Fifth Day of Christmas: Concerning brown paper packages …

For the sake of full disclosure, my Christmas presents are neither wrapped in brown paper nor tied up in string, although I’ve experimented with both and really appreciate the aesthetic. One year I tried to send Valentines  wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string to my friends. The post office was not amused. Apparently string is a no-go in the mail, and I had to watch as they cut the string off my carefully wrapped packages. Now I know to wrap my presents and then send them in a larger box so they retain their charm, and string.

I’m not entirely certain why I’m babbling about string since my subject matter is technically bows made from newsprint. I don’t recall the year I started making these bows. I know I was making them as far back as 2008, and possibly 2007, but it’s become an annual holiday tradition, and one that tends to produce a lot of head scratching and annoyance from boyfriends and coworkers (boyfriends because it inevitably results in strips of newsprint scattered across the floor and coworkers because the newspapers with the prettiest strips of color keep disappearing).

Here’s how to make your own bows from newspaper (I’m not going to get into the particulars of why you would do this, since it’s the type of activity that you either understand or you don’t understand and if you don’t understand, I can never fully explain it):

1. Locate strips of color in the newspaper. New Times in San Luis Obispo has these great long strips at the top and bottom of lengthier news and arts stories, as well as throughout the movie section and sometimes calendar. Some issues are much better for color than others, but my first challenge is usually to identify the issues with good red and green color. I do use other colors as well, but I’m a traditionalist and red and green are always the base colors for my bows, even if I also throw in a really vibrant blue or softer lavender. I’ve never gone so far as to suggest color schemes to the designers (mostly because I don’t want them to try to run me over with a car or have me committed), but it is a temptation I have to resist daily throughout the holidays.

2. Cut out strips of paper. I recommend 2 1/2″ to 12″ long and 1/8″ to 1″ width. You’ll have to be careful to wash your hands as soon as you’re done and before touching anything as they’ll be covered with the sweet, sweet refuse of newspaper ink. (If you give it a lick, you’ll taste justice, truth, and the tears of corrupt politicians.) Speaking from experience, and on behalf of disgruntled boyfriends who do not appreciate the colorful confetti litter on their freshly washed floors, I recommend stationing a trashcan nearby. The number of strips you’ll require depends on the number of presents you’re wrapping and how complicated you’d like your bows to be. I’d say, on average, each bow requires four to six strips of paper, although I’ve used as few as four and as many as twelve.

3. Assemble the strips on the already-wrapped present. This is where you’re going to want to experiment a little. Use a small piece of tape to anchor the bottom of the first strip of color, and from there it’s just a question of winding it in spirals across the package and seeing what you like, being sure to tape down (with very, very small pieces of adhesive) the strip of paper wherever it makes contact with the present. One of my favorite formation, which I especially like to use for smaller presents, is two of the wider color strips (of the same color) intersecting, making a nearly perfect sphere.

Because this is all a little difficult to describe, I’m including photos of presents from years past. I wish it had occurred to me to take more photos of the bows as I’m not sure these represent my best work, but what I love best about this tradition is the myriad possibilities. So don’t let my own work limit your creativity. Maybe you can take my crafty bow project and transform your presents into works of art; your loved ones won’t be allowed to open them because they’ll be on display at the Guggenheim. (I really do apologize for the quality of the photos, although I feel that they prove that I’m nothing without a good photographer.)

Giftwrap=3 IMG_4636 Giftwrap-2 Giftwrap-1


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