7 secret items for Beautiful, eco-friendly & upcycled holiday wrapping

Christmas upcycling

Confession; I have a stash of Christmas gift bags I have dusted off every Christmas Eve for the last ten years in an attempt at having an easy button during my busiest time of the year. Last year as I threw away all the ones with holes and wished I could throw away allllll the ugly ones (which was most of them since I always give the pretty ones to friends). I thought;

"I wonder if wrapping with cloth could be pretty? It might be easier to use what I have in the linen closet then to weed through these old bags every year!"

Then I had a ephiphany! Pillowcases! I could wrap things in pillowcases and add a bow! I could even use cloth bows and reuse them every year too. I have recently discovered buying Sari Silk from India which make the softest shiniest bows! (link to my source below) Next I tested this idea out on my family. Choosing white and red patterned Pillowcases (and sheets for really big presents like the telescope I got my husband).

As I worked I was impressed with how much easier wrapping with pillowcases was! The printed fabrics looked so cheerful and took lots less time to wrap then my normal frenzied juggling  of tape, various wrapping papers, and "Where are the scissors again?". And thier was almost no clean up after! No millions of paper scraps and plastic ribbon to pick up.

Now to see what my family thought on Christmas morning. Would they miss the crinkle of tearing through layers of carefully taped paper?  Would they sigh about my weird wrapping? I watched eagerly. The answer; Not at all! They liked the feel of the pillowcases and the soft recycled sari ribbon. They liked finding treasures in the familiar pillowcase patterns. They didn't miss paper and plastic wrapping one bit!

The real bonus was the clean up time after Christmas morning was more than halved! Annnnd I didn't have the guilt of throwing away garbage bags full of paper from the floor. I just folded the pillowcases and sheets in a neat pile and put them back in the linen closet! Done! 


  1. Pillowcases Look for pillowcases in white or with any colors or prints that you want to see under your tree.
  2. Sheets Perfect for the really big presents you dont want to waste a whole roll of paper (and your time!) on. 
  3. Scarves and tea towels are also great to use and extra fun to gift to far away friends and family. I found inexpensive solid colored scarves and tea towels on ebay.  
  4. Scrap copy paper Keep a basket of discarded copy paper or letters and use it for small gift wrapping. I have found even my to do lists make personal and whimsical wrappings!
  5. Cloth napkins are also perfect for wrapping stocking stuffers or other tiny gifts. 
  6. Sari Silk Ribbon can be found on Etsy (link here) and Ebay (link here). It is recycled from Sari remnants in Indian factories. I found the most economical way was to buy a ream (about 35 yards!). The ends are sewn together and the edges are not finished, but I love that soft edged look! There are amazing colors to choose from. Some reams even have many colors included in one. 
  7. Twine can be found at many stores (even the dollar tree) and is also a naturally eco-friendly choice. It biodegrades easily in its most easily found variety; Jute twine. Jute is a sustainable plant

Ideas for wrapping;

  • For larger presents put the box in the pillowcase or sheet and fold the extra fabric at the bottom then cover the fold in ribbon. Tie a ribbon bow at top.
  • Or gather the extra fabric at the top and tie "Santa's Sack" Style around the gather.
  • Smaller presents use the pillowcase like wrapping paper. You can fold the pillowcase in halves or thirds before you wrap it around the gift. Then add Ribbon to hold everything in place.
  • When folding the smallest things with napkins or handkerchiefs, try rolling the object in the fabric like candy then adding twine to each side.

Hope your family and friends appreciate cloth wrapping as much as mine do! Happy Wrapping friends!

- Allison

  • Susanne Abetti on

    Love these ideas! Thank you.

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