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How to REALLY wrap presents!

Regularly shaped gifts can be so boring! Who wants to look at a bunch of box shaped gifts?!

Tis’ the season! Every year I try to make the holidays slightly more magical than they normally are. Depending on your traditions and what you believe in, you’re probably planning on giving gifts to the people you care about too. Think about it for a second, perfectly wrapped rectangular packages organized neatly just waiting for you to open them. But that’s boring!!! Why wrap your gifts nice and square when you can have some fun with it. Let me blow your mind.

Do you ever stare at your nicely wrapped presents and think you yourself, that isn’t very interesting. I mean, sure there is some mystery, oooh what is in the box, I get it. But that isn’t very visually appealing, I mean who wants to look at brightly colored boxes for (depending on how early you wrap your gifts) days or even weeks? Did you ever think, why not do something unique? Well, I know I did and that’s when I decided to wrap my gifts poorly… on purpose!

Like any good story, we should start at the beginning. I owe this idea to late stage capitalism. We need to go back to a old KFC commercial. If you don’t feel like watching the crappy youtube video, here’s the gist of it. All the presents are obviously wrapped, a bike, a dog, etc. However, once opened they are all crappy chicken. Now, sorry late stage capitalism, but I’m not gifting crappy chicken. However, it was a accidental seed to a great idea.

Introducing the art of stealth wrapping.

What if you wrapped your holiday presents in the shape of a gift? Made it nice and obvious what it was, only to be unwrapped and have something else instead? There is an art to this and it takes some time. You also need to give it a lot of thought prior to the actual wrapping because depending on the shape of the actual gift, you have to incorporate it into the shape of something else that is sufficiently different.

Now in my house, we have a few rules for gift giving. I tend to give practical gifts, but that isn’t a rule. The big rule is they cannot be super expensive, so I have fun trying to wrap them as something impractical and typically far more expensive than the actual gift. Depending on the people you are wrapping for, this may or may not be a good idea!

First rule so you don’t accidently ruin the holidays, you want to wrap it as something the person will definitely not want. If the person you are wrapping a gift for plays the tuba, you don’t want to wrap your knife set as a tuba, it just isn’t a nice thing to do. The idea is to play with people and surprise them, not disappoint them. Conversely if you did get your tuba player friend a new tuba, go crazy and wrap a different gift as a tuba. Be warned, it could be awkward before they open the actual tuba. Trust me when I say that. I have a fake stand mixer story that almost ruined the holidays until we started unwrapping the gifts.

Second, it’s the line that makes the gift. If you’re going to stealth wrap a christmas gift, focus on the shapes that make up the item. Imagine that item wrapped and you’ll probably realize you have some very distinct shapes. So when you wrap your gifts, they should look like you took an item, unboxed it, and threw wrapping paper on it, poorly.

Third, it shouldn’t look good. If you wrap your present well, people will wonder why the heck you took it out of the box and wrapped it. More importantly, you want to give the impression you cannot wrap a gift to save your life because it makes it slightly more believable that you would wrap a gift this way. This also makes the wrapping part of the process a little easier, because you can just go nuts, wrap it like garbage, and let everyone think you’re inept until the day they open the gift(s).

Lastly, set aside a lot of time to do this. I spend about an hour or so each gift sometimes a lot more. It takes a lot of planning, arts and crafts, tape (an ungodly amount of tape!), and a lot of patients. Most importantly, when you wrap it you need to wrap it in a way that shows off those nice lines I was talking about. It’s all for naught if you end up wrapping the gift and have no idea what it is supposed to look like when you’re the person who wrapped it.

Now for the disclaimer!

People will have different reactions to your stealth wrapping job. I’ve had people politely pretend they had no idea what it was. I’ve had people politely tell me that I’ve ruined the holidays because I’ve wrapped them so badly (again the stand mixer story I really should tell in its entirety one day). I’ve also had people complain that I didn’t wrap them better and that I was careless/thoughtless/a bad person. This can make things a little awkward depending on the response, but it’s that much more hilarious when the time comes to open them.

Let’s look at a couple of examples from last years gifts.

First up is a small, but needed gift. It was a request for the holidays (scrapbooking tools) and again we tend to get a handful of cheaper gifts and one or two moderately priced gifts ($50 or less usually). I could just wrap it as is, but where is the fun in that? Let’s turn it into a toy SUV.


First, like I mentioned the lines are key. Notice the nice shape. I don’t need to fill in the sides, the wrapping paper will do the work for me, but I wanted the front to hold the shape, so I added some extra cardboard to do make sure the shape held.

PRO TIP: If you’re like me, you order your gifts online, save the shipping boxes, they make valuable materials for this process. I didn’t have to buy anything special, just repurpose the cardboard box it was shipped in.

Now, what do SUV’s have that this doesn’t? If you guessed wheels, then you would be correct! Again and I cannot stress this enough, it’s all about the lines.


Okay, there it is! Now we can get to the harder part, the wrapping job. See if you wrap it too loosely, you’ll lose the lines and all that hard work will amount to a big ball of wrapping paper. This is why you wrap it badly, so you can highlight all those odd curves, not hide them.


There we have it, but we’re not done yet! Bows and things can further highlight the gift you’re trying to make people think it is. In this case a strategically placed bow and a to/from tag on the front fender makes the transformation complete!


So that’s just one example, but what about something else? This gift is a fancy water bottle, but when we’re done with it, it will be a rocket. It takes vision to do this, so don’t be afraid to go big. In this case, I may have gone too big, it ended up being roughly four feet when done and it was a beast to wrap. Let’s just go step by step and you’ll see why wrapping poorly really pays off.


Okay, so we have the main shaft figure out, but a rocket has two things that make it distinct, the nose cone and the fins. Let’s cut out the shapes and tape it all together.


The first thing I did was the fins, I wanted them to be equal, so I cut out one and used it as a template for the others. They don’t need to be perfect, remember wrapping paper is very forgiving and can hide those mistakes, but also lines, lines lines!!!! Let’s add the nose cone on.


In this case I only need two sides to the nose cone. As with the SUV wrapping job, the wrapping paper will cover everything, but we just need something to make the shape. Now we need to figure out how to wrap this damned thing. After some thought, I decided to take it from the top.


Frustratingly, to keep the lines, I needed to wrap each of the fins individually. I gave it a good attempt to wrap them all together, but (and you should know this is coming) lines! It’s all about the lines!!!


As with the other wrapping job, the bow and to/from tag placement can further highlight the hilariously obvious nature of this gift (despite you and I knowing the truth).


Now, I’m not religious, but we like christmas (besides it’s a pagan holiday, get over it). So under the tree the presents go. You can probably tell which ones I wrapped!


That’s an eight foot tree, to give you an idea of the scale of the rocket wrap job. When the person these gifts are for saw them, I got an immediate, “why did you get me a toy car and a rocket ship?” question, PERFECT!!! Now doesn’t that look better than boring boxes under a tree?!

Tomorrow we’ll go over a few more examples and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll tell the stand mixer story. It’s a very funny reaction I got to my wrapping job. So much so that I did it again this year to tease the person. The photos above were from last year (since I don’t want anyone knowing what I got them this year!), but here’s a fully wrapped “stand mixer” that I got for the same person involved in my stand mixer story.

It’s not the best photo, but it’s hard to get a good shot of it, plus I was in a hurry. In any case, you may notice I have a nice bowl shaped thing wrapped in a different wrapping paper than the rest of the “mixer” I did that intentionally to make it a little more obvious. One of these days I’ll wrap an actual gift like this just to throw people off, but this is one of those things I really hope more people will try because it’s so funny and I don’t want to be the only one doing it! With COVID here, we could all use a little holiday magic. Stay safe and fool your friends/family. If you do it, this year may be memorable for something other than COVID!

Happy holidays and stay safe!


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