapping is usually built on materials that she has accumulated, and then coordinated to the elegant Christmas tree in her Victorian-themed parlor.

"I get excited just looking at the presents under the tree even before I give them out," she says, laughing.

MaryEllen Fillo writes for the Hartford Courant.

Let imagination run wild

Courtney Shaver, spokeswoman for the Container Store in Miami, has tips that take some of the stress out of wrapping:

Confine the gift-wrapping chaos to one area of the house - the family room, dining room, even the garage.

Work on a hard-edged surface like a table to ensure crisp corners and discourage unexpected tears.

Be sure the pattern on the paper is in proportion to the size of the box. A smaller pattern looks better on a smaller box and a large, bold pattern is preferable for a larger one.

Keep in mind the recipient's hobbies and interests when choosing paper and coordinating ribbon.

Use double-sided tape for a more professional presentation.

Have fun while wrapping. Listen to holiday tunes and pour a cup of eggnog while you wrap.

[Knight Ridder/Tribune]

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