By Heather River

Gifts are my love language. Wrapping them is, for me, almost half as good as what’s inside.

When Moonshine asked me about doing this article, I thought back to long ago when I was putting together presents I had made for family. They were all homemade, such as cookies or handicrafts, and I reused grocery-store paper bags for the wrapping, making ginormous animals that transported the gifts to each recipient. I’m definitely in love with alternative wrapping ways. 


Here are key ideas I’ve found to make present wrapping more ecologically minded and beautiful at the same time:

• Vintage Bedsheets: One material that is super helpful in this quest is old bedsheets. Throw them in the wash and you have the material to last your whole gift list. Use scissors, or if possible, rip the fabric, to make squares for wrapping gifts. Also rip or use scissors to make ribbons for decorating the top of the package. In Bespoke, when we wrap our gifts, we always put a little ribbon on the top and most of the time it’s from a vintage bedsheet. 

The thing I really like about using fabric is that you don’t need tape at all — tape is one of those horrible plastic things that we shouldn’t be using so much of. If you still prefer paper for wrapping, consider using newspaper or old paper bags, then rip your sheet ribbons wide enough so you can tie the package closed with your ribbons. It takes a teeny bit of extra holding, but you don’t need any tape.

If you don’t have any old bedsheets that you’re ready to repurpose, thrift stores often have them. You could also make gift bags out of the sheets and people are apt to reuse these. 

COVETED POCKET: Use an old pair of thermals that are beyond repair to create your family’s favorite gift wrap. My family uses these year after year and loves the additional pocket for a special gift.

• Single Socks: This one is kind of funny, but I’ve used it on a few occasions and people get a kick (tee hee hee) out of it. We all have them, the single sock that you can’t find the match to or that have an unfixable hole in the toe. Cut the toe off and put the gift inside the barrel of the sock. Then use the ribbon you made from your bedsheets to tie bows on either side so it looks like a piece of candy. 

• Inside-Out Box: I reuse boxes all of the time. We have a ton of them at the shop because artists send us their products in boxes. Usually the outside of them is a little bit used, but I just turn them inside out and they convert perfectly to nice, clean gift boxes. I also like to use Yogi Tea boxes, which are so gorgeous inside. Carefully deconstruct the box, turn it inside out, put twine and sheet ribbon around it, and voilà! A super cute little gift box.

• Ask Around: If you’re looking for boxes or packing materials, before going out and purchasing virgin supplies, see if you can get any from a local business or organization and help them recycle them for another use.

LAYERED GIFTING: Use a beautiful bandana to Furoshiki-wrap a present. Two gifts in one! Photo by Heather River

• Nested Gifts: You can wrap a present inside another present that can handle the potential wear and tear, such as a bandana or scarf. Or you can use the second present as embellishment, like a keychain or hanging ornament.

• Orange You Beautiful? For finishing touches, there are endless possibilities. I often forage something from outside — a twig or leaf, for example — or something from the kitchen like dehydrated orange slices (150 degrees, for 5 hours). I secure the decoration to the package with needle and thread. I’ve even written on the leaf or orange so it’s the gift tag as well. Then it all can go in the compost.

COMES FROM WITHIN: Make the outside of the gift reflect the inside, with a suggestion of relaxation and an invitation for a cuppa.

Pick up string or twine at the hardware store and do a few knots to make a macramé decoration. I recommend looking for 100% cotton twine, or anything that doesn’t have polyester core, so that it can be composted. If you have something already with a polyester core, use it, and encourage it to be repurposed.

Fasten on a teabag as the gift tag. Pick out a special tea for the recipient and write their name on the tea envelope, since that will be disposed of anyway, and give the additional gift of a warm cuppa.

There you have it, several ways to make gift-giving season less wasteful. We would love to hear your ideas, too: email Here’s to living simply … and beautifully! 

~ Heather River’s passion for gifting is perhaps only exceeded by her love of farming. She is the co-founder/owner of Bespoke and Atelier located in historic downtown Truckee. The boutique stores focus on slow products and DIY materials. Follow them on the gram @bespoketruckee. 


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