I Never Buy Wrapping Paper—I Do This Instead

10 DIY solutions with things you already have lying around the house.

September 17, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re wrapping the last few items in your stack of holiday gifts when you reach the end of the wrapping paper roll. Dang. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably doing this late at night and aren’t in the mood to go to the store, so it’s time to get crafty. On the other hand, you may not have purchased any wrapping paper on purpose—a noble commitment to keeping things low-waste.

There are lots of ways you can create a lovely wrapped gift using random items you have lying around the house, with zero need to rush back out to the store in the 11th hour. Here are 10 of our favorite new ways to do just that.

1. Upcycle Old Sweaters

Need a last-minute gift bag? Dig into that pile of clothes headed to the donation bin and pull out any sweaters. A Homemade Living explains you can create a beautiful, unique bag by simply cutting off a sweater sleeve, turning it inside out, and sewing up the opening. Flip it right-side out, put the gift inside, and tie it closed with a ribbon. Upcycling, for the win!

2. Spruce Up Some Lunch Bags

Have a minimalistic holiday with these paper lunch bag gifts. The Beauty Dojo has the great idea of stamping or writing cute phrases on paper lunch bags, then folding them shut and tying them closed with a little bit of twine. So sweet.

3. Try Japanese Fabric Wrapping

If you ever want to get lost in a Pinterest hole, try searching for furoshiki, the Japanese art of fabric wrapping. This no-waste wrapping technique uses squares of fabric to create quaint, picturesque gifts, and you can find tutorials on how to wrap gifts of all shapes and sizes. The end result is so beautiful you may want to exclusively use fabric instead of wrapping paper from now on.

4. Dress Up the Day’s Newspaper

Wrapping gifts in newspaper may seem like a cop-out, but it can be quite lovely if you do it correctly. Try using thick ribbon, twine, and sprigs of seasonal greenery to jazz up your front-page wrapping job.

5. Incorporate Kitchen Towels

If you can bear to part with one of your kitchen towels, they make a great DIY wine bag. The Everygirl shows two simple ways you can wrap up a wine bottle in a tea towel, creating the perfect little present to place under the tree. And hey, now you have an excuse to buy those new kitchen towels you’ve been eyeing.

6. Paper Roll-Turned-Bitty Gift Box

You might do a little double-take here, because these gift boxes are just so cute. No way they could be made from toilet paper rolls…but they are. Just fold the ends in and wrap ribbon around the bitty box for an unbelievably pretty presentation that doubles as an easy recycling opportunity.

7. Repurpose an Old Flannel

A long-sleeved shirt is actually the perfect thing to tie a gift up in, since the sleeves act as their own built-in ribbon to keep the whole thing together. It doesn’t hurt, too, that flannels are synonymous with cozy holiday times. This method would work with an old flannel just as well as a new one you’d gift.

8. Tie up a Vintage Scarf

We love this idea from community member, Connie, who says, “I use scarves I pick up at thrift shops or estate sales to wrap gifts. Often $1 or less each! And it’s another gift!”

9. Break Out Your Old Map Books

Anyone remember the days of the Hagstrom road atlas? Since you’re much more likely to rely on your phone’s GPS now, those map pages are just begging to be reused. And if you haven’t hung onto those spiral-bound classics, maps from museums, cities, and transportation lines work just as well.

10. Sew a Fabric Wine Bag

Even for the most novice sewer among us, these fabric wine bags are a quick fix, and double as gift wrap for the recipient to pass along the next time.

What's your favorite DIY wrap solution? Share your ideas with us below!

This article was updated in September 2021 to add even more gift wrapping ideas.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • j.
  • Susanne
  • gpabill
  • Nadia Hassani
    Nadia Hassani
  • Gammy
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


j. December 4, 2022
Susanne December 2, 2021
I cut off sleeves of pilled cashmere sweaters & make wine bags. Also saved cute cotton kids PJ’s & Ralph Lauren shirts & made gift bags that resurface annually for now adult kids; they delight in those old familiar prints.
gpabill November 11, 2021
I've use the color comic section from Sunday papers as gift wrap for years.
Nadia H. September 19, 2021
I use old art calendars, the larger the better, where I cut off the calendar part. For big gifts, I patch two or more sheets together so there might be a Picasso and a Matisse next to each other which they might not fully appreciate but it surely makes a unique wrap.
Gammy August 3, 2019
Our family makes gift bags out of scrap fabric. Works for little gifts, works for huge gifts.
Sometimes we turn down the top to make a channel to thread a ribbon through to be pulled tight. Sometimes we just gather the neck and wrap a ribbon or thick yarn around it. I have a stack of fabric bags I use every Christmas and collect once they have been emptied. I just keep recycling year after year.
Connie December 27, 2018
I use scarves I pick up at thrift shops or estate sales to wrap gifts. Often $1 or less each! And it’s another gift!
Lynn H. December 23, 2018
I think that I would rather spend a couple of extra bucks on wrapping paper then to pull a sweater meant for donation to someone with less just so I can look craft at gift wrapping
SimplySampley June 11, 2022
These ideas aren't meant to make you "look crafty", they're meant to up-cycle materials so you don't end up buying into the whole commercialized gotta buy-and-throw-away wrapping paper. DON'T use a good sweater that could otherwise be donated. DO use a sweater with that stain you can't get out or is unraveling. My family has been re-using large pieces of fabric as wrapping for years and we love it! We don't do all the fancy "crafty" things, we just cover the gifts.
Panfusine December 21, 2018
I adopted the idea from this article of wrapping with a scarf for my food52 Holiday swap. a wonderful classy classy tip!
Eleanor M. December 21, 2018
I pick up vintage tea towels whenever I see them, particularly love the ones with embroidered sayings like "bake on wednesday." They work wonderfully for wrapping.
Camryn R. December 22, 2018
Such a good idea!